Avoiding the Copa

Out my window
Out my window

Although most people that I’ve talked to who are not Brazilianists have been jealous about my ability to do research in Brazil this summer, I have, from day one, been quite unenthused about the prospect of being here for the World Cup.  This is not because I am uninterested in futebol, but rather, because of the many practical difficulties that it arouses for getting around and getting things done.  Roads are congested, lanes are closed, bus and metro workers around the country are striking over their working conditions (when public money is going to stadiums and the like), and many public institutions have special holiday hours.

I’ve done my best to plan around these predictable inconveniences, by avoiding host cities during game days as much as possible and spending a good deal of the Cup in Europe.  Although I know I’m missing a lot of energy and social action in São Paulo, I’m happy to be in a beachier part of the country, Fortaleza, today. Since my project on Brazilian universities relies on both French and Brazilian documentation, I’ll soon hop over to the other side of the Atlantic. There, I can do my archival work during the day and watch the afternoon games in the evening in Paris.

Don’t get me wrong: the Cup is exciting and it is providing a space—both in terms of real and media activism—for social change.  I’m quite critical of the enormous costs that FIFA has imposed upon Brazil when its schools, infrastructure, and healthcare are lagging.  And yet, here I am sporting a Brazilian jersey for the opening game today between Brazil and Croatia. It’s hard not to root for the home team.

Posted by Ian Merkel – PhD Candidate in History and French Studies at NYU

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