Examine the vast human and environmental challenges confronting northeast Brazil, and learn about social justice initiatives in the fascinating city of Fortaleza.
Explore the vast cultural and spiritual legacy of the forced migration of African peoples to Brazil.
Study the impact of development and public policy on lives and livelihoods in northeastern Brazil.
Learn about Afro-Brazilian spirituality and philosophy, the spiritual practice known as Candomblé, herbal medicine, and Afro-Brazilian food.
Interact with indigenous and Afro-Brazilian people to understand social change in a multicultural environment.
Explore the history of slavery and the social marginalization of African diaspora populations. Learn how enslaved people created parallel free societies that today are recognized by the Brazilian constitution as “traditional communities.” Visit a UNESCO World Heritage site celebrating the Afro-Brazilian cultural tradition of samba, and tour a city considered the “Mecca of the African cultural matrix” in the Americas.
Advance your Portuguese language skills
You will receive intensive instruction in Portuguese through the program’s language course and daily interaction with your host family. You also will be encouraged to take advantage of myriad opportunities presented by a Portuguese-speaking environment, including the theater and other cultural offerings.
Take part in a social justice community development project.
Engage with a local community-based organization for approximately four weeks to participate in innovative, grassroots social technologies in northeastern Brazil
Milk cows or harvest crops with families in the Landless Rural Workers Movement.
You will visit a rural Landless Rural Workers Movement agricultural settlement to learn about agrarian reform and the struggle for democratic structures of land tenure.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Peace | Human Rights | Social Movements
One semester of Portuguese or two semesters of a college-level Romance language other than Portuguese.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Social injustice, marginalization, and inequality in contemporary northeastern Brazil
- Brazilian history and the construction of domination and subjugation
- Social emancipation struggles and Brazilian civil society
- Decolonization theory and practice in local communities
- Grassroots and community-based social justice initiatives
- New centers of knowledge within communities, social movements, and indigenous and quilombo communities
- Race, gender, and sustainable human relationships
- Public policy and social and restorative justice
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Social Justice, Post-Colonialism, and Civil Society in Northeastern Brazil – syllabus
- (LACB3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course provides an in-depth look at the process of political and social transformation at the grass-roots level in Northeastern Brazil, as well as the persistent and often conflictive interaction of new political actors in the country that has become a living “social laboratory.” The course provides the broad and contextualized historical, political, and social background necessary to understand the emancipation struggles of indigenous, African, and Afro-descendants. It addresses longstanding issues of social exclusion and marginalization, focusing in particular on indigenous populations, women, children, and the landless and these groups’ struggle for social justice. The course also seeks to understand the influence and impact of social emancipation struggles and civil society organizations in the postcolonial process of transition from authoritarianism to present-day democracy. The course offers students the opportunity to engage in observation, discussion, and critical reflection, examining at the local level critical global issues affecting the economy, social conditions, and health of Brazil’s landless and marginalized peoples. The course considers how religious communities of the African matrix, indigenous communities, quilombo communities, NGOs, and other groups historically and actually offer ways to rethink human relations, within a social justice framework, emphasizing solidarity and fraternity, recentering knowledge, and generating new ideas. These themes are explored from a postcolonial, decolonization, and critical grounding.
- Community Action in Brazil – syllabus
- (LACB3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this seminar, students explore how knowledge is emerging from social justice and community projects and other less-expected sites. After some introductory groundwork, students spend the bulk of this seminar visiting select community-based projects, NGOs, or social movements and discussing key issues with community leaders and organizers. The seminar focuses on the “new knowledge” regarding human development and social transformation constructed within the context of local struggles for liberation and full, equitable participation in society, as well as on efforts to create new societies focused on values of collaboration, cooperation, diversity, and respect for difference. Education is facilitated through observation, discussions, debates, group activities, and written work, including a focus on ethics. The objective is to identify and learn the workings of new social innovations actually being developed and used in local communities for development and social justice purposes. Students interact with the main protagonists, discover what obstacles they face, and assess the degree of success they find in their endeavors.
- Portuguese for Social and Development Studies I – syllabus
- (PORT1006 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- Portuguese for Social and Development Studies II – syllabus
- (PORT1506 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- Portuguese for Social and Development Studies III – syllabus
- (PORT2006 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- The course is divided into two phases. The first phase is taught in an intensive format for the first two weeks of the program. After the initial two weeks, students continue with their Portuguese studies throughout the rest of the semester along with their other courses. Emphasis is on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Students’ learning outcomes are enhanced and reinforced through the utilization of audio and visual aids such as videos, contemporary popular songs, recordings, ads, etc. In addition, teachers take students on frequent field trips during which they explore and discuss how local communities use a set of specific language habits to foster social interaction. Lesson plans include relevant information about the economy and politics of Brazil and Latin America, myths, societal roles, religion, and literature. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning or intermediate classes. Special arrangements are available for advanced speakers of Portuguese.
- Community Development Project in Social Justice – syllabus
- (LACB3060 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- This course is a unique experiential learning opportunity where students spend approximately four weeks at a community placement. Students draw on the theoretical knowledge they have acquired in the thematic seminars to participate with a range of diverse community organizations working toward socio-political, economic, and cultural transformation. Students are also be encouraged to use the scholarship of engagement to enhance their understanding of the intersectionality of social relations and the complexities of working for practical political change. Field-based learning is also an opportunity for students to contribute to supporting anti-colonial, anti-racist, feminist, and social justice organizations and to develop ethical and respectful relationships with activist communities.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
On educational excursions within the state of Ceará, you will learn about northeast Brazil’s diverse urban and rural communities and compare regional responses to social injustice. Visit a rural Landless Rural Workers Movement agricultural settlement to hear about agrarian reform and the struggle for democratic structures of land tenure in Brazil. Study the benefits and challenges of popular democracy with visits to community-based NGO projects. Talk to residents about community organizing, building a culture of democracy, violence against women and children, international trafficking of humans including children, sex tourism, economic development and native cultures, and economic and environmental reform.
Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) Settlement
Stay with rural workers in an MST agricultural settlement and examine the history, structure, and objectives of the movement. MST leaders will share their philosophy of agrarian reform and the process and challenges of organizing rural workers to bring about change. Past students constructed cisterns, painted community meeting centers, built and planted community gardens, and met with youth and women’s groups.
In collaboration with UNICEF, participate in a weeklong excursion to Manaus, the capital of the Amazonas state. This remote city of more than two million is reachable only by boat or plane. Experience a region undergoing significant change and challenges as you meet with community leaders and discuss social justice, public health, and other human rights. Explore innovative community-based strategies and how they may apply to other locations around the world. Meet with communities along the Rio Negro to learn about social justice, public health, and other human rights. Students from the SIT Study Abroad program Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights will join the group on this excursion.
Rio de Janeiro
In this sprawling metropolis with a population of nearly 12 million on Brazil’s southeast coast, you will explore how social movements, NGOs, and community projects are intervening to transform the persistent social inequalities that have plagued this city since its colonial creation. Engage with leading scholars and cutting-edge social technologies designed to confront the complex issues of race, gender, human rights, public health, and individual and structural violence. Students from the SIT Study Abroad program Brazil: Public Health, Race, and Human Rights will join the group on this excursion.
In Bahia’s capital city, Salvador, meet with Afro-Brazilian communities to examine the historical context of slavery and the social marginalization of African diaspora populations in the post-emancipation era. Discussions will focus on the continued presence of slavery, poverty, and racism as well as the influence of Afro-Brazilian religious communities. Meet with social activists to learn about the challenges of fully integrating the African community into Brazilian society.
Visit the Bahian Reconcavo (the region surrounding the Bay of all Saints) to consider issues related to the African diaspora and the re-creation of elements of African civilization. The Bahian Reconcavo was the center of sugar and tobacco plantations during the colonial era and one of the largest slaveholding regions in Brazil. In a quilombo community in the city of Simões Filho, you will study resistance to slavery and how enslaved people created parallel free societies that today are recognized by the Brazilian constitution as “traditional communities.”
In the city of Santo Amaro, you will visit the Casa de Samba, a UNESCO World Heritage site that celebrates the Afro-Brazilian cultural tradition of samba. In the historical city of Cachoeira, considered the “Mecca of the African cultural matrix” in the Americas, you will explore the vast cultural and spiritual legacy of the forced migration of African peoples to Brazil. You will participate in classes on Afro-Brazilian spirituality and philosophy, the origins of the spiritual practice known as Candomblé, herbal medicine, and Afro-Brazilian culinary arts.
Program in a minute-ish
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Bill Calhoun, JD, Academic Director
Bill first came to Brazil as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to study Brazilian culture at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro. He received his BA in political science and international relations in 1978 and went on to earn his MA in Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980. While attending the University of Wisconsin Law School, Bill spent a summer in Salvador, Bahia, as a Tinker Foundation Fellow. He returned to Bahia in 1986 as a Fulbright scholar. He joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1988.
Bill has participated in international investigations of the systematic civil, political, and human rights violations of minorities in Brazil. He was a member of the World Council of Churches team to investigate discrimination and worked for two years as an instructor for the Latin American Catholic Bishops Conference in Colombia. In this position, Bill taught and assisted community and religious organizations in 13 Latin American countries including Brazil.
Oélito Brandao, Program Assistant
Oélito has been associated with the SIT program in Fortaleza for almost 20 years. He has a BA in educational pedagogy from Universidade Estadual Vale do Acaraú and is active in several organizations and social movements in the community. He works with the academic director to help oversee the program’s day-to-day activities. He manages the program offices and lecture facilities as well as the SIT library and computer center.
Caliny Pinheiro, Program Assistant
Caliny was born in Quixadá, Ceará, and started working for SIT Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development as an intern in 2003. She became a full member of the team after finishing her degree as an accountant at the State University of Ceará in 2005. Caliny assists the academic director in a financial role, organizes events, and tracks all program details.
Sampling of the Lecturers for this Program:
Lindinalva Amaro Barbosa, MA
Lindinalva received a master’s degree in linguistics from the State University of Bahia and currently works as a researcher at the Center for Afro-Oriental Studies of the Federal University of Bahia. Previously, she was a researcher at the Palmares Cultural Foundation of the Culture Ministry of the State of Bahia. She has extensive experience teaching and researching black literature, educational and cultural plurality, black resistance, and identity and religions of the African matrix. She has presented papers at scholarly congresses such as “Through the Waters of the Atlantic Ocean Sail Verses of Freedom: Pan-African Echoes in the Afro-Brazilian Literature” and “Maternal Courage—Identities of Race and Gender in Black Poetics.”
Francisco Amaro Gomes de Alencar, PhD
Francisco holds a BA in geography, a master’s degree in development and environmental studies, and a doctorate in sociology from the Federal University of Ceará. He is a professor in the Department of Geography at the Federal University of Ceará, where his teaching and research apply primarily to the areas of rural settlements, agrarian reform, land tenure, and management of rural settlements. He has worked extensively with governmental agencies such as the Development Agrarian Institute of Ceará and nongovernmental organizations including PNUD BRAZIL (United Nations) to plan debates and conferences. He also has assisted with the implementation of policies relating to land reform and rural settlements.
Henrique Antunes Cunha Junior, PhD
Henrique studied sociology at the state university Júlio de Mesquita Filho in São Paulo and electrical engineering at the University of São Paulo. He holds a master’s degree in history from the Universite de Nancy I in France and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Lorraine, France. He concluded his specialization in economy at the School of Arts and Metiers of Nancy in France. He is a tenured professor at the University of São Paulo and the Federal University of Ceará. Henrique teaches in the Graduate Education School, where he specializes in African culture, Afro-descendance, urban space, ethnic relations, history, and African and Afro-descendant culture.
Eduardo David de Oliveira, PhD
Eduardo received his BA in philosophy from the Federal University of Paraná with a specialist degree in African cultures and inter-ethnic relations from the Unibem. He obtained a master’s degree in social anthropology from the Federal University of Paraná and a doctorate in education from the Federal University of Ceará. His work focuses on ethics, Latin American philosophy, contemporary philosophy, social anthropology, popular education and social movements, African cosmovision, philosophy of Afro-descendance, Afro-Brazilian studies, history, and African literature and ancestry. Eduardo is a consultant for popular social movements in the areas of negritude, popular education, and solidarity economy.
Linda Maria de Pontes Gondim, PhD
Linda Maria received her BA in social sciences from the Federal University of Ceará, her master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, a doctorate in urban and regional planning from Cornell University, and a postdoctoral degree from the University of Maryland. She is a professor at the Federal University of Ceará in the undergraduate program of social sciences and the graduate program of sociology. She has extensive experience in the areas of urban and regional planning, urban sociology, and sociology of law. Her areas of research include urban social movements, popular participation, research methodology, and the planning and management of the city of Fortaleza. She has published widely in books and scholarly journals.
Jaime Santana Sodré Pereira, PhD
Jaime earned his doctorate in social history and his master’s degree in theory and art history from the Federal University of Bahia, Salvador. A professor of design at the State University of Bahia, he is also a musician, composer, writer, poet, and an ogan of the Terreiro Tanuri Junçara and an oloiê of the Terreiro Bogum, both temples of the Camdomblé religion. Jaime has published numerous works and has produced two CDs, Tribute and Ancestrality and The Sacred Mask of Candomblé, in addition to a soundtrack for the film Anjo Negro (Black Angel). In 2007, Jaime was recognized for revitalizing samba in Salvador's schools. He received an award from the United Nations Children’s Fund for implementing UNICEF’s Statute for Children and Adolescents in 1991.
My SIT experience instilled a passion for social justice and humanitarian work
My SIT experience instilled a passion for social justice and humanitarian work and gave me a foundation to think critically about complex socioeconomic, political, and cultural interactions with health. I use these skills daily as a pediatric infectious diseases physician.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
This program includes urban and rural homestays that expose students to different lifestyles and perspectives on social justice and economic development in Brazil.
During the first seven weeks and the final two weeks of the program you will live with a host family in Fortaleza. Most host families come from working- and middle-class backgrounds and represent a cross-section of ethnicities. You’ll become familiar with Brazilian culture and the social and political atmosphere of the region. You will also gain valuable insight into urban Brazilian life and visit other participants’ homestay families to expand your community contacts.
Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) Homestay
During the educational excursion to a rural MST settlement, you will stay with working families and meet with movement leaders to learn about the importance of the MST movement and the challenges facing that community. Often, students are able to actively participate in their homestay families’ agricultural activities, such as milking cows, harvesting crops, or taking cattle to pasture.
Other accommodations during the program include hostels, private homes, and/or small hotels.
You will complete a unique field-based community development project, engaging with a local community organization for approximately four weeks to observe, analyze, and participate in innovative and grassroots social technologies. Community project placement will be decided in conjunction with your academic director and based on your interest, Portuguese language capacity, and project availability.
Potential community development project sites:
- Instituto Povo do Mar (IPOM) – A nonprofit organization transforming systems of inequity and promoting sustainable social initiatives through art, education, sports, and environmental programs
- Network Cuca – A network of six urban centers of culture and arts that provide training courses to prepare young people to enter the workforce and workshops to promote the social and educational integration of youth through cultural and sports activities
- Grupo Cordão de Ouro de Capoeira – Longstanding practitioners of the Afro-Brazilian martial art, the group works with children from socially and economically marginalized communities to help them develop capoeira skills, discipline, and self-esteem.
- Banco Palmas – A community bank founded in the Palmeira neighborhood (population 32,000) in Fortaleza in 1998 to address poverty and stalled economic growth caused by the lack of credit in poorer regions. The bank provides microloans not in real, Brazil’s official currency, but in palma, which circulates only within this neighborhood, thus guaranteeing local economic development.
- Movimento Emaús Amor e Justiça – A nonprofit NGO active for 20 years, Emaús does work on multiple social initiatives to improve education, economic sustainability, and social cohesion with the community of Pirambu in Fortaleza.
- Movimento de Saúde Mental Comunitária – The Community Mental Health Movement in Bom Jardim provides mental health support, vocational training, and performing arts workshops for individuals living in extreme poverty. The organization focuses especially on raising self-esteem and preparing individuals to become agents of transformation within their community.
Students on this program represent a wide array of colleges, universities, and majors of study. Many of them have gone on to academic and professional careers that connect with their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Lecturer and MA convenor at King’s Brazil Institute at King’s College London, London, UK
- Program director of Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program in Brazil, Princeton, NJ
- Founding partner of PIPA, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Director of the outpatient antibiotic therapy program at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR
- Fulbright scholar in English Language Instruction, Natal, Brazil
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Social justice, postcolonialism, and civil society in northeastern Brazil
- Community action in Brazil
- Intensive language instruction in Portuguese
- All educational excursions to locations such as the Interior Ceará, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, and Manaus, including all related travel costs
- Community Development Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $3,260
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Fortaleza), on all excursions, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (nine weeks in Fortaleza and two to four days in a rural Landless Rural Workers Movement settlement)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $400
Books & Supplies: $200
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.