At the Intersection of Media, Politics, and Democracy

André Zapani, Bárbara Lima, Daniela Neves, and Juliano Domingues

Amid the midterm election campaigns in the United States this year, an important presidential election was underway in Brazil. On October 6, Jair Bolsonaro was elected after a campaign that many believe was built on similar rhetoric to President Donald Trump’s, and one in which, just as in the United States, social media played a new, complex role.

Juliano Domingues, Bárbara Lima, André Zapani, and Daniela Neves are four scholars from Brazil studying in the School of Liberal Arts’ Department of Communication this fall, specifically with professor Mauro Porto. Their research focuses on how television and social media impact Brazilian political campaigns, including Bolsonaro’s.

Domingues, a professor at the Catholic University of Pernambuco and president of the Union of Professional Journalists in the State of Pernambuco, came to Tulane through a Fulbright fellowship and was drawn to the university to study with Porto, a leading scholar in media and political campaigns in Brazil, as well as with the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies. As Domingues explains, “I think it is possible to identify some similarities between the U.S. and the Brazilian presidential campaigns. This includes the articulation of a nationalistic rhetoric, like ‘let’s make Brazil great again,’ and controversies surrounding women’s rights and sexual harassment.”

Lima, Zapani, and Neves are are all Ph.D. candidates from the Federal Universities of São Carlos and Paraná working on their dissertation research at Tulane with professor Porto. “My research starts in the U.S. with what we call the ‘Americanization of campaigns.’ Basically, presidential campaigns around the world have followed the same path as the American campaigns,” Lima explains. She notes that there are differences in democracies, systems, and processes—such as how candidates are allotted specific amounts of time on public television to campaign in Brazil—but that there are clear trends linked to what is happening in the U.S.

Porto, reflecting on this work with the four scholars, emphasizes the impact of the university’s global reach by hosting leading scholars: “Tulane has attracted a significant number of visiting scholars from Brazil who study different aspects of the relationship between media, politics, and democracy. These academic exchanges demonstrate that the university has been recognized as a major hub for Latin American studies and political communication research.”