Courtney Campbell



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Personal profile


I was born and raised in southeast Michigan (USA). After completing graduate studies, I joined the Peace Corps as an agroforestry extension volunteer, which took me to Paraguay (2001-2003). In Paraguay, I lived and worked in a dairy community in the Chaco.  From Paraguay, I moved to Recife in Brazil, where I taught English and began postgraduate training (2003-2008). I returned to the United States to earn my doctorate in Nashville, Tennessee. I carried out thesis research in nine Brazilian states with funding from the Institute for International Education in 2012. Before joining the University of Birmingham, I held two postdoctoral positions: the first a Past and Present Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2015) housed at the Institute of Historical Research in London, and the second an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship (2015-2016, through Vanderbilt’s Mellon Partners Programme) at Tougaloo College, a historically black college (HBCU) in Jackson, Mississippi. I joined the University of Birmingham in Autumn 2016.

Research interests

I am currently finishing my book Region Out of Place: The Brazilian Northeast and the World (1924-1968), which examines how groups within a marginalized region of Brazil asserted their world belonging, relevance, and uniqueness through the creation of regional cultural symbols and institutions from the 1920s to the late 1960s. My manuscript focuses on the Northeast of Brazil, generally considered the nation’s poorest, most backward, and most rebellious region, and yet also considered deeply culturally authentic and untouched by the outside world. My manuscript explores how ideas about the region and its meaning circulated among social groups and across international lines. While considering the role of intellectuals and policy makers in the process of regional definition, I emphasize that to become part of the popular geographic imaginary, ideas on the Northeast had to circulate and find relevance among a greater portion of the population, particularly among working women and men of colour. For this reason, I analyse international interactions involving diverse social actors, such as intellectual conferences, dating during World War II, a campaign to bring a World Cup match to the Northeast, beauty pageants, literacy programs, and international aid projects. In doing so, I show that while ideas about the Northeast moved through one social class and into another and from one geographic scale to the next, notions of what the Northeast meant, what made up its culture, and who should be allowed to represent it were constantly revised and recirculated. A revised chapter from this manuscript appeared in Past & Present's February 2017 issue.

In addition to my book manuscript, I am co-editing a volume titled Empty Spaces: Confronting Emptiness in National, Cultural, and Urban History with Allegra Giovine and Jennifer Keatingunder contract with the Institute of Historical Research’s conference series. I am also drafting an article titled ‘The Winners, the Losers, the Invisible: Discussing Race and Gender in Brazilian World Cup and Miss Universe Media Coverage of the 1950s and 1960s’ and carrying out research for another article titled ‘UFOs, Aliens, and Astronauts in Popular Culture of the Brazilian Northeast’. I also occasionally collaborate with other contributors to the Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Archives (ESSS) to produce scholarship on the digitization of endangered archival sources.

Meanwhile, with the support of an undergraduate research fellow, I have begun research for my next book project, tentatively titled Rebellious Women and the Brazilian Nation. The book approaches gender and historical memory in twentieth-century Brazil.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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