Professor Kim Holton Gives 2013 Hosford Scholar Lecture

Lawrence Lerner

Portuguese Studies Professor Kimberly DaCosta Holton wowed a packed house of deans, faculty, students and local dignitaries on Wednesday (March 20) as she gave the 2012-13 Hosford Scholar Lecture.

Holton served up a multimedia presentation on the Portuguese folk-music form Fado, during which she interwove song lyrics and video performances with her lecture material, and even sung some Fado verses herself.

The audience of about 60 people included Interim Chancellor Philip Yeagle, along with New Jersey State Assembly member Albert Coutinho and Portuguese Consul General Maria Amelia Paiva.

Holton started by shedding light on Fado’s structure, history and cultural significance in both Portugual and the Portuguese diaspora, including Brazil and the U.S., then compared the performance and reception of Fado among first- and second-generation Portuguese at all three sites.

She noted how, in the U.S., Newark is actually considered “the cathedral of Fado,” before charting the second-generation performance scene in Newark, northern New Jersey and New York City.

“With Fado, the second generation is translating from one cultural context to another as of way of grappling with their own Portuguese identity in the U.S.,” said Holton. “With Fado, they’re displaying a cross-cultural literacy and playing ethnocultural ambassadors.”

Holton’s lecture was part of an NCAS tradition dating back to 2004, when the Hosford Scholarship was established in recognition of former NCAS Dean David Hosford’s commitment to academic excellence. NCAS faculty who exemplify the Hosford legacy are chosen annually, serve for one year, receive a research stipend, and can devote additional time to scholarship. Each spring, Hosford scholars present a major address on their work to the campus community.

Holton earned her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in performance studies from Northwestern University. Her work focuses on ethnography and “expressive cultures,” or performance forms, in the Portuguese and Brazilian world.

A History of Achievement

This is not Holton’s first honor as a Rutgers-Newark faculty member. Her excellence in research and teaching was recognized by the University in 2007, when she was awarded both the Rutgers Board of Trustees Award for Scholarly Excellence and the Rutgers Teacher-Scholar Award. She is the only faculty member to have received these awards simultaneously.

Since arriving at Rutgers-Newark in 2000, Holton has also extended NCAS’ reach by strengthening ties between Rutgers-Newark and the Portuguese communities of the Ironbound district and northern New Jersey.

That year, in fact, Holton started the Ironbound Oral History Project as a way to train her students in doing ethnographic interviews and begin building those ties. The subjects are older Lusophone folks from the Ironbound section of Newark, many of whom are monolingual. The project boasts 300 interviews at the moment, some of them of publishable quality. Holton hopes to one day make them available to the public for scholarly research.

“It’s serendipitous that I ended up at Rutgers-Newark. My students and all of these folks have been incredibly fertile ground for my research, and I’m grateful for their involvement,” says Holton. “These are people from Lusaphone countries around the world who have truly inspired my work.”