Lila Gaudêncio, Gates Scholar 2021, PhD in Latin American Studies at Cambridge
What are you looking forward to most about studying at Trinity Hall?
I really like the idea of being in a small college, so the friendly, tight-knit community that I’ve heard about is something that I’m looking forward to. I’m also excited to become a member of such an old college. Just thinking of the scholars that came before me – and 670 years of knowledge production – is really inspiring.
What difference does the recognition of the Gates Scholarship make to you and your research?
It makes all the difference. Having my research acknowledged as ‘necessary’ by the Gates Scholarship, that is, as something that should be fully funded and developed for the betterment of society, is really uplifting and encouraging.
It’s also another incentive to be a part of such an incredible global network of people that essentially have the same goals of basically connecting the scientific process of new knowledge production with the social process of real-world problem-solving – really just supplementing the gap. And as someone who adores a good interdisciplinary project, the possibilities of collaborating with my fellow peers in the future is also stimulating. I really can’t put into words how grateful I am.
What motivated you to pursue your research topic?
I came across community currencies in 2015, while I was researching identity and representation in Brazilian money, as a case study of how politics and aesthetics go hand in hand – and I remember just feeling that I’d fallen into a rabbit hole. The whole thing absolutely mesmerized me, because I saw these local movements as something truly revolutionary: real change being enacted daily in order to not only fix a broken system, but to collectively create a new one, founded on solidarity, social justice and economic democracy.
And the way these communities would come together to build a self-managed, horizontal bank, and create their own money (deconstructing and redefining all notions of value in the process), was something that I wanted to understand and possibly help preserve as well as disseminate. But what motivated me the most were the images that these communities elected as something that actively represented them. Images that resurge in a process of remembering the people and the territory as a whole, shifting these identities, memories and histories that were forgotten, erased or suppressed, and restoring them. This is what really fascinates me, how they restore a perception of how symbolic displacements interfere with the ways of thinking about money, value and even citizenship. The piece of paper that is money is as a visual narrative that directly interferes with individualities, subjectivities and feelings of belonging of those who see and manipulate it daily. It’s something that affects and creates relationships and understandings through its aesthetics; something that basically shifts power.
That’s why I think these other forms of economic living and thinking, implemented by these small local movements that have been emerging in Brazil and around the globe are so precious.