The course alternates between two regions of Brazil: every two years faculty lead students to either the Amazon basin or to the mountains and valley communities (Diamantina and São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras) in the state of Minas Gerais. One version of the program offers four credits of academic and service learning coursework, the other offers a seven-credit program that includes two academic courses and a fair trade service learning experience. Both versions deliver an intensive faculty-led study abroad experience in which students explore Brazil from the perspective of local communities.
In the seven-credit version, students participate in three (concurrent) courses that instruct them in the socio-cultural history of Brazil, the techniques for researching and producing journalism in a global context, and community engaged fair trade service learning. The theme that bridges the coursework in Anthropology and Communication is environmental justice in Brazil. On site, students receive instruction from the program directors, hear from local experts, visit a variety of culturally important sites, and engage in short-term fieldwork with local communities. In their studies of “environmental justice,” students discover how social factors such as race/ethnicity, gender, class, and regional histories affect how communities gain access to or control over environmental resources (land, water, agricultural properties, culturally significant landscapes, etc.).
Guided by the tools of ethnographic inquiry, students immerse themselves in local environmental dilemmas in Minas Gerais, and learn to place the experiences of local communities in a larger social and historical context. With an eye toward community empowerment, student groups report on locally relevant topics related to the environment and resource struggles. Brazil is a global economic superpower, and analysts are watching closely how it balances economic growth, social equity, and environmental protection. In this program, students gain a firsthand understanding of these dynamics, and learn how to accurately report on and engage in environmental debates in an ethical manner.
This program takes seriously the importance of placing global and national debates—about deforestation, development, and the conduct of democracy—in local context, and telling unique stories from such a local vantage that might then speak to larger concerns.