UChicago’s Academic Culture Influences Tinker Visiting Professor’s Teaching Style

For Professor Antonio Sérgio Guimarães of the Universidade de São Paulo, arriving at the University of Chicago as a Tinker Visiting Professor was both “a professional ambition and a challenge, because it presented the opportunity to teach in the Department Sociology, the cradle from which the discipline was first instituted in the world.”

Guimarães served as a Tinker Visiting Professor in Academic Year 2018-19. Each year, the Center for Latin American Studies hosts visiting professors through the Tinker Visiting Professorship. Since its endowment by the Edward Larocque Tinker Foundation in 1981, the University of Chicago has hosted over 100 distinguished scholars to teach and conduct research in quarter-long residencies.

Guimarães taught Historical Sociology of Race and Racism in Latin America in the spring quarter. “The main objective of the course was to convey a vision of the way Latin American and American social sciences analyze the history of race relations, and racism, in Latin America.”

“I presented a historical sociology - an approach that was neither purely historical nor purely sociological. The approach contemplated the development of several countries in the region, taken as exemplars, investigating their national formation, and the peculiar way in which the national narrative intersected with race categories, forging a peculiar way of racial inequalities and their political confrontation.”

The unique academic environment of UChicago affected how Guimarães approached his class. “UChicago, for its part, is especially diverse as it brings together students with a strong educational background, offering enviable bibliographic resources and school infrastructure. One of the best suggestions I received was to devote a great deal of time to the discussion of texts and ideas – not only teach a didactic content, but make it the object of reflection and research.”

This was his first experience teaching in a quarter system, “Given only 10 weeks, I was fortunate to have the collaboration of colleagues and staff from the Center of Latin American Studies, who introduced me to various syllabi already offered in the Tinker chair and shared with me their personal experiences.”

Guimarães found teaching abroad to be a rewarding experience. “There are many cultural assumptions that need to be made explicit so that students do not misunderstand - translating in their own terms - the meaning of words, expressions, and historical facts forged in other contexts and regions. Fortunately, the United States is a country of immigrants, in which various national experiences survive in the memory of its citizens, especially young students who are the children or grandchildren of immigrants.”

The most memorable part of his time at the UChicago remains the students. “What enchanted me most, and is a constant part of my comments with colleagues, was the responsible way students approach the courses at the University. There is an almost complete emotional and intellectual involvement with what is being taught and discussed. This professional attitude, cultivated in UChicago, impressed me a lot.”