Tinker Visiting Professorships link Latin American and UChicago scholars

For 30 years, leading scholars from across Latin America have come to campus to teach, present lectures and establish what has become a vibrant network of scholarly exchange between themselves and UChicago professors and students through the Tinker Visiting Professor program at the Center for Latin American Studies.

The project, funded in 1981 by an endowment gift from the Tinker Foundation, has been expanded over the years and now supports conferences and visiting journalists who participate in briefings on contemporary issues.

The campus community will get an opportunity to enjoy one of these popular exchanges when José Miguel Wisnik, Spring 2012 Tinker Visiting Professor and Professor of Literature at the University of São Paulo, and Arthur Nestrovski, artistic director of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, present “A canção no Brasil: Literature, Music, and Popular Song in Brazil.” One of the Logan Center for the Arts preview events, Wisnik’s lecture and performance will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17. Wisnik is a leading cultural critic and scholar of Brazilian song and literature.

On June 1, alumni will hear from leading Brazilian economist and Tinker Visiting Professor Aloisio Araujo when he presents “Brazil and the Southern Cone Economies in the 21st-Century” at his Alumni Weekend Un-Common Core session.

The Tinker Visiting Professorship program facilitates on-going engagement with former visiting professors. On April 21, the Center for Latin American Studies will sponsor return visits by three former Tinker professors, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, Fausto Hernadez, and Gerardo Esquivel, to participate in a conference titled “Mexico Tomorrow,” organized by the undergraduate student group Mexicanos en UChicago.

“Over these three decades, the Center for Latin American Studies and the University have become the site of convergence for scholarly exchange in the Americas—unparalleled for its success in building lively and enduring partnerships with scholars in the region,” said Mauricio Tenorio Trillo, Director of the center and Latin American Studies Professor in History.

Being able to communicate with a wide range of students and faculty on campus is an important part of the qualifications of faculty chosen for the Tinker professorships. A cross-section of the UChicago community, including students studying Portuguese, music, history, and comparative literature, are learning from Wisnik and Araujo’s expertise. Wisnik’s course, “Brazilian Popular Song,” explores samba’s musical and poetic roots and their interactions in modern Brazil’s emblematic musical genre. 

“In Brazil there is a strong tradition of public awareness of literature and poetry through popular song,” said Wisnik. The course examines the connections between poetry and music in Brazil, and Wisnik will pick up the theme in his lecture and concert.

Araujo will be teaching an interdisciplinary course titled “General Equilibrium, Default, Bankruptcy, and Applications.” In the class, students from Economics, the Law School, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Latin American Studies, and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, discuss recent reforms in Brazil as well as default in Latin America and Europe.

“In Brazil, most of our classes are taught to students specializing in the field. I like teaching a wide variety of students, because they bring different questions,” Araujo said. He added that he enjoys the collegiality of working with other faculty members, such as James Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, with whom Araujo has recently organized an early childhood conference to take place in Brazil. Araujo also regularly participates in the University’s interdisciplinary theory workshops. 

An important part of the Tinker Visiting Professorships program is the network the visiting professors form once they return to their home institutions, where they become ambassadors of the intellectual community at UChicago, and host University faculty and students who visit the region for research.

For several decades, the Tinker Foundation also has awarded grants to the Center for Latin American Studies to support doctoral students’ exploratory field research in Latin America, providing an opportunity for students to establish professional and institutional contacts, assess potential research sites, and refine the dissertation project. In recognition of the synergy between the Visiting Professorship and the pre-dissertation field research grants, the Tinker Foundation recent strengthened its commitment by expanding the visiting professor endowment terms to supplement their financial support for the exploratory field research grants.

Matt Barton, an advanced doctoral student in history, writing a dissertation on institutions and state building in Brazil, worked closely with Tinker Visiting Professor and historian Sidney Chalhoub during Chalhoub’s Chicago stay. When Chalhoub returned to Brazil, Barton stayed in contact with the historian, who was an important resource for Barton as he developed his dissertation.

“He introduced me to archivists and made it much easier for me to get the material I needed. It would have been difficult for a 23-year-old graduate student to arrive in Rio and get the access I did without this kind of introduction,” Barton said.