Research Collective

The Lesser Research Collective participates in numerous health-related projects in São Paulo including the production of multi-lingual health guides (in Korean, Spanish, and Chinese) for physicians, nurses and community health care workers, the mapping of risk locations, and working with health-care professionals on methods for improving immigrant health.

I am the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Brazilian Studies and a History Department faculty member at Emory University in Atlanta. I was named the first full-time faculty director of the Halle Institute for Global Research in 2017. I have been a visiting professor at the University of São Paulo’s Institute for Advanced Studies since 2015.

In my current research on health, immigration, and the built environment I engage with researchers, health professionals, and patients. For the last four years I have been conducting archival research and observing Dr. Fernando Cosentino‘s medical team at the Bom Retiro Basic Health Clinic in São Paulo, Brazil. This clinic is part of the Brazilian National Health Service, known as SUS.


Bad Health in a Good Retreat: Working-Class Immigrants, the State, and the Built Environment in São Paulo, 1860-2020

“Bad Health in a Good Retreat “examines the often-competing visions of wellbeing among immigrants and representatives of the state like health professionals and policymakers. The book will analyze how rigid social structures and misattributed understandings of cause (culture) and effect (disease) often lead to enduring health issues. It treats health and care (broadly defined) as windows into the connected systems of the built environment, public health laws and practices, and citizenship. My research will demonstrate how federal, state, and municipal health and immigration legislation (from about 1850 to present) engender continuity by triangulating the history of Brazilian public health research, laws and policies, and globally dominant ideas about disease and other health issues. My diverse approaches, sources, and methods allow me to explore the interactions between health, immigration, and physical structures such as workplaces and living spaces. “Bad Health in a Good Retreat” asks how health is created by state-built environments ranging from health clinics and hospitals to sidewalks and streets.

“Pauliceia 2.0”:  Collaborative Mapping Project for the City of São Paulo, 1870-1940

“Pauliceia 2.0” brings four different institutions, across two continents, together in transforming the relationship between the past and present and between producers and consumers of digital history. Pauliceia 2.0’s computational platform allows scholars and the broader public to collaborate in creating, organizing, storing, integrating, processing, and publishing urban history data sets.  Using the city of São Paulo during its period of urban and industrial modernization (1870-1940) as a base, Pauliceia 2.0 provides access to a common database and allows interaction among researchers, who contribute spatially- and temporally-represented events.  The platform allows researchers to produce maps and visualizations while at the same time contributing to the data within the system. This open source project enriches understanding of the history of São Paulo and offers an innovative model of research for the humanities that fosters collaborative work and the free flow of knowledge. 

Published Books: Research on Immigration and Ethnicity in Brazil

My most recent book, Immigration, Ethnicity and National Identity in Brazil (Cambridge University Press, 2013; Editora UNESP, 2015) examines the immigration to Brazil of millions of Europeans, Asians, and Middle Easterners from the nineteenth century to the present.

I am also the author of A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese-Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy (Duke University Press, 2007; Editora Paz e Terra, 2008), awarded the 2010 Roberto Reis Prize (Honorable Mention), Brazilian Studies Association; Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (Duke University Press, 1999; Editora UNESP, 2001), awarded the Best Book Prize, Latin American Studies Association-Brazil in Comparative Perspective Section; and Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question(University of California Press, 1994; Imago Editora, 2005; Tel Aviv University Publishing Projects, 1997), awarded the Best Book Prize, New England Council on Latin American Studies. 

Recent Visits to Emory University Research Sites

My scholarly research is critical to my work as Director of the Halle Institute that include frequent site visits where I have the opportunity to engage with Emory researchers, their global partners, and the communities where they are based.