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Biographical Details

I joined the Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies in 2003, where I have been the founding Director of the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS) from 2007 to 2015.

Earlier, I worked as an architect in Brazil before doing a Masters and a PhD in Geography at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. My interest in the design and representation of landscapes as an architect was reflected in my choice of PhD topic – images of the landscape of Rio de Janeiro made by British travellers in the early nineteenth century. My work on image-making and the experience of travel through the tropics has resulted in a research project with Felix Driver (funded by AHRB), which is concerned with the role of views and visions in the making of knowledge of the tropical world.

In 2005, I was awarded a British Academy grant to develop my research on visual images of Brazil further into the twentieth century, which shifted the previous focus on drawings, engravings and paintings to photography and documentary film. The main outcome of this project is the book Photography and Documentary Film in the Making of Modern Brazil (Manchester, 2013), which investigates the Brazilian image world in the first four decades of the twentieth century and was launched during the international symposium Picturing Latin America: Rethinking Film and Photographic Archives that I co-organized with Diane Gabrysiak in November 2013. I am currently working on the project ‘Drawing together: the visual archive of expeditionary fieldwork.’ Supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, the project integrates my previous research on sketching with the more recent focus on photography and documentary film.

In exploring the relationship between modernity and the Brazilian image world, I have gradually been drawn to the study of material culture. This interest in material culture has led me to initiate an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on cross-cultural histories of tropical botany in Latin America and to work on a major collaborative research project with Denise Y. Arnold (ILCA), Sven Helmer (Birkbeck) and Alex Poulovassilis (Birkbeck), funded by AHRC, on Andean textiles. Building on this experience, I currently participate in the British Council-funded project ‘Mobilising the value of biocultural collections in Brazil’, led by the Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro (JBRJ), in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), the Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Rio Negro (FOIRN) and the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi (MPEG).

I was also part of an international research network on ‘The Disorder of Things: Predisciplinarity and the Divisions of Knowledge, 1660-1850', with Adriana Craciun (Univ. of California, Riverside) and Luisa Calè (Birkbeck).

In 2010, I participated as a Jury member of the 9th Discovery Latin American Film Festival in London.