Get to know a visiting PhD candidate working on digital cultural coverage

Hippolyte Taunay, Biblioteca Nacional - Brasil
Photo: Drawing made by Hippolyte Taunay portraying the Royal Princess arriving in Brazil in 1808. Collection: Biblioteca Nacional - Brasil (The Brazilian National Library).

Have you ever thought about the relationship between cultural products and the countries that make these products? Is there a connection between the way we perceive countries and the things we read, watch or listen about their cultural products? How about if we just had time to read a newspaper article about one exhibition or movie from Brazil? What would we get from it?

Obviously, I will not answer all these questions in my PhD thesis - maybe in a post-doc (!) -, but they help to understand what my research project is. In short, my aim is to comprehend how Brazil is described and represented on the Portuguese cultural coverage. And, on the other hand, how Portugal is represented in a Brazilian newspaper culture coverage. But why Portugal and Brazil?

First of all, my name is Mariana, I’m Brazilian and I have worked as a reporter and editor for a newspaper and a TV station in the south of Brazil. Since my Master’s, my main research interest is cultural journalism. In 2016 I moved to Portugal to begin my PhD and now I’m at Erasmus University Rotterdam as a visiting PhD candidate at Media and Communication Department.

Well, I didn’t choose Brazil and Portugal just because I have a close relationship with them. These countries have a history in common since the 16th century when Brazil became a Portuguese colony. As we’re talking about Communication, it is interesting to mention that the mail, the press and the printing of books started in Brazil only after 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Family moved to Rio de Janeiro (people say they were running away from Napoleon!). Before 1808, it was even forbidden by the Portuguese Crown to write and print newspapers in Brazil.

As a result, now we have a common cultural heritage, speak the same language (Portuguese), have had several migratory waves between the two countries and, of course, a relevant flow of artistic and cultural products.

As expected, I started to read more Portuguese newspapers when I moved to Portugal and, consequently, this called my attention to the coverage of Brazilian culture. What I have noticed is that this coverage is very frequent and specific. So, what happened after this insight I had is something that I believe happens to many researchers: now I can’t stop reading about Brazil, Portugal, representations, memory, and other theoretical axes. It seems it will never be enough! But this is the research process, right? Because of that, I discovered two atypical cultural events that happened at the same time in 2012/2013: Year of Brazil in Portugal and Year of Portugal in Brazil. Now I’m planning to use these events as milestones within my empirical sample.

There is another key point I didn’t mention yet: my research is focused on a digital environment, which means I also would like to identify some features of this particular type of cultural journalism, specifically in digital editions of two elite newspapers (Folha de São Paulo and Público).

Trying to comprehend representations about countries in cultural coverage is a challenge, so I decided to add interviews with journalists from both newspapers. My proposal is to put together, in the end, representations about Brazil and Portugal constructed by newspaper coverage, besides representations made by journalists that have been responsible for these newspapers. If you are curious about coverage analysis (tell me you are, please!), I will also perform a Content Analysis and, later, a Discourse Analysis of some selected pieces.

As I’m still collecting data, I don’t have preliminary results to share. But I could write another blog post in two years with some findings about Brazilian and Portuguese cultural coverage, including which cultural products are more addressed, how these newspapers are applying digital environment features and how the image of the artists are constructed. This is a see you later, then.

Temporary Portrait Mariana Scalabrin Muller


Mariana Müller is a joint PhD candidate at University of Minho and NOVA University Lisbon with the support of FCT Foundation.