An Interview with Teresa Botelho

Photo 23.11.18, 6 09 18 PM
Teresa Botelho during her presentation on subversive humor on the first day of the conference.

After reading a lot about our view of the conference, it will be a nice change to see it from a different perspective. On our second day in Lisbon, organizer Teresa Botelho was so kind to give us a short interview and answer a couple of question we had been burning to ask.

Stephanie Berens and Annika Wiedemann: What do you think of the conference so far and what was your favorite part?

Teresa Botelho: My favorite part in conferences is when you are surprised. And I just came from a very very interesting paper on civil rights husbands, on the men behind civil rights women, that have been outside of the mainstream story and on how they kind of project an alternative masculinity. That really surprised me. Coming from somebody who has just finished his PhD on the subject, and this is very new research. I was asking for a reading list and I was told there was none (laughs). So what he is actually doing is, he is looking into biographies of women leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. It is very interesting to see these alternative projections of masculinity that the men are supporting their wives and that they are sometimes even victimized because of the activism of the women. That topic surprised me because I had never heard anything about it. (…) The conference so far has been really very exciting, because we have people coming from different places and with different perspectives and that is really what we were hoping for. (…) We always strive for mixed panels, with more established academics and young scholars.

How did you choose the topic for this conference?

Originally, we were just looking at the assassination of Martin Luther King. But then we thought, what we really wanted to do was to see how the Civil Rights Movement, number one, inspired other parallel movements, number two, how they kind of prolonged the ongoing discussion about the aesthetics of protest and had these discussions in the African American corpus going back to the Harlem Renaissance et cetera. How do you use aesthetics to protests without doing it in a way in which it looks like propaganda or manipulation? We were very interested in seeing several instantiations of an aesthetic of protest. And, number three, we wanted to connect it with today. So really, we were kind of thinking in three directions. And I guess we managed to get the plurality of panels and papers that, in a way, really cover all of these strands we were looking for.

What do you wish the participants’ main take away is from the conference?

One of the things is new ideas. To go home and start thinking, “that is something I would like to do some research on.” Secondly, connections. Which are really interesting. The friends you make at a conference, the emails you exchange, the times you probably email each other and say “I have just written about this, how is your research going” et cetera. Especially for younger scholars, who have not already an established network, I think that might be really interesting. And of course, love for research. Enthusiasm! Usually participants leave a conference with a huge reading list of things they should have read already, but haven’t and things they should read next.

Do you have a message to the young scholars who attended this conference?

My recommendation is: fall in love. With something. With a topic, or a question. Because if you want to do research on that particular area, you really have to like it. And love it, because you are going to live with it for a really long time. (…) Sometimes it makes you tired but it is great when you really love the topic that you want to pursue. (…) My recommendation for master’s students is life happens, but if you are really in love with a topic, working on it is not a burden, it’s not work. It’s working pleasure. That is the best way to do research.

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