New Faculty Spotlight: Solving More Than Literary Crimes
A Look Inside Latin American Culture and Struggles
By Shavantay Minnis
Gonzalo Aguiar Malosetti, Ph.D., spent his childhood frequently visiting friends and relatives in South America, particularly Argentina and Brazil.
It was in this region, he said, that he witnessed many cases of human rights abuse, which catapulted his research into institutional violence as depicted in crime fiction and film production from different Latin American countries. His goal is to shed light on the struggles and the hidden abuse that many citizens face, including moments during the pandemic, according to Aguiar Malosetti, a visiting instructor in the FAU Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.
“I was able to travel to these different places as a child and see the kinds of struggle each place encountered. Studying them in my research today only felt natural,” said Aguiar Malosetti, who earned his bachelor’s degree in literature and languages from the University of the Republic, in his hometown of Montevideo, Uruguay. He continued his education, earning a doctorate degree in Latin American literature, with a concentration in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil countries, which form part of the geopolitical region known as the Southern Cone, from Washington University of St. Louis in Missouri.
His research encompasses Latin American intellectual history and instances of necro-empowerment, from the current governments in the region. In the case of Brazil, Aguiar Malosetti looks at how necro-empowerment may be interpreted as a biopolitical power play which ultimately decides life and death for citizens who are disenfranchised in Brazilian society because of race and status. His current research project, titled “Tropes of Violent Inequality: Race, Policing, and the Necropolis in Contemporary Brazilian Crime Narratives,” was featured in the 2020 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, where he participated in the discussion of social and racial issues in Brazil to further his own research.
“It was a very illuminating experience and it helped define my research being able to discuss ideas with a wide range of scholars from a wide array of academic disciplines,” Aguiar Malosetti said.
Here’s a look at Aguiar Malosetti’s journey to FAU:
Q: Talk about life before FAU
A: After I earned my doctorate, I spent a year as a visiting professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, La., teaching students about culture and literature classes with an emphasis on the legacy of the role institutional and public intellectuals played in the formation of the young republics in Latin America. The visiting faculty position at Tulane helped me tremendously in advancing my research on institutionalized violence in Brazilian crime fiction and cinema. The Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane was an invaluable resource where mentorship and support was always available for new faculty. In this respect, I have fond memories of my colleague Fernando Rivera-Díaz, a Peruvianist with whom I had many conversations about what it means to be a Latin American scholar in the U.S. academia. His experience was particularly important at a time when I was deciding about my next move in the profession. Tulane was the place where I decided about focusing on Brazil within a comparative perspective with other Spanish-speaking countries in the Southern Cone.
After my time at Tulane, I decided to travel back to Washington University where I became the Spanish coordinator, teaching beginner-level Spanish for the university. Later, I took a job at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego for six years as an assistant and then as an associate professor of Latin American literature. I moved to FAU for the opportunities to continue researching the Brazilian community that surrounds South Florida, and I have truly enjoyed my time here so far.
Q: What is your research focus?
A: My research has to do with cultural studies and intellectual history in Latin America. I mostly focus on a comparative study of the intellectual history of Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil in the early 20th and 21st centuries. I am particularly interested in the parallel and informal economies created by the transnational organized crime located in the triple frontier, the tri-border area that connects Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
The first book I published examined the effects of cultural modernity in those countries with a particular focus on their intellectual traditions. My second book, “A Refracted Modernity: Intellectual History as Creation and Resistance in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay,” published in 2019, I mostly focus on a comparative study of the role played by the cultural and political class in Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil in the early to mid-20th century.
Although I continue publishing on the top-to-bottom effect that ideas have in society, especially when debated in a public sphere characterized by social and racial inequities, I have moved to Brazil’s current issues with policing practices and social and racial exclusions because I felt this line of investigation really tackles some of the most significant issues Latin America is experiencing. For instance, to understand how and what constitutes a politics of repression and exclusion in Brazil, you need to go beyond aesthetic considerations when interpreting the influence played by parallel and informal economies created by the transnational organized crime located in the triple frontier, the tri-border area that connects Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. This type of analysis requires a different skill set that addresses ethnographic and sociological inquiries in addition to the typical framework used in literary studies. So, it is essential to situate my interpretation of Brazil as a violent democracy through the analysis of different forms of necro-empowerment in crime fiction, investigative reports and politically committed film productions.
Q: What is the question you are trying to answer in your research
A: What I intend to do in my current research is to take a fresh look at several challenges that democracies in Latin America experience. Take for example Brazil, where the debate has quickly shifted to issues of economic, racial and gender inequality in conjunction with the emergence of new forms of white supremacy. I work on the intersections between race, spatial segregation, and crime to throw some light on such unacceptable forms of citizenship in contemporary Brazil. One of the main takeaways for people interested in this topic is how fragile a democracy can be if we don’t effect structural changes to the current system of inequality and oppression directed at disenfranchised people. I mention this is in my first book, that this is one of the promises yet unfulfilled in Latin America’s notion of cultural modernity.
Q. What is your goal for this research?
A. I want to analyze the consequences of neoliberalism clashing with more progressive policies instituted in the region in the early 21st century. In this sense, I am deeply committed to working on the intersections between race, spatial segregation and crime from an interdisciplinary perspective. Beyond an increasing output of ethnographic accounts undermining the myth of a racial democracy in Brazil, I think analyzing recent cultural productions will add a better sense of what’s going on in Brazil since democracy was restored in 1985. I look forward to working on the interdisciplinary scope of this project with Caribbean and Latin American Studies colleagues here at FAU.
Q: What are some major milestones throughout your career?
A: Major milestones in my academic career include the publication of my book on Latin American intellectual history, which has given me the chance to establish a scholarly network with colleagues from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Also, being elected vice president of the Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies in New York, a professional organization covering the northeast region of the country. Among my responsibilities, I am responsible for assigning speakers for events and where I plan to advance the agenda for more literature, cultural studies and more humanities, so can continue his awareness for the struggle in different Latin American countries.
In terms of scholarly achievements, I am a recent recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar Fellowship for the seminar “The Making of Modern Brazil,” which put my current book project in motion. Having been the coordinator and organizer of the Spanish Colloquium, an annual event held at SUNY Oswego for six years was an incredible opportunity for faculty, keynote speakers and students to share conversations about the Hispanic world in a convivial atmosphere. As for teaching and mentoring, I developed and taught the intermediate Portuguese sequence for the first time ever at SUNY Oswego. It is a proud moment in my career along with being the organizer and coordinator of the Spanish Colloquium at the same institution for six consecutive years.
Q: What are your greatest goals and ambitions you set for yourself?
A: I am personally driven by the many opportunities given by the academic profession to test my problem-solving skills. In this regard, a few of my future goals include collaborating on academic projects across departments and disciplines and establishing a leadership position in my field of specialization.
My culture and family are important to me. Even after so many years in the United States, I feel the need to go back to my hometown of Montevideo, Uruguay, to reconnect with my traditions and recharge both emotionally and intellectually.
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