My Fulbright Experience: Ricardo Vasconcelos
"Whereas I am very familiar with Portugal and Porto, it was enlightening to watch first-hand the many changes the region has endured in the last decades, and of course very enriching to meet new authors, artists, scholars..."
I am a Professor of Portuguese at San Diego State University, in California. My research focuses on the links between modern and contemporary Portuguese literature and national identity. I have published widely on the relations between Lusophone modernisms and international avant-gardes, and my work combines approaches from both literary criticism and textual scholarship, often bringing to light and establishing previously-unknown texts.
I received a Fulbright US Scholars award to work in Porto for three months, hosted by the Instituto de Literatura Comparada Margarida Losa, at the Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto. My Fulbright project, “Beyond ‘Junk’: Re-descriptions of Portuguese National Identity in a Time of Financial Crisis (2011/2015),” studies the cultural and artistic response (literature, music, cinema and street art) to the financial and economic turmoil in Portugal between 2011 and 2015. The goal is to complete a book on the theme, which is currently under contract.
My grant was originally planned for a fall term, but, due to the pandemic and professional reasons, it was delayed to the months of May through July 2022. To make the most of the academic year in Portugal, I presented a scholarly talk earlier on in the grant period, at FLUP, to reach as many elements of the academic community as possible (“A representação da crise financeira de 2011-2015 na ficção Portuguesa”, FLUP), and shortly after gave another talk in Funchal, Madeira (7 June 2022). I continued interacting with the colleagues and activities of the Instituto de Literatura Comparada, in Porto, throughout my stay, and worked very substantially at the archives of the Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto, which has rich general and periodicals collections.
My stay in Portugal allowed me to advance four main components of my book project. I furthered my theoretical framework for the project as a whole. I advanced a chapter on the Portuguese fiction that addresses the theme of the financial crisis and the international bailout – and indeed directly presented on the topic. I completed fieldwork to highlight what main examples of street art tackled the same theme, and identified solid bibliography on it. Finally, I conducted an extensive analysis of some periodicals of the time, to identify examples of visual art creations (namely newspaper cartoons) that replied — often in satirical terms— to the main issues associated with the crisis and the bailout. This research of the periodicals of this time re-contextualized, for me, the cultural production, by revisiting the main events of the period between 2010 and 2015, and assessing the public response to political and financial measures.
On the professional and personal levels, it was outstanding to have had the opportunity of conducting this field work and archival research, which would not have been completed otherwise, while immersing myself further in the region and the culture. Whereas I am very familiar with Portugal and Porto, it was enlightening to watch first-hand the many changes the region has endured in the last decades, and of course very enriching to meet new authors, artists, scholars, as well as familiarize myself with new presses and publishers — all of whom I expect to continue interacting with in the next years. ”
Ricardo Vasconcelos, Fulbright US Scholar Program, 2020/2021: http://www.fulbright.pt/fulbrighters/u-s-grantees/academic-year-2020-2021-2/ricardo-vasconcelos/