Keynote Speakers

Alexandra Lucas Coelho

Alexandra Lucas Coelho worked as a reporter, covering conflict zones from the USSR to the Middle East and Central Asia, for more than twenty years. She lived in Jerusalem and Rio de Janeiro as a correspondent for Portugal’s Público  newspaper. With her first novel,E a Noire Roda (And the Night Spins, 2012), a failed love story set in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Alexandra Lucas Coelho received the Portuguese Association of Writers’ prestigious literary prize. Her second novel, 0 Meu Amante de Domingo (My Sunday Lover, 2014), a short satire, was translated into French by Editions du Seuil. In 2016 she published her third novel, Deus-Dará (Left to God), set in contemporary Rio de Janeiro and chronicling 500 years of colonial history. She has also published five non-fiction books: Oriente Próximo (Near East, 2007), Caderno Afegão (Afghan Notebook, 2009), Viva Mexico (2010), Tahrir (2011), and Vai, Brasil (Go, Brazil, 2013).

Title of the keynote address: “Trans-deus, trans-pátria, trans-família” | “Trans-god, trans-homeland, trans-family”

Time: 10:30 a.m., Thursday, October 18 (Rackham/Amphitheatre – 4th Floor)


Luiz Ruffato 

Born in 1961, in Cataguases, Brazil, Luiz Ruffato grew up in a poor migrant family. He worked, among other jobs, as a textile worker and a turner-mechanical, and he studied journalism. In 2001, his debut novel, Eles eram muitos cavalos [There Were Many Horses], was praised for its vivid depiction of the urbanization of the author’s hometown, São Paulo. The book revolutionized Brazilian literature, winning critical acclaim and a number of prizes, including the Brazilian National Library’s Machado de Assis Award and the APCA Award for best novel. A jury of literary critics from the newspaper O Globo proclaimed the book, which has now been translated into German, Spanish, French, and Italian and published in Portugal, to be one of the ten best Brazilian books of recent decades.

Title of the keynote address: Democracy in Question: o que faz, o que pode a cultura?

Time: 11:15 a.m., Thursday, October 18 (Rackham/Amphitheatre – 4th Floor)


Sidney Chalhoub

Sidney Chalhoub is Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He is also a faculty affiliate of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. He taught at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil, for thirty years before coming to Harvard in the fall of 2015. His research and writing focus mainly on the social history of Brazil in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with emphasis on the history of slavery, race, public health, and the literature of Machado de Assis, a writer of African descent widely regarded as the most important Brazilian novelist of all times. He published five individual books, three of them on the social history of Rio de Janeiro: Trabalho, lar e botequim (1986), on working-class culture in the early twentieth century; Visões da liberdade (1990), on the last decades of slavery in the city; and Cidade febril (1996), on tenements and epidemics in the second half of the nineteenth century. He also published Machado de Assis, historiador (2003), about the literature and political ideas of Machado de Assis. His most recent book is A força da escravidão: ilegalidade e costume no Brasil oitocentista(2012), on illegal enslavement and the precariousness of freedom in nineteenth-century Brazil.

Title of the keynote address: “Wedded to Inequality: Machado de Assis, Interpreter of Brazil” | “Apego à Desigualdade: Machado de Assis, Intérprete do Brasil”

Time: 5:00 p.m., Friday, October 19 (Rackham/Amphitheatre – 4th Floor)


Kalaf Epalanga

Born in Benguela, Angola, in 1978, Kalaf Epalanga is a well-known musician and writer living in Lisbon since the 1990s. As a musician, he co-founded the record label A Enchufada, a creative and dynamic platform that promotes new music styles from Portugal around the world, and he went on to form the MTV Europe Music Award-winning band, Buraka SomSistema. He wrote a regular column of short literary chronicles for the prestigious news paper, O Público. His first novel, Também os brancos sabem dançar was published in 2017.

Title of the keynote address: “Como Criar uma Criança Negra em Prenzlauer Berg, Berlim” | “How to Raise a Black Child in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin”

Time: 10:50 a.m., Saturday, October 20 (Rackham/Amphitheatre – 4th Floor)