[Blackstudies-l] Congratulations, Melanie Medeiros!

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Thu Mar 9 15:54:04 EST 2017

Geneseo Professor Studies Afro-Brazilian Marriage
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

With March being Women’s History Month, one of Geneseo’s own — Assistant
Professor of Anthropology Melanie Medeiros — is getting ready to celebrate
the release of her book, "Marriage, Divorce and Distress in Northeast
Brazil: Black Women's Perspectives on Love, Respect and Kinship." Under
contract with Rutgers University Press, the book is due out in fall, 2017.

The idea for her work took hold in 2006 when Medeiros visited Brazil as a
tourist; so interested in the local people, she ended up staying for
several months after becoming invested in their community. The
Afro-Brazilian women were very forthcoming and open about the current
struggles in their lives, and these conversations were the first spark for
Medeiros’ dissertation
<https://anthropology.arizona.edu/dissertation-abstract-melanie-medeiros> for
her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, and now her book.

In Brazil, she listened to numerous stories from women in their twenties
who were going through their first divorce. Each divorce seemed to follow a
similar narrative: the women experienced feelings of empowerment and
independence stemming from their decision to end their marriage. For them,
the marriage was a greater source of suffering than the short-term distress
resulting from divorce.

Over the course of the next 10 years, Medeiros traveled back and forth
between Brazil and the United States, at one point, spending a full two
years there in her effort to collect research and stories from the women.
One of the most surprising things that she learned was that the increase in
divorce was not because women’s definitions of love had changed, but
rather, their definition of respect had shifted.

As Medeiros explained, “They don’t believe that romantic love exists in a
marriage the way Americans do.” This is a main difference between marriage
expectations in their culture and U.S. culture; in Northeast Brazil,
respect is a more important quality in marriage than romantic love.
Consequently, as the women’s definition of respect changed, their
expectations for such respect were not being met, hence their reason to end
the marriage.

For Medeiros, the most difficult aspect of writing the book revolved around
“doing the women justice in sharing their narratives.” Reflecting on her
experience, Medeiros said, “The challenge was in not putting my
impressions, opinions, and point of view — with my scholarly gaze — into
their narratives, so that I could give voice to them without over-analyzing
what they had to say.”

Medeiros’ book is a continuation of her ongoing research which, as
described on her website, “explores intimate relationships in rural
Northeast Brazil to examine how inequality at the intersection of race,
gender and class affects relationships and health and well-being in
structurally vulnerable communities of African descent.”

Medeiros joined the Geneseo faculty in August 2014 and hopes to return to
Brazil in May 2018 with a group of study abroad students.

*— by Genna Amick ’18, Academic Affairs communications intern*
Maria Helena Lima
Department of English
Comparative Literature Director
Welles 225A
SUNY Geneseo
Geneseo, NY 14454

(585) 245-5242
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