Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Megwen Loveless

Senior Professor of Practice - Spanish & Portuguese, Director - Basic Language Program in Portuguese

Contact Info

Department Affiliation
Spanish & Portuguese


My academic trajectory has taken me in two very different directions, starting with my graduate work in the Cultural Anthropology department at Harvard and culminating in my current role as Director of the Portuguese Language Program here at Tulane. I like to think of myself as a social anthropologist who specializes in teaching Portuguese language and as someone who has long encouraged colleagues across disciplines to acknowledge the importance of teaching culture in the language classroom as well as the importance of teaching language to students and scholars of culture.

My research in the ethnomusicology realm focuses on music and dance from the Northeast of Brazil as well as regional/national migrations and the juxtaposition of modernity and tradition in Brazilian popular music. I’ve studied the button accordion with world-renowned musician Arlindo dos Oito Baixos, an experience out of which grew the ethnographic research for my dissertation. That project explores forró music in the cities of Recife, Rio de Janeiro and New York to show mutations in popular music production and consumption across time and space. I examine Luiz Gonzaga as the creator and disseminator of forró at its most “traditional” and iconic and the discourse of forró as a “roots” genre. I then look at more recent permutations—namely forró estilizado and forró universitário—to determine how the roots discourse has remained a constant even while the music production itself has changed. My understanding of the genre comes not just from its change over the years, but also across different nodes in Brazilian migrations, from the rural to urban migrations of the mid-twentieth century to the north-south migrations of the age of industrialization and finally international migrations as a result of Brazilian financial crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Ultimately I propose that Brazilians have approached the age of globalism with gusto while still reveling in the memory, many times never actually experienced, of a traditional rural upbringing in simpler more rustic times. It is this imagined “forróscape” that I argue accounts for the great surge in popularity of forró on stages across Brazil and the world from the turn of the 21st century.

Prior to my work on Brazilian music, I lived in Salvador da Bahia, where I researched the afro-Brazilian religion of candomblé and wrote the first English-language work on the culto dos eguns, an ancestor-worship cult within the larger religious complex of candomblé. Though candomblé is well known to be a matrilinear religion (and the city of Salvador a “city of women”), the culto dos eguns is markedly male-centered and my work examined the interplay of these two gendered philosophies and how they converge within practitioner communities in the city and its satellite areas. I also focused my research on the introduction of modern pop culture phenomena into what was defined as a highly traditional and “pure” religious heritage.

I discovered, even while working in the field of anthropology, that the language classroom is in fact an arena in which we can not only describe and analyze culture but actually perform culture and teach it through example, thus beginning my transition to Second Language Acquisition and Portuguese as a foreign language. I taught at Princeton University for over ten years before I came to Tulane, all the while developing materials meant to take advantage of new media and expanding a music-based curriculum that incorporates Brazilian popular music into every class in order to analyze and discuss key vocabulary and grammar from each unit. A major contribution I’ve brought to my work is the importance of developing an on-campus community that offers extensive extra-curricular opportunities to use language in context, and I’ve founded groups built around conversation, music, board games and more as a way to draw students out of the classroom and into the community.

Today our Portuguese language curriculum is a vibrant space that emphasizes music, popular culture, new media as well as innovative technologies inside and outside the classroom. One of the special programs that we have spearheaded here at Tulane are weekly telecollaboration sessions that happen in real time between our intro and intermediate students and partners from the State University of São Paulo. Other current projects include community-based learning activities, ludic learning in the language classroom, development of strategic competence, proficiency-oriented program materials, literacy in L2/L3, and incorporation of African and Asian linguistic and cultural content into the curriculum.

  • B.A., Tulane University, Portuguese, Spanish and Latin American Studies, 2000
  • M.A., Social Anthropology, Harvard University May 2004
  • Ph.D., Harvard University, Social Anthropology, 2010
Academic Experience
  • Director of Basic Language Program in Portuguese, Tulane University
  • Senior Professor of Practice, Tulane University
  • Lecturer, Course Head, Princeton University, 2005-2015
  • Acting Director of Portuguese, Princeton University, Spring 2011, Spring 2012
  • Lecturer, Course Head, Princeton University, 2005-2015

Research & Teaching Specializations: Second Language Acquisition, Innovative classroom pedagogy, Community-based learning, New technologies in foreign language, Popular Culture & Globalization, Performativity, Music/Dance of Northeastern Brazil, Ethnomusicology, Ethnographic Methods, Diaspora and Syncretism, Ethnography of Brazilian Music

Related Experience
  • Coordinator of weekly bate-papo informal conversation group, Tulane University
  • Founder & Organizer of PORTulane Portuguese-speaking on-campus community (325 members), PORceiros language partnership program and Teletandem telecollaboration program
  • Consultant and author for Carnegie Hall’s Voices from Latin American Festival, New York, 2012
  • Co-Producer of Afropop Worldwide’s Hip Deep Series: Luiz Gonzaga: Portrait of King of Baião, National Public Radio, 2005
  • Community Based Learning Initiative Award for Curriculum Development, 2012
  • Spanish and Portuguese Department Award for Curriculum Development, Princeton University, 2010
  • Lemann Fellowship for Brazilian Studies, Harvard University, 2006
  • Foreign Language Area Studies Dissertation Fellowship for fieldwork abroad, 2005-2006
  • Award for Teaching Excellence, Bok Center, 2003-2005
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
Overseas Experience
  • Brazil
Selected Publications
  • 2017. Co-author of University of Georgia Flagship Language Program proficiency exam.
  • 2016. “Assessment: Creating Rubrics.” A Handbook for Portuguese Instructors in the U.S. Ed. Margo Milleret & Mary Risner. Roosevelt, NJ: Boa Vista Press.
  • 2016. “Creative Curricula: Crafting ‘Communities’ Inside and Outside the Classroom.” A Handbook for Portuguese Instructors in the U.S. Ed. Margo Milleret & Mary Risner. Roosevelt, NJ: Boa Vista Press.
  • 2012. “Between the Folds of Luiz Gonzaga’s Sanfona: Forró Music in Brazil.” The Accordion in the Americas. Ed. Helena Simonett. Champaigne, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.
  • 2007. “Forró Music in a Transnational Setting.” Revista: Special Edition on Dance. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University.

Recently-Taught Latin American-Related Courses: Luzo-Brazilian Literature, Introductory Portuguese I, PORT 2030: Intermediate Portuguese

Full CV or Website
Curriculum Vitae