I am an associate professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil, where I coordinate the Study Group on Local Politics (NEPOL). I hold a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
Hi There! I'm Marta Mendes da Rocha, Professor and Political Scientist
Over the last decade, I dedicated myself to the themes of political institutions, political representation, subnational governments, local politics, clientelism, and brokers. In 2020 I was awarded a grant from the Fulbright Foundation for a four-month term as visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, from January to May 2022. My current research focuses on clientelism and brokers in Brazilian local politics. I am investigating how brokers’ background, resources, and links with people, political parties, and civil associations shape their relationships with politicians and voters.
My passion for politics began with my undergraduate studies in History, in 1999. Readings and discussions about the problem of conquest and the maintenance of power, the different forms of political organization, and the debates on the fundamentals of leadership and of obedience captivated me.
In my master’s and doctoral studies in Political Science, I inclined toward the topic of political representation and studies on parliamentary elites. In this sense, my interest included both theoretical debates about the meanings and foundations of representation and the empirical analysis of the different ways in which representation is organized, practiced, and experienced by representatives and citizens at different levels. During this period, I took part in important collective research ventures at the Center for Legislative Studies at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, where I obtained a significant part of my training in research. Investigations with federal and state deputies in Brasília and in several Brazilian states confirmed my vocation for Political Science.
In the last ten years, I have devoted myself to the study of political representation at the subnational level, especially in the municipal sphere. My research during this period has focused on city councils, councilors, and the relationships between the legislature and local legislators and the Executive branch, citizens, and social groups. My interest in representation at the local level led me to the topic of clientelism and the dynamics of intermediation of interests that pass through and/or end up at the municipal level with the participation of brokers, which are the object of my current research.
One of the consequences of this research was the creation of the Study Group on Local Politics (Nepol), linked to the Postgraduate Program in Social Sciences at UFJF. The Group brings together researchers interested in several aspects of local politics and aims to contribute to the advancement of this research agenda, especially through comparative research projects focused on Brazil and other Latin American countries. In 2020, Nepol was engaged in the production and dissemination of knowledge about the Covid-19 pandemic in the special series of articles “The city governments facing the Coronavirus”.
My studies lie at the intersection of the areas of political institutions, electoral studies, legislative studies, political behavior, local power, public policy, and federalism. Although my primary interest is in Brazil and South America, my research is always guided by a comparative perspective.
Much of my research experience has taken place through undertaking surveys with professional politicians. Recently, I have been leaning towards the adoption of multi-method research designs, which combine quantitative and qualitative approaches and different data collection and analysis techniques such as observation, in-depth interviews, and content analysis.
The education and training of young researchers have been an important aspect of my career. Whether in the various research activities I have coordinated, in the classroom as a teacher, or in postgraduate guidance, I have always valued exchanges with students. Since joining the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, in 2011, I have supervised more than 20 undergraduate scientific research and final course projects, 14 master’s dissertations (11 completed), and 4 doctoral theses (2 completed).
Extension work is also part of my activities. Among those initiatives in which I participated are the coordination of the Young Parliament of Minas in partnership with PUC-Minas and the Juiz de Fora City Council, and the coordination of the Institutional Center for Strengthening Participatory Management of SUS, in partnership with the Health Ministry.
Throughout my career as a graduate student, professor, and researcher, I have received research funding from the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), the Foundation for the Support of Research on Minas Gerais (Fapemig) and the Fulbright Foundation.