The People I Owe

This is the acknowledgements section from my dissertation.

Woody_Guthrie_NYWTS“I think back through my life to everybody that I owe, I mean the ones that I can remember in person. Of course I know that I owe these folks and they owe some other people and these are in debt to others and all of us owe everybody, but the amount that we owe is all that we have.”

–Woody Guthrie “People I Owe,” as read by Peter Glazer on ‘Til We Out Number ‘Em

Many people helped make this dissertation possible. I’ll work backwards.

I cannot imagine having a better advisor or committee. Evelyne Huber, Lars Schoultz, John Stephens, John Chasteen, and Terrie Groth were all incredibly generous with their time and gave me an immense amount of constructive feedback. Evelyne’s reputation for efficiency and for dedication to her students is well deserved. I was continuously amazed at how quickly she returned drafts, even while chairing the department and serving as president of the Latin American Studies Association.

While in Brazil for an academic year of research (October 2010 – July 2011), I racked up more debts of gratitude than I’ll ever be able to repay. I repeatedly found Brazilians in public service to be open to meeting with me to share their experiences and to be passionately dedicated to working for a Brazil without poverty and hunger. Undoubtedly many of those I interviewed will disagree with at least some of this dissertation, but that is unavoidable. I have sought to be as fair and accurate as possible and I hope they will regard this work as but one voice in a conversation. Terrie Groth helped me navigate the bureaucratic joys of being a foreign researcher. Newton Gomes and Mauro del Grossi both helped me immensely with the project, as did Ana Fonseca and Senators Eduardo Suplicy and Cristovam Buarque. My roommates Roberto, Janete, Manu, and Claudia were incredibly patient with me and taught me more Portuguese than I’ve learned anywhere else. I also thank Luciane Baldo, Mark Horn, Agelica Ikeda, Rodrigo de Medeiros, Claudio Passos de Oliveira, and Rodrigo Pereira for keeping me sane and for their continued friendship.

The opportunity to live in Brazil was possible because of a dissertation Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, administered by UNC’s Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA). Two prior FLAS grants, an academic year award (2007-2008) and a summer award to study in Salvador (2008), allowed me begin my Portuguese studies. A Summer Research Award (2010) from the Thomas M. Uhlman Graduate Fund supported my preliminary data analysis. Travel funding from the Thomas M. Uhlman Graduate Fund, ISA, and the American Political Science Association (APSA) supported travel to academic conferences that helped me develop this dissertation. The taxpayers of North Carolina paid my tuition, health insurance, and teaching stipend and gave me the privilege of teaching some of their state’s best students.

Tutoring at the UNC Writing Center exposed me to a different kind of teaching my last three semesters of graduate school. I am thankful for the funding, but also for the ways tutoring improved my own writing and for the many supportive friendships. Vicki Behrens was especially supportive as I developed my skill as a tutor and as I dealt with having the project weigh on me. Kristen Rademacher at UNC’s Learning Center organized a dissertation support group and met with me individually for project planning and goal setting.

I’m thankful for the camaraderie of others in my program as we went through this weird journey together, especially Jon Kropko, Allison Rovny, Jan Rovny, Jenny Pribble, Nick Pyeatt, Heather Sullivan, Joel Winkelman, Andy Pennock, Juan Bogliaccini, Ali Stoyan, Sara Niedzwiecki, Santiago Anria, and Elizabeth Menninga.

I thank Cecilia Martinez-Gallardo for her help with Chapter 3, and the Comparative Politics Working Group for feedback on an early version of Chapter 4. I especially appreciated Chris Clark’s unofficial mentorship.

Equally important were friends in North Carolina outside my department, including Torry Bend, Ben Sammons, Naman Shah, Ben Vierra, Sarah Vierra and Joe Wiltberger. I also thank Lauren Biddle and Bryan Pitts for answering many basic questions about Brazil, and my writing group—Leo Cao, Aaron Cavin, Rachael Clements, Meg Kassabaum, and Malena Rousseau—for great inter-disciplinary feedback on my pre-fieldwork writing.

Conversations with anthropologist Aaron Ansell about our shared interests greatly improved this project, as did conversations with Cristiani Vieira Machado and Alexandre Fortes.

My partner Lauren Kilgore ever so patiently provided emotional support and unconditional love through five semesters of writing and the ups and downs that entails. During the downs she always told “you can do it” and that it would be over soon. As usual, she was right.

My undergraduate education at Willamette University left me well prepared for graduate school. I especially thank Bill Smaldone and the late Bob Dash for their mentorship. I was in turn well prepared for college due to an excellent education at public schools in Alaska, California, and Montana. Here Woody Guthrie’s observation is especially pertinent. I can never list all the people who supported my education. I think of my excellent teachers and administrators, but my thanks go well beyond that. For example, I think of the custodians who kept the classrooms clean; I also think of the bus drivers who brought me to school in the Alaskan snow, those who kept those roads safe, and those who built them; I think of workers spending a week at a time away from their families on The North Slope whose labor led to the oil royalties that paid for Alaska’s schools and the Permanent Dividend checks my parents saved for my college education. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

That my parents set my Permanent Dividend money aside is just one small example of how they valued education and taught me to value it. They read to me. They encouraged me to ask questions. I don’t ever recall a time when I didn’t think I was going to college; it was just assumed. They also instilled in me a love for peace and social justice, which clearly influenced my decision to study politics and to write a dissertation about hunger. They, along with my sister and the rest of my family, gave me the love I needed to make it through this difficult journey.