Giulia Ricco Studies Violence in Society

Giulia Ricco Studies Violence in Society

When official reports fail to fully capture the extent and effects of violence in society, Giulia Ricco turns to literature.

Ricco is a second-year romance studies graduate student focusing on Brazilian Portuguese and Italian. She is specifically looking at the intersection of three fields: the representation of violence in literature, the politics of memory and cinema studies.

“Literature, in a sense, is better suited to represent violence than a critical language that is sometimes very limited,” she said.

Critical analyses do not always take in to account the thoughts and reflections of those who experience violence, Ricco said. Literature, on the other hand, can more freely express opinions and sentiments.

This past summer, Ricco conducted fieldwork in Brazil through a research grant from the Duke Human Rights Center. In São Paulo she worked with the Truth Commission, where she investigated the ways in which literature can advocate for human rights. She also studied the written memory of the Brazilian dictatorship and recollections about the regime’s human rights violations.

Ricco was in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup, and said she learned about the abuse of the Brazilian passion for soccer. She said she observed a clear difference between the Brazilians who wanted to show the world that they could host an international event and the outsiders who used the World Cup to illuminate the problems in Brazil beyond soccer.

“Soccer and literature share more than one expects,” she wrote in her blog June 9. “They are both a distraction, a diversion in which time is suspended and we enter a world with its own rules. However, during a dictatorship, those diversions are brutally invaded by a regime that wishes to control every aspect of a citizen’s life through censorship and a focused propaganda.”

Ricco, who is from Bologna, Italy, first began her research on the representation of violence in Brazilian short stories while pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Bologna. She decided to attend Duke because of the university’s interdisciplinary approach and increasing interest in Brazil. She also liked that the Romance Studies department allows her to study both Portuguese and Italian—a combination several other schools do not offer.

Since beginning her studies at Duke, Ricco has co-founded the Ocean Crossings working group, which explores and answers questions surrounding bodies of water. In her spare time, Ricco also enjoys swimming in Duke’s athletic facilities and reading science fiction novels, such as The Hunger Games.

After completing her PhD, Ricco said she would like to become a professor in an interdisciplinary department, like comparative literature or cultural studies.

“What I would like to get out of this education is a skill set that allows me to look at a problem in a critical way, so that I can still invest part of myself in it, but not to be so personally involved in the research,” Ricco said. “Duke is a great place to think through the ideas you have, and it teaches you to put things into perspective.”