Liberal Arts postdoc's new podcast amplifies Brazilian artists, cultural leaders

Rebecca Marcinko
June 22, 2021

Artists and academics are constantly innovating and looking for ways to creatively illuminate and enrich the world. Though everything was seemingly brought to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic, creators continued their craft across the globe.

To specifically highlight Brazilian artists, academics and cultural leaders who are still creating, Jamie Lee Andreson, a postdoctoral scholar with the Africana Research Center, utilized her own academic innovation to create “Brazil Culture Connections” — a bilingual podcast.

“There's not a lot of coverage of Brazil in general,” Andreson said. “When there is coverage, it's usually large political events or economic catastrophes, or you know, big celebrities, basically. I connect with people on the ground who usually don't get that kind of representation in English language media.”

Andreson holds a doctoral degree in anthropology and history from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in ethnic and African studies from the Federal University of Bahia. Her passion for Brazilian culture, which is apparent in each episode of the podcast, began before graduate school, though. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Andreson studied abroad in Salvador — the Brazilian city she “ended up staying and researching in for many, many years after that.”

“It really inspired me — learning the language, connecting with people in Brazil and then thinking comparatively about Brazilian history and United States history,” Andreson said.

In August 2020, Andreson started her postdoctoral work at Penn State, a position where she has freedom within her projects. Amid a time where personal connections were often lacking due to the isolating nature of the pandemic, she wanted to pursue a project that allowed for ample connection between Penn State and her Brazilian contacts while simultaneously offering listeners a new perspective of Brazil.

She found her two initial interns, Amanda Talbot (2021, Spanish and Italian) — who Andreson describes as a “language wizard” — and Madi Tenny, a rising junior majoring in global and international studies. Belle Hattingh, a rising senior majoring in psychology, later joined the “Brazil Culture Connections” team.

“I've been really impressed with their enthusiasm, their skills, really their willingness to learn,” Andreson said. “It's more than just the Portuguese language or Brazilian culture — it's also production, right? It's an entrepreneurial spirit. We're able to innovate together. They have amazing ideas that I wouldn't have thought of [and] an energy to implement innovations.”

After seeking guidance on the technical aspects of recording a podcast through the Office of Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship in the College of the Liberal Arts, “Brazil Culture Connections” was born. Andreson could not physically travel to Brazil during the pandemic, but the podcast allowed her to extend her experiences to a broader audience.

“The idea is [the podcast] can serve as pedagogical material, and you don't need to know Portuguese to have access to it. So in classes — history classes, cultural studies, art classes, sociology —  they can have access to material that isn't available anywhere else,” Andreson said. “We want to really make it available to teachers and to students and professors — and people who have curiosity but are probably never going to travel to Brazil [and] probably never going to be fluent in the Portuguese language. That's really the unique thing that we offer.”

According to Andreson, the first season of the podcast is called “Baianas em foco” and focuses specifically on Bahian women. Andreson said Bahia is considered the “center of Afro Brazilian culture,” and the season one episodes lend themselves to discussions about the intersections of race, gender and class.

“[Bahia] is a less resource-rich area of the country, in terms of economic possibilities. The resources are there, but it's kind of impoverished in relation to the southern areas of Brazil like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. They get a lot more representation,” Andreson said. “It's a context that really focuses on Black Brazilian experiences, which is something that I think is often overshadowed in understandings of Brazil in the United States.”

After working to provide a platform for Black Bahian young women in the first season, Andreson will look to a new thematic focus for the eventual second season. She envisions bringing in artists of different genres and identities — a focus on “the variety of artistic production” in Brazil.

The first season of “Brazil Culture Connections” is available now on Google Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 22, 2021