Ida Balwierz: JU SPECTRESS Fellow in São Paulo

I spent five fantastic, intense, inspiring, fruitful, and eventful months (May–October 2017) in São Paulo. I also had an opportunity to conduct research on the topic of the Arab diaspora in Brazil, to meet the wonderful inhabitants of that country, and to learn about its amazingly rich culture.

I have experienced Brazilians’ friendliness and willingness to assist foreigners immediately after my plane had landed in the São Paulo airport. A Brazilian woman I had just met, who had returned from a few weeks travel in Europe, helped me find my way, quickly and safely, to the flat I had rented for my stay, in the Vila Leopoldina district. At first, I was intimidated, scared by the hugeness of São Paulo. I had never lived in such a big and crowded place before. However, soon, thanks to my Brazilian friends, I began to love it and learned to move around with ease.

I spent most of my time in libraries (university, state, libraries of Arab institutions). A library in Club Homs on the famous Avenida Paulista, founded in 1920 by Syrian immigrants, became my favorite place. That library is a veritable paradise for a researcher of Arab studies!

During my stay in São Paulo, I have also taken part in an international conference organized in August (SPeCTReSS – Social Performances of Cultural Trauma and the Rebuilding of Solid Sovereignties & XII Symposium of Irish Studies in South America, 22-25 August 2017), during which I delivered a paper titled Syrian Prison Literature as a Record of Complex Traumatic Experiences.

In October, I have given lectures on the Syrian political prison literature for the students of the Universidade de São Paulo. The paper and lectures were an opportunity to present the results of my earlier research which I continued in Brazil.

Besides library research, I have met many representatives of the Arab diaspora in São Paulo and with scientists specializing in that topic. Conversations with Syrian refugees who came to Brazil after the outbreak of a civil war in their country were very important for me.

In my free time, I visited the city, museums, and galleries, went to concerts, and walked in beautiful parks. In August, together with the XY team, I went on a trip to Santos.

I would like to thank Laura Izarra very much for her care, priceless help, and support during my stay in São Paulo. I am also very grateful to Tomasz Bilczewski and Jennifer Edmond who have made my journey to Brazil possible.

About Jennifer Edmond

Dr Jennifer Edmond, is the Director of Strategic Projects in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. Trained as a scholar of German literature, Jennifer is mostly engaged professionally with the investigation of knowledge exchange and collaboration in Humanities research and in particular the impact of technology on these processes.
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