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New roots in Brazil

Iraqi professor discovers science as his vocation

Léo RamosIt’s not easy to find an Iraqi researcher living in Brazil and residing in São Paulo. And it’s even more difficult to find one that has discovered his aptitude for scientific activity during a trip to Brazil. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know any other Iraqi who matches my profile,” admits Khalid Basher Mikha Taliche, who is doing a post-doctorate at the University of São Paulo (USP), School of Philosophy, Letters and Humanities, Department of Oriental Languages. He left Mosul, where he was born, 15 years ago after a Brazilian cousin convinced him to go to Brazil to teach English, which he had done in Iraq. In São Paulo he was hired by the Roosevelt Institute of Languages and the planned short visit took on a more serious aspect. “In 2000, an English teacher at the school who was working on a master’s degree in history at USP, introduced me to the university. The following year I decided to enroll as a special student in an extension course in modern language translation,” he says.

Again, Taliche made a choice with no great expectations, but it led him along a path he never imagined he would take. Between 2005 and 2007, he undertook a master’s research project on a play by an Iraqi playwright, Yousif El-Saigh, who was inspired by William Shakespeare’s Othello. As a result, in 2008, he began studying fundamentalist thinking for his doctorate. Last year he completed his doctorate, but he was still not satisfied. His desire for new knowledge connected to his Arabic roots led him to a post-doctorate begun in May 2013. His goal is to analyze two literary society movements that sprang up during the Arab diaspora through the work of two writers: Chafiq Al Maluf (1905-1977), who immigrated to São Paulo, and Mikhail Naimy (1889-1988), who lived in New York.

When he completes his post-doctorate in 2015, Taliche plans to publish a book about his experiences for young university students. “The quality of teaching and research dropped sharply after Iraq went through wars and the dispersion of its citizens. I want to show that it is possible to achieve a successful future by opting for scientific research,” says Taliche. “I had to come to Brazil to acquire my taste for research, through which I can keep my relationship with the Arab world alive,” he says.