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Lecture Explores Inequality in Brazil

By Yuqi Hou, Contributing Writer

Students and faculty packed into the Belfer Case Study Room on Friday to hear about inequality in post-abolition Brazil from Brodwyn Fischer, a history professor at Northwestern University. The event, titled “Poverty, Social Intimacy, and the Politics of Inequality in Post-Abolition Brazil,” focused on the historiography of a city in Brazil called Recife.

Fischer began the lecture by examining the question of to of whether or not urban inequality was a significant problem from the 19th century to the mid-20th century in Brazilian cities.

Fischer said that even at the time of Brazil’s origins, the society was heavily segmented. Social movements in the country through its history have focused more on people’s concern for survival rather than on their aims to decrease inequality, she said.

“Access to any form of power, prestige, and upward mobility depended on vertical power relations,” Fischer said. She also said that people in Recife relied heavily on social networks for survival.

Fischer, who published a book in 2008 on inequality in Brazil called “A Poverty of Rights: Citizenship and Inequality in Twentieth Century Rio de Janeiro,” is currently working on a second book that discusses inequality in gender, race, and social networks in Brazil.

The event was organized by history professor Emma G. Rothschild and Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Merilee S. Grindle,

“[Fisher] was a graduate student here, and it’s so nice to have her back,” Rothschild said. “There isn’t someone on the faculty to teach Brazilian history.”

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