.conteúdo » Entrevistas, Literatura, Outras línguas, Periferia

Academic works that make a difference in the periphery

Atualizado em 13 de junho | 10:21 AM

This interview was originally conducted in Portuguese and published on this blog, having been kindly translated by the website Contramare.net. It was first published in English on http://www.contramare.net/site/en/academic-works-that-make-a-difference-in-the-periphery/.


Culture, literature, digital technologies and periphery productions can be found in the work of professor, journalist, essayist, and researcher Heloísa Buarque de Hollanda. Born in Ribeirão Preto, in the state of São Paulo, Heloísa graduated in Literature from the Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro (PUC/RJ) and completed her master and PhD degrees in Literary Theory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). She obtained a post-doctoral degree in the same area from Columbia University in New York.

She’s an emeritus professor at UFRJ, where she coordinates the Advanced Program for Contemporary Culture. She worked in journalism at various media outlets, presenting TV and radio programs and collaborating with the printing press, as well as the web. She also performed executive functions as director of the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro (MIS/RJ), between 1983 and 1984.

Currently, Heloísa is director of Aeroplano Editora, a publishing house of alternative editorial projects, and curator of a website on contemporary culture. Author of important publications to Brazilian culture and creator of projects that integrate periphery and academia, the researcher talked to Ecaderno about her professional trajectory, and about the obstacles and results of her work.

You entered University at age 17. Were you certain of which career to choose?

Today I feel that I didn’t really choose. Why would I choose Classic Literature (Latin and Greek)? Inexplicable at a time of political and cultural effervescence. It was a time when the student movement and politics expected great transformations, until the coup of 1964, which detained the dreams of a whole generation of Brazilian youths. I really don’t remember that moment of choice. Only that I tried to change professions my entire life. I was always aware of other stuff and doing or creating parallel activities. My perception is visual and spatial. Logically, I should have been an architect or designer, things that I love and I do as an amateur. So, as time went by I was always thinking about dropping everything and go on a different path. But I ended up staying in academics.

Your large production as a researcher was always allied to work outside academia. What’s the importance of that association and how does one practice influences the other?

I think we have two types of academic production. Pure and applied research. I chose applied. For me, it was always important to combine my studies with an action. Which was very good, because it allowed me to continuously intervene in the topics I worked with. But I also respect the “pure” research and study option.

What were the main difficulties you encountered in order to perform academic research?

The difficulties that I faced were always related with topics I chose to study, because they appeared incompatible with academic and canonical interests, for example marginal poetry, race issues, women issues, digital culture, cultures of the periphery. In other words, themes that are coming up and are not legitimate in mainstream academic standards. But those difficulties only impacted my professional image, not the development of my research.

Your research on marginal poetry originated the anthology “26 Poets Today” (26 Poetas Hoje), dated from 1976. What are the main features of that type of production?

That poetry was marginal to the editorial system and the official literature. It was a type of poetry that reclaimed the modernist oral tradition, but with its own diction and vitality. At the time, it was highly criticized for being disposable, immediate and supposedly lacking in quality, but today all those poets are recognized and a reference in the literary series. Time works miracles…

The project “Universidade de Quebradas” is an extension program of UFRJ that you created, and which takes residents of the periphery to the university. How is that work done and what is the importance of such interaction for the academic institution and the people involved?

The project “Universidade das Quebradas” operates on the concept of ecology of knowledge. Therefore, it was developed a methodology of exchange and dialog that I think is innovative and has an impact both on the university and on actual empowerment actions that have been occurring in the periphery. Marginal literature takes prominence with Ferrez, Sergio Vaz, Allan da Rosa, graffiti by Os Gêmeos (…), rap Criolo, Emicida, among others.

Your research field emphasizes the relationship between culture and development. Explain how you see that relationship.

It’s been a long time since artistic and cultural production were an autonomous sphere in relation to the economy and the politics with an objective of contemplative fruition. Today culture invests in its possibility of becoming an economic, political and social resource. Thus, the study and cultural production can no longer dismiss in their practices the variable “development”, particularly at moments of transformation such as the one we’re living at the moment.

For the last five years you’ve been working with cultures produced in the periphery of large cities. Among the works produced in those areas, what calls your attention the most?

The characteristics of “artivism” or experimentation of the social and economic potential of cultural inclusion. Beyond that, obviously, the blossoming of a new artistic diction that articulates transnational culture with roots culture. It is above all, in that sense, a modern culture.

Your research also has a relationship with the influence of digital technologies and the internet in cultural consumption. How do you evaluate the impact of the Internet on the production of literature and knowledge?

That impact is crucial. Literature, whether on line or off line, is showing basic mutations both in writing and reading. What is important now is to pay attention to that process of transformation in the perception of the creative work.

In what manner are the digital technologies democratizing access to culture? What are the benefits of that possibility for young people?

Up to now, the web has been decentralized and mostly open access. That is obviously democratizing. However, we are only in the beginning of the so-called digital era. A lot is still to come that can cause destabilization and great scare as far as Internet “freedom” is concerned. Young people were never exposed to so much information before in history. If they know how to use it well, that is, learn how to search for valid informations and articulate them all together, they will find themselves in a very privileged situation.

In parallel to teaching and research, you worked in communication as a journalist atJornal do Brasil, you did radio, at Rádio MEC and you presented a TV program at TVE/RJ. How was each program in these different media outlets and how did you adapt to these different types of media?

Each platform has its own aspects and you have to go through a transformation when you adjust to what different types of media require from you. I’m happy that I got to experience those different languages. At Jornal do Brasil, I authored a column mainly about literature. At Radio MEC, I did the show “Café com Letra”, which was basically interviews and a section called “radar of literary and musical news”. At TVE, I did a program with UFRJ’s communication students called Culturama (its slogan was a no-drama student program) about culture and politics on the eve of the launch. That program was censored and taken of the air. I also did three films (Xarabovalha about the theater group “Asdrubal Trouxe o Trombone”), Dr. Alceu (about Alceu Amoroso Lima in the context of censorship), Joaquim Cardozo (poet) and Raul Bopp (poet). And I worked on film montage and scenography. From now on, I intend to face the challenge of digital production!