What I learned:

The three most important things I learned, or continued to learn, throughout this semester are an increased understanding of Brazilian history and culture, the limits of isolated scholarship, and the importance of collaborative work. I came into this class with an extremely limited understanding of Brazil. As a student with a research focus in the United States, finally taking a history course neither in the U.S. nor Europe broadened my knowledge of Brazil specifically, but also increased my interest in non-U.S. topics generally. Throughout the class, we referenced multiple forms of academic writing from different fields. This was especially apparent in the book presentations whose authors ranged everywhere from political scientists, to sociologists, anthropologists, and historians. The methods and questions of each discipline were often critiqued by scholars of similar topics or locations, but different fields. For example, in my book Zero Hunger, an ethnography by an anthropologist, one of the main critiques was that the author failed to account for writings in Brazilian labor history. This critique was made by a historian. My critique of the author was that the evidence to ‘prove’ his claim that certain components of these social programs worked was insufficient as he used primarily anecdotal evidence rather than any statistically significant data. However, that data could not provide the detailed personal accounts that drive this author’s argument. The books in this class emphasized the benefits as well as the limitations of different disciplines and highlighted the importance of consulting multiple fields for different types of information. Collaborative work was also critical in this class. Whether it was the group book project, peer editing, or Wikipedia this class developed the idea that scholarship only improves with input and feedback from multiple people.