SMNR: Human Rights Research & Writing

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON 3:30 - 5:20 pm JON 5.220

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


In 1988, the Brazilian Constitution recognized the rights to culture and to collective property of certain of its Afro-descendant communities. These communities, largely comprising descendants of freed or escaped slaves, have traditionally occupied lands referred to as quilombos, or terras de preto (black lands). This legislation only affects a small percentage of those who identify as Afro-Brazilians. Even for those living on quilombos, however, very few titles have been granted. Without formal titling, these communities have little or no protection against encroachments upon their lands. This seminar will study the history and development of the Constitution's protection of quilombos, and the extent to which they have been recognized and protected by Brazilian and international law. We will consider current legal and political struggles over the recognition and protection of collective title for these communities, and study the ways in which these struggles both reflect and structure racial and cultural identity among Afro-descendants in Brazil. We will aim to identify legal, institutional, political, cultural and other structural impediments to the full realization of these rights. Finally, we will compare and contrast the institutional approaches and obstacles with those identified in a previous UT study in Colombia. The Brazilian government has not been unaware of some of the obstacles to titling faced by quilombos. In fact, in 2003, it established an Inter- Ministerial Workgroup to explore and recommend procedures for expediting the titling process. The President has since issued a decree that establishes titling procedures; yet, lack of secure title for most communities continues. A central component of this seminar will involve a week-long fact-finding trip to Brazil. We will conduct interviews with Afro-descendant community representatives, government officials, NGOs, activists and academics. These interviews will take place in a variety of locations in Brazil, including Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, and Brasilia. Students in the seminar will be required to write one short analytical "background" paper on an aspect of Afro-Brazilian human rights that we will be studying. That paper will be due before spring break, and will then be expanded to a 30-page paper due at the end of the semester. Following the spring break trip, each student will also be asked to contribute to a professional report on Afro-Brazilian land rights, which we will jointly prepare. Students must apply and be accepted to enroll in the class, and should submit the following by November 2, 2007 to 1. A brief, 300-word, essay describing your qualifications for the trip. Please include a list of any relevant courses you have taken or similar experiences in which you have participated. 2. A description of your Portuguese or Spanish language ability (if any). 3. A one-page resume.