FCS 522: Special Topics – Seminar on Brazil

Department of Family & Consumer Sciences

Spring Semester 2005        Credits: 3


Instructor:     Karen Blaisure, PhD

                        karen.blaisure@wmich.edu        269-387-3663


Sessions:       Fridays 5pm to 10pm and Saturdays 9am to 5pm

                        January 14 & 15, February 11 & 12, and March 18 & 19





Course Description:

The Seminar examines Brazil through an ecological perspective to better understand the reciprocal relationships among

individuals, families, and their near environment. Faculty, professionals, and community members who have worked and

lived in Brazil will speak on the areas of study found in the department of Family and Consumer Sciences: architectural

and interior design, family relationships, nutrition, textiles/apparel, and education. In addition, they will also address

history, the government and political system, and their experiences living in Brazil and the US. Presentations will be augmented

by videos, internet resources, musical performances, audio materials, and samples of Brazilian food. Knowledge of Portuguese

is not required, although it would enhance learning. Portuguese will not be taught in this class, although students intent on

learning the language will have opportunities to acquire vocabulary.



1.               To introduce students to the history, cultures and people of Brazil, South America’s largest country.


2.              To encourage an appreciation for the art, architecture, textiles and fashion, folk art, music, foods of Brazil.


3.              To describe the educational and family support systems in Brazil.


4.              To identify architectural styles and how they reflect politics and culture.


5.              To gain insight into family relationships in Brazil and immigrants’ experience in the US.


6.              To see examples of textiles and learn about the apparel industry.


7.              To explore the role of food in establishing, maintaining and transmitting national and cultural identities.



Objectives: Upon successful completion of the Seminar, students will be able to:

1.                      To label and describe at least two

a.                                          architectural styles found in Brazil

b.                                         common Brazilian dishes and their nutritional value;

c.                                          types of Brazilian handicrafts, including textiles; and

d.                                         styles of Brazilian music;

e.                                          religions practiced in Brazil;

f.                                          contributions to Brazilian culture of the native peoples, the Africans, the Portuguese, and

                          the immigrant groups (e.g., Italians, Germans, Japanese).

2.   To discuss the strengths of Brazilian families in Brazil and in the US.

3.   To identify themes in Brazilian educational systems.

4.   To discuss the pivotal historical events that have shaped Brazil.

Required Reading

It is expected that students will read the following resources. Throughout the Seminar, students will be asked to reflect

on what they read and are experiencing in the classroom. All of the books may be obtained or ordered through local

bookstores. I did not place an order for these books through the campus bookstore because I thought students would

like to obtain them in other ways.



Readings Required for All Students

1.    Uys, Errol Lincoln. (1986). Brazil. New York: Simon & Schuster. [Fiction]


2.   Websites (see lists on subsequent pages of the syllabus)


3.   Readings assigned by guest speakers.


Additional Required Reading for Students Taking the Study Tour to Brazil


4.   Poelzl, V. (2002). Culture Shock-Brazil: A guide to customs and etiquette. Portland, OR: Graphic Arts Center.


5.    Major-specific specific readings – TBD


Additional Required Readings for Graduate Students

6.   Ribeiro, D. (2000). The Brazilian people: The formation and meaning of Brazil. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.




7.   Page, J. A. (1995). The Brazilians. Reading, MA: Perseus Books.




1. Attendance, Interaction, and Participation                                           100 points

To successfully complete the course, students will

    attend all of the Seminar (points are deducted for any absences of whatever length)

    interact respectfully with guest speakers, visiting scholars, community members, and one another

    actively participate in class discussions and activities

    complete assignments related to each weekend  of the Seminar


2. Written Assignments                                           3 @ 100 points each = 300 points

The assignments require written responses to a series of questions, requiring students to integrate the material presented

by the guest lecturers and visiting scholars with information obtained via websites and other readings. Each of the three

papers will be a minimum of 1000 words in length.


Students may replace one of the assignments with a pre-approved assignment specifically designed to address the student’s

major or minor, integrating what is being learned about Brazil. Students participating in the Study Tour are encouraged to use

the written assignments in preparation for their Study Tour projects that are to relate to the student’s major. If interested

in a replacement assignment please talk with the instructor by January 30 to obtain  approval.


Answers to each question below should be at least 100 words in length. There is no maximum number of words. Integrate

and cite information from speakers, readings, and websites. Any system of citation is acceptable (e.g., APA, MLA). To cite

information from guest speakers, indicate the person’s name and date. For example. In her presentation on family life in

Brazil, Ms. Ingrid Murray (2005) indicated that…… Or, Families in Brazil will often…….(Ingrid Murray, in-class presentation, 2005).

When citing a website, provide the specific address. You can also refer to events described in the fictional book, Brazil,

to illustrate points made by the guest speaker(s). Papers may be emailed (Karen.blaisure@wmich.edu) or placed in the

holder on my office door.


Weekend # 1 (January 14/15)       Assignment Due January 23th by 11 pm

A.     Choose three historical events or themes and explain how they have influenced the development of Brazil.


B.     What the strengths of the educational system in Brazil?


C.     What are the major challenges facing Brazil as it educates its population?


D.     Describe at least two architectural styles found in Brazil. What makes these styles “Brazilian?”


Weekend # 2 (February 11/12)      Assignment Due February 20th by 11 pm

A.     Describe three features of family life in Brazil. You may wish to indicate regional and class differences.


B.     Describe at least one feature of family life illustrated in the fiction book, Brazil, that was touched on or not

touched on this weekend by one or more of the speakers. To what extent would this feature of family life fit within

the culture(s) of the US?


C.     What factors make the immigration process to the US different for each individual and family from Brazil?


D.     Choose one of the following questions to answer:

a.      Describe three features of Brazilian textiles/apparel.

b.     Describe at least one American musical element found in Brazilian music and one Brazilian element found in

American Jazz.

c.      Describe three types of Brazilian music.


Weekend # 3 (March 18/19)          Assignment Due March 27th by 11 pm

A.     Describe how at least three Brazilian dishes developed from the integration of local foods and cultural factors.

Explain how cultural practices influenced the development of Brazilian dishes.


B.     Address at least one contribution made to the Brazilian culture(s) by the following groups: the native peoples,

the Africans, the Portuguese, and the immigrant groups (e.g., Italians, Germans, Japanese).


C.     Reflect over the whole Seminar. What do you consider to be the highlights?


D.     Given what you have learned this semester, how has your understanding of Brazil changed?



Participation                100 points

# 1 Assignment            100 points

#2 Assignment             100 points

#3 Assignment             100 points

Total Possible              400 points


400-372           A          (100%-93%)                             299-280           C          (74%-70%)

371-352           B/A      (92% - 88%)                             279-260           C/D      (69%-65%)

351-324           B          (87%-81%)                               259-232           D          (58%-64%)

323-300           C/B      (80%-75%)                               231-0               E          (0%-57%)


Website Reading for First Weekend, January 14 and 15

Review the content of the following websites before the first class session:


Overview of Brazil


Quick facts, hear national anthem, see flag, scroll down to media and click on



T3 Project designed by folks at Western Michigan University! http://t3.preservice.org/ is a resource for teachers.

 Look at the following sections: Welcome, History, Population



Website for the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC.



For students interested in reading the news from the BBC in Portuguese



Skeletal information on Brazil, issued by the Central Intelligence Agency



Visit weekly for current events on Brazil.



 Books about different cities and regions of Brazil. While this site is commercial, sample photos from each book are

available as are choices of wallpaper. If you would like a wallpaper of the Christ Statute in Rio de Janeiro, a jaguar in a

 pool of water, dancers at carnival, or a Brasilian sunset, then take a look!



Design: Art, Architecture, and Interior Design


History of popular art



A concise read on architecture and town planning—then click on Oscar Niemeyer, one of Brazil’s most famous architect and

then on Brasilia. For photos of Brasilia, go on to the next listed website:



Click on the photos to see larger images of the Capital of Brazil!



Curitiba on Frontline December 2003



See the architecture of the Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi (Museum of Contemporary Art of Niteroi).

Niteroi is the city across the bay from Rio de Janeiro



Read about Aleijadinho, a 18-19th century sculptor and wood carver (who created the most baroque sculptures in

the world). Click on Ouro Preto, Unesco as a World Heritage Site, to learn more about this gold rush town.



Required Website Reading for the Second Weekend February 11 & 12.




Allow yourself plenty of time to read and hear (click on the speaker icon to hear the music) various musical

styles from Brazil. We’ll hear more in class!



A commercial website, but you can hear bits of music! Go to left sidebar and click on “Movements, Styles and

Genres” to choose styles of music. Read summaries of the musical style and listen to examples. Also, you can

choose artists from an alphabetized list. My favorites? Simone, Chico Barque, Milton Nascimento, Rita Lee,

Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil.



Villa-Lobos Museum


Family Studies


PBS Online Newshour - Brazil’s response to AIDs



Created in Rio de Janeiro in 1953 by Darcy Ribeiro, the museum is part of the National Indian Foundation (Funai),

the only official Brazilian institute dedicated to indigenous cultures. A fascinating website!!


Textiles & Apparel Industry

Brazil’s textile and apparel industry ranks 7th globally (6th in yarn/filament/and fibres production; 5th in made

articles; and 2nd in knitwear). Folk art includes Bahian pottery and delicate lace tablecloths.



Photos and explanations of woodcuts & milagre (hand-carved wooden representations of parts of the body healed)



Information and photos of weavings, rugs, and hammocks



Information and photos of laces



Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC – page on trade







Selections from book Women Encounter Technology (1995) by Swasti Mitter and Sheila Rowbotham by Routledge in

association with the United National University Press



Speech on Brazilian cotton industry (click on link to hear the speech)



Textile conference February 2005



Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association



Photos from Sao Paolo’s fashion show 2004



Required Website Reading for the Third Weekend March 18 & 19


Food and Nutrition


Excellent descriptions of the major Brazilian dishes. Click on the links found on the left sidebar for more

Tantalizing photos and descriptions of food!



Information from the folks at the tourism office  at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC.





Scroll down for an audiofile entitled, “South American: Land of Plenty.” I don’t know how long it will be there.

A search of the NYTimes online will bring up other stories of Brazil and perhaps this audio slide show.