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In the absence of events and other in-person activities that connect us, we at CLAS are focusing on ways to maintain contact with our campus community—we regularly send our digest with relevant announcements and resources, post news on social media, and hold office hours for anyone who needs helps, has questions, or wants to drop in to say hello.

We have also taken this opportunity to reconnect with our friends abroad, specifically recent Tinker Visiting Professors. We sent our former Tinkers a set of questions about how this global pandemic is playing out in their home countries and in their daily lives. We received generous responses from a number of Tinkers. Keep reading to learn more about what they are experiencing as scholars in Argentina, Brazil, and Spain during the coronavirus.

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Antônio Sérgio Guimarães

Sociology, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil | Tinker Visiting Professor, 2018–19

What was the largest disruption to daily work/life (e.g., strikes, political upheaval, natural disaster, etc.) that you experienced prior to coronavirus?

Between May 21 and 29, 2018, a truck drivers’ strike paralyzed Brazil. There was a huge shortage of gas at gas stations, food shortages in the markets. In addition, supporters of the extreme right presidential candidate called for military intervention and the situation became more tense when some kind of fraternization between strikers and some military troops came to occur, as well as looting in supermarkets in some cities. This was scary for those who lived through the military dictatorship in the 1970s.

What measures have been taken by the city/state/federal government where you live?

Social isolation measures are in place by state and municipal governments, which are fiercely opposed by the President of the Republic and radical groups. After a month of isolation, there is a growing tiredness of the population and the desire to abandon the standards of conduct recommended by the WHO, fueled by fake news.

What research are you currently working on and how is it being impacted by the pandemic?

My research on black identities forged by student collectives is being severely undermined. Now we only follow their internet pages. Universities are all closed and social life is completely virtual.

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Evani Viotti

Linguistics, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil | Tinker Visiting Professor, 2014–15

What measures have been taken by the city/state/federal government where you live?

Basically, social isolation (we can leave the house just to go grocery shopping), the use of masks when interacting with other people, the recommendation for maintaining a distance of about two meters when interacting with other people, the recommendation for constantly washing our hands and avoiding touching our face (mouth, eyes, nose). Most people seem to be in favor of these measures, but our president—hélas—is against social isolation and many people follow him in rejecting it.

What research are you currently working on and how is it being impacted by the pandemic?

I have been working on my research fairly normally, now that several articles can be accessed online. A few days ago I needed a book which was not available online, and for the first time I felt the need to use the library. I’m working on my research on the semiosis of interactions.

What are you reading, listening to, and watching for pleasure to get through this time?

I have been reading what I think is the last book by Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, and watching films and series through Netflix. As we lost two great Brazilian writers lately, I intend to re-read books by Rubem Fonseca, and read some of the books by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza which I haven’t yet read. I’m really sorry that two of my favorite authors have passed...

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Mariza Soares

History, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil | Tinker Visiting Professor, 2014–15

What measures have been taken by the city/state/federal government where you live?

All public employees, including professors like me, are working at home. Graduate Programs are facing a very moving debate about distance learning courses in graduate programs.

What research are you currently working on and how is it being impacted by the pandemic?

My personal moment is very comfortable.  I’m finishing a new book and isolation has been a blessing. But this does not mean it is easy to work in these days.

What are you reading, listening to, and watching for pleasure to get through this time?

I’m reading papers/books related to the book I’m writing; and watching series on Netflix.

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Diego Pol

CONICET, Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, Argentina | Tinker Visiting Professor, 2015–16

What was the largest disruption to daily work/life (e.g., strikes, political upheaval, natural disaster, etc.) that you experienced prior to coronavirus?

I remember the closest to this situation was when I was a graduate student and I was traveling in China studying fossil collections in 2003 during the SARS outbreak. The feeling of being in the middle of an outbreak of a viral epidemic was entirely new to me. Sadly, I think we are all feeling the same today due to the pandemic we are going through these days. My memories and feelings from that trip came back very frequently during this month and I am hopeful that we can control this crisis at some point in the future.

What measures have been taken by the city/state/federal government where you live?

In Argentina we have been in a nation-wide lockdown for over a month. This measure was taken relatively early when the number of infected people was relatively low. Most of the people I know agreed with the measure, but obviously our economy is being badly hurt and many people that depend on commerce, shops, or services are going through an extremely difficult time. Some sectors of the society, naturally, are claiming for a gradual reactivation of economy and requesting authorization to resume their activities.

What research are you currently working on and how is it being impacted by the pandemic?

I do a lot of field research during the austral summer, between December and April, so I had two expeditions scheduled for March and April that had to be cancelled. The end of my field season was therefore severely affected. At the moment I had to redefine my research goals for these two months towards things that I can do from home, such as performing data analysis of information that I have collected in the past year, writing manuscripts with data that I gathered in the past field season, correcting manuscripts and dissertation chapters that my students are finishing, and adapting my lectures and courses to be taught online (starting in May).

I still have lots of things to do...Who does not have overdue projects that could not complete in the past because of lack of time seated in front of the computer...? But obviously this is halting all data collecting plans, all our expeditions to the field, all of our lab work. So I think we will have a gap in our research in the next coming months so it is a good time to rethink objectives and adapt them to the new reality.

Additionally, paleontology became more and more globalized in the last decade and international collaborations for expeditions were routine for us, having scholars or students from abroad in different institutions was increasingly common, and we may have to rethink our plans for these types of collaborations.

For paleontologists it was very common to travel around the globe to study fossils in collections of different museums, we may have to rethink about doing that. I think new technologies, such as CT-scanning, high resolution 3D computer models and 3D printing will become even more important after this crisis.

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Eduardo Manzano

Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain | Tinker Visiting Professor, 2014­–15

What was the largest disruption to daily work/life (e.g., strikes, political upheaval, natural disaster, etc.) that you experienced prior to coronavirus?

Apart from terrorist attacks, the largest disruption that I had faced before COVID had been the military coup d’état attempt in Spain in 1981. I was a student at university at that time and it was certainly frightening, but a week after or so things went back to normal. So, yes, this probably is the largest disruption I have witnessed in my lifetime, also considering the fact that still we do not really know what its end will be.

What measures have been taken by the city/state/federal government where you live?

We are under very strict confinement in Madrid. Only essential and individual shopping is allowed. Some non-essential activities have only been recently allowed but always provided that there is no other alternative. Shops, workshops, etc. are still closed.

What research are you currently working on and how is it being impacted by the pandemic?

I was working on a British Academy-funded scheme on the Global Middle Ages. The whole project has been totally disrupted and the worst is that there no clear indications on how we will proceed in the future.

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José María Portillo Valdés

History, Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Spain | Tinker Visiting Professor, 2018–19

What was the largest disruption to daily work/life (e.g., strikes, political upheaval, natural disaster, etc.) that you experienced prior to coronavirus?

From late August 2001 I was teaching at Georgetown University. September 11 caught me in the capital city of the US and even if I had lived in the country (in Texas) since the year before the events of September 11 were absolutely disruptive of my university and family life.

Now that I am going through this new crisis in my own country, I have been thinking a lot about people who is around me and are not from here. I know from my own experience that finally you can handle the situation, but it is undoubtedly more complicated.

What research are you currently working on and how is it being impacted by the pandemic?

Paradoxically I was able to finally finish a book I started writing last year in Chicago. It is a research on the concept of Emancipation as a key concept of political modernity.

What are you reading, listening to, and watching for pleasure to get through this time?

I took advantage of the situation with a long period of time ahead and I finally went through the reading of a huge novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño (the title is 2666… and this is less than the number of pages!).

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Verena Stolcke

Anthropology, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain | Tinker Visiting Professor, 2014–15

What was the largest disruption to daily work/life (e.g., strikes, political upheaval, natural disaster, etc.) that you experienced prior to coronavirus?

I was born in 1938 in Germany; hence I do remember the Second World War and above all the immediate postwar—the terrible hunger—very well. But although some people seem to compare that war with the coronavirus crisis, I do not agree. The pandemic consists of the terrible dynamic interaction between the biology of viruses and the prevailing socio-economic and political order, i.e., advanced capitalism.

What measures have been taken by the city/state/federal government where you live?

As you know, here in the EU most countries became aware of the coronavirus pandemic and reacted too late—with the exception of Germany. The Spanish government declared the alarma on March 14 with radical confinement of the population at home; i.e., we are not allowed to go out except to shop for food or to the pharmacy. We are still confined but the state of alarma will apparently end in a week’s time. But we do not know in which way this will occur. The population in general received these policies well. We discovered that the older houses tend to have terraces and/or small balconies which, if possible, have been used with enthusiasm though keeping the one-and-a-half–meter distance between persons. Besides, general shops, theaters, cinemas, the opera, bookshops, football games have been shut or suspended.

What research are you currently working on and how is it being impacted by the pandemic?

At the moment I continue gathering information on migration and the dramatic experiences of immigrants who try to get to Europe over the Mediterranean. But this is in a way the continuation of two related pieces of research (“The nature of nationality” in Veit Bader (ed.) Citizenship and Exclusion, 1997; “Talking Culture; New Boundaries, New Rhetorics of Exclusion in Europe,” in Current Anthropology “Special Issue: Ethnographic Authority and Cultural Explanation, Vol. 36. No. 1, February 1995). The latter article will be republished in the HAU journal edited by Dr. Stephan Palmié.

In addition to information about their experience of the pandemic, our former Tinkers shared news and announcements about their work.

Antônio Sérgio Guimarães: Submitted an article on revisiting racial democracy for publication in Afro-Asia (journal out of the Universidade Federal da Bahia); finishing an article in English to submit to Ethnic and Racial Studies. 

Diego Pol: Published a paper on a new, 170-million-year-old carnivorous dinosaur, Asfaltovenator vialidadi (read the paper in Nature). Pol and collaborators inserted “vialidadi” in the species name because they had to make a new road to the site to be able to do the excavation, and they had help from “Vialidad Provincial,” the road and highway administration of the Chubut Province in Patagonia. Pol has also published a book for early readers that was edited in English and Spanish by Scholastic, Titanosaur, Discovering the World’s Largest Dinosaur.

Eduardo Manzano: Op-ed in El País, “No es la historia, es el presente y, sobre todo, el futuro.”

José María Portillo Valdés: Submitted the book he started to write during the Tinker Visiting Professorship to the publisher.

Verena Stolcke: Nominated for the Academia Europaea de Ciencias, Humanidades y Letras.

Map Credit: Map of the COVID-19 verified number of infected per capita as of 6 May 2020. By Raphaël Dunant, Gajmar (Russia and Brazil), Pharexia (Island territories) - Own work, data from Wikipedia English (e.g. COVID-19 data and Population), maps from File:BlankMap-World.svg and File:Blank Map World Secondary Political Divisions.svg, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88208245