Town and Country: Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil

Summer 2017 | Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil


Discover the past in the present of beautiful Bahia, a tropical region hugging the Atlantic Ocean in northeastern Brazil. Spend a week in colonial-era Salvador, the capital city of cobblestone alleys and pastel-colored buildings that climbs the hillside above the bay. Venture into the nearby countryside, or Recôncavo, visiting the small towns and rural communities of Cachoeira, Santo Amaro and São Felix. Appreciate amazing landscapes—beaches and mountains, deserts and rainforests—while never venturing more than a few hours’ drive from Salvador.


Historic Roots of Brazilian Culture
Learn how much of the culture that is quintessentially Brazilian (think samba, capoeira and carnival) can be traced to the centuries-old convergence of European, African and indigenous peoples in Bahia. Understand the role of colonial-era sugar plantations and the slave trade—one-third of all enslaved Africans were sent to Bahia—in generating a distinctive Afro-Brazilian regional culture that continues to flourish.

Contemporary Issues in Brazilian Life
Recognize the ways in which contemporary issues intersect cultural, racial, ethnic and religious identity to define life in the communities of northeastern Brazil. Frame your understanding within the context of modern Brazil as a rising world power, host of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Consider whether the opportunities of a growing economy are shared equally among all segments of the population.


Ethnographic Research
Conduct research as a social scientist, observing and interacting with people on a daily basis. Formulate a research question and pursue its answers, through your own observations as well as insights from the Brazilian people, gathered through surveys, formal interviews and casual conversations. Document your work in field notes, photographs and digital recordings. Identify readings in the literature that address or contextualize your research question.

Communicating Across Cultures
Speak with Brazilian people in both formal settings and casual encounters, finding ways to understand each other across different languages and cultures. Expand the “survival” Portuguese learned in a pre-departure class, improving your language skills with every conversation. Employ hand gestures and other nonverbal techniques, or utilize familiar words from English and other languages to convey and comprehend meaning. Gain confidence in approaching strangers and establishing an amiable, meaningful connection with them.

Final Research Project
Integrate your observations and fieldwork with relevant social science readings to produce a major paper analyzing and addressing your research question. How do fisher-folk approach issues of conservation and environmental protection that affect their livelihood? Are capoeira artworks created for the tourist market realistic or idealized? How so and why? Present your findings to your classmates and to members of the Drew community in a public ethnographic colloquium.

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