Brazilian Professor Lilia Moritz Schwarcz Honored with Reimar Lüst Award

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The renowned historian, social anthropologist, and publisher will begin teaching and researching at Freie Universität Berlin from the 2022 summer semester / Alexander von Humboldt Foundation approves the nomination by members of Freie Universität

No 140/2021 from Jul 16, 2021

Renowned historian, social anthropologist, and publisher Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, a professor at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, has been honored with a prestigious Reimar Lüst Award for International Scholarly and Cultural Exchange. Under the terms of the award, she will teach and research at Freie Universität Berlin from the beginning of the 2022 summer semester. Her guest professorship at Freie Universität was approved by the joint sponsors of the award, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. Professor Schwarcz was nominated for the award by Professor Susanne Zepp-Zwirner in support of an initiative of Freie Universität’s liaison office in São Paulo. Professor Annette Jael Lehmann and Professor Stefan Rinke endorsed the nomination. During her stay in Berlin, Professor Schwarcz will focus on the Afro-Brazilian and indigenous history of Brazil.

"Lilia Moritz Schwarcz is one of Brazil’s leading historians," says Susanne Zepp-Zwirner, a professor of Spanish, Portuguese, and French literatures at Freie Universität. "In an era when populism is a global challenge, she represents an important voice for democracy and for academic, cultural, and artistic freedom in Latin America and far beyond. She has led the way in encouraging a consistent historicization of the colonial history of Brazil. Lilia Moritz Schwarcz has also made outstanding contributions to anthropological studies in Brazil along with research in Brazil’s social and cultural history."

Within and beyond the international research community, Schwarcz is perhaps best known for her brilliant work on Brazil’s history. She has been the recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2006/ 2007), and a John Carter Brown Library Fellowship (2007); was a visiting professor at Oxford, Leiden, Princeton, and Brown Universities and a Tinker Professor at Columbia University (2008); and since 2011, she has held the position of Global Professor at Princeton.

Professor Zepp-Zwirner also particularly notes Schwarcz’s groundbreaking work on the Afro-Brazilian and indigenous history of Brazil. Professor Rinke adds, "Lilia Moritz Schwarcz’s academic work has produced not only numerous brilliant, internationally recognized individual studies, each of which impart new insights, but her oeuvre has also opened up completely new interdisciplinary perspectives for cultural history and anthropology as a whole. Her work has changed perceptions of Brazilian history." But while she is an outstanding historian, explains Professor Lehmann, she also believes passionately that engaging with the past should serve to help us understand how our present-day world has come into being. This principle has underpinned much of Schwarcz’s work as a curator at the Museu de Arte in São Paulo.

Schwarcz’s book Sobre o autoritarismo brasileiro (On Brazilian Authoritarianism) was published in 2019, just one year after Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. The book is a historical study of various forms of authoritarianism and their expression throughout Brazilian history. Schwarcz argues that wherever a justice system is based on patrimonialism (in which the personal power wielded by a ruler is particularly strong), this must be viewed as a form of corruption: an abuse of power that is damaging not only in a Brazilian context but to any nation where it becomes the dominant system.

The Reimar Lüst Award bears the name of the astrophysicist and former president (1989-1999) of the Humboldt Foundation (1923-2020). The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation select up to two Reimar Lüst Award recipients a year. Award winners are highly respected humanities scholars and social scientists from outside of Germany who have made exceptional contributions in and through science to the long-term advancement of bilateral relations between Germany and their home countries.


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