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Brazilian Scholar Conducts Fulbright Research Fellowship at OU’s Center for Brazil Studies

Brazilian Scholar Conducts Fulbright Research Fellowship at OU’s Center for Brazil Studies

Pelligrini Garcia portrait

Since 2019, the University of Oklahoma has been strengthening its ties to scholars and students in Brazil thanks to the OU Center for Brazil Studies, housed in the David L. Boren College of International Studies. The center is a hub for teaching, research and outreach relating to Brazil, and in its short tenure has hosted a range of events and programs bringing together scholars from the U.S., Brazil and elsewhere.

One of the center’s core programs is its Visiting Scholars Program, which hosts scholars working in all areas of Brazil’s social, economic, political and institutional development.

This year’s scholar, Elizabete Pellegrini Garcia, is a Fulbright Visiting Researcher pursuing her Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in the state of São Paulo. She spent the spring 2021 semester at OU and will remain through the fall semester before returning to her home university. Pellegrini’s research focuses on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods and other innovations produced by justice reform policies in contemporary democratic states.  

“In my master's thesis, I examined how the justice system in Brazil was managing disputes informally through ‘conciliation,’ an ADR method that placed people to come to a settlement with the help of a court-connected conciliator,” she explained. “One of my findings was that these ADR policies were not helping people equally.”

Pellegrini found that those with more money and access were able to exploit the informality of the ADR system to reach better settlements, while those with less power – like consumers fighting companies or battered women negotiating divorces – were negatively affected by these policies. Her Ph.D. project builds on this work, exploring gender inequality in the context of ADR practices within justice systems in both Brazil and the U.S. Her particular interest, she explained, is “understanding how family disputes and domestic violence are managed informally and how these issues can be related to practices of governmentality and neoliberal reforms in today’s democratic states.”

When applying for the Fulbright scholarship, Pellegrini chose to come to Oklahoma due to the Brazil Studies Visiting Scholar Program and its Co-Director and Wick Cary Professor of Brazilian Studies Fabio de Sa e Silva.

“First, I wanted to work with Dr. Fabio de Sa e Silva because I knew he had an impressive experience in researching the legal field in Brazil,” she said. “Also, I had heard that the university has many resources for researchers. I guess time proved I was right.”

The collaboration has been a fruitful one so far, and de Sa e Silva said he is excited to have Pellegrini here through the fall semester.

“As a law and society scholar and a Brazil expert, I have an obvious interest in Elizabete’s findings,” he said. “But as the Brazil Studies Center co-director, I believe her work offers another contribution. She is helping demonstrate that there is huge potential for comparative research and collaboration across Brazil and the state of Oklahoma. We want to fulfill this potential with larger projects in the other areas of OU’s Strategic Plan, particularly health and energy/environment.”

So far during her time at OU, Pellegrini has been assisting de Sa e Silva in collecting data, learning more about database construction and learning how legal professionals develop their education practices in Brazil. de Sa e Silva has also been assisting Pellegrini with her data collection on the U.S. justice system and will oversee her fieldwork, which is her focus this fall.

“I will conduct field research to understand how different professionals understand the benefits and challenges of using alternative methods to deal with domestic violence cases in Oklahoma,” she said. “I am very excited about how much this experience will enhance my awareness of ADR systems!”  

So far, Pellegrini has enjoyed her time at OU, praising resources like Bizzell Memorial Library and the Zarrow Family Faculty and Graduate Student Center, as well as her colleagues and the OU international community.

“Scholars like Dr. de Sa e Silva and Dr. Michelle Morais, co-director of the center, are always ready to facilitate our learning process and help with other needs, or the community of international students, which made me realize the importance of better considering the non-western ways of thinking and living to interpret the world – they are the ones making this experience possible,” she said. “I am very thankful for them and for the impact they are having on my work and personal development.”

Pellegrini returns home in December, and she plans to finish her Ph.D. in 2022 with the goal of becoming a researcher and professor.

To learn more and to contact the OU Center for Brazil Studies, visit or email Keep up with the center’s events on Twitter at @brazilstudiesou.  

By Maura McAndrew

Article Published:  Wednesday, September 8, 2021