Meet Zelia Bora: Professor of Brazilian Literature

December 18, 2009
“The history of national identity is also the history of myself.”

Zelia Bora, a 2006–07 International Fellow from Brazil, sees herself as a transnational person: a citizen of the world. She finds value in preserving the beauty of each distinct culture.

One way she is working to preserve Brazilian culture is by dedicating herself to studies of national identity. Zelia grew up in a household always buzzing with multicultural guests and has since traveled extensively. As she seeks to understand herself and her identity in different cultural contexts, Zelia now believes that the history of national identity is also the history of her self.

Zelia Bora

Zelia Bora

Although Zelia went to the United States many years ago before earning her doctorate, she found that a lack of resources and the weight of responsibilities made higher education an unobtainable dream at the time. “It was frustrating because I had a lot of energy, but when I came back to the U.S. after seven years, I realized that before just wasn’t the right time,” explained Zelia.

Zelia has since returned to the United States various times, and in 2006 she was awarded a fellowship through AAUW to conduct postdoctoral work at the University of California, Berkeley.  While at Berkeley, Zelia began researching a little-known, middle-class Brazilian woman who influenced the Afro Brazilian religion Candomblé. The subject of Zelia’s research had become extremely ill with a disease incurable by doctors; this eventually led her to Candomblé. At the Ilê Axé Opó Afonjá house of Candomblé, she was cured and decided to dedicate herself to the religion. She stayed on, involving herself in the daily life of the house, much to the dismay of her family and friends who viewed the religion as a lower-class practice. This woman eventual played a role in shaping Brazilian identity by modernizing Candomblé and opening it up to a wider audience.

Zelia en Tumbes

Zelia in Tumbes

Currently Zelia is staying busy as a professor at the Universidade Federal da Paraiba as well as traveling the world sharing her experiences about the intersections between creative writing and identity. She hopes to return to her Candomblé book project in the coming months, as she searches for a way to preserve the legacy of a woman who played an important but underrecognized role in shaping Brazilian national identity.

By:   |   December 18, 2009

4 Comments

  1. Laine says:

    Dear Zelia, I have had difficulty finding another way of contacting you, so I hope yuo don’t mind me doing so here.
    I have enjoyed reading your post and also the comments about Brazilian culture and literature.
    I would love to get in touch about yuor opinion on the matter of English in Brazil. I know this might seem a bit random, but perhaps if you could contact me at the address I have provided, I could tell you more.

    I hope to hear from you if you have the time,

    Laine

  2. MOISES says:

    DEAR ZELIA, IM HAPPY THAT YOU ARE WHAT YOU SAID TO ME HERE IN TUMBES, PERU, THOSE NICE DAYS WE HAD TOGETHER… I HOPE YOU WILL SUCCED IN WRITING THAT BOOK ABOUT BRAZILIAN CULTURE AND ALSO WORLD CULTURE, AS YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD… KEEP WRiTING YOUR NICE POETRY ALSO. WRITE TO ME PLEASE.
    PEACE AND LOVE FROM
    MOISES, TRUJILLO, PERU

  3. Marcelle Male says:

    Hello, Zelia.
    I enjoyed the article about your work. I am also Brazilian and now residing in Johns Creek, north of Atlanta, Georgia. I am currently working with ESOL students at Centennial High School, where we have an ever increasing number of Brazilian students. I will be offering a seminar in the spring on Brazilian Literature, and would love to hear your suggestions of new, contemporary, and up coming Brazilian authors that could “wet” the appetite of our Brazilian teenagers for their mother tongue. They are at the stage where they are losing their Brazilian culture and traditions but have not yet been accepted in their new country. I am writing this in English so that others can comment as well.
    Keep up the good work. Feliz Natal e um prospero 2010.

    Marcelle Joffily Male male@fultonschools.org

  4. Hello, Zelia:
    I read about you through the AAUW and wish to let you know that I am now a supporter of your dreams. I am half Mexican. I cannot speak portugese, only Spanish and English. Keep up the good work, Zelia, and please let me know how you are doing and what you are working on. I heartily support education for women all over the world, and I am glad to see you are using your education to educate others through a book.

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