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Claudia Bocca

Claudia Bocca 153 x 180I am a doctoral student in the postgraduate programme in food, nutrition and health at the Nutrition Institute of Rio de Janeiro State University. My speciality is public policy analysis. My story begins in 2001, when I joined the UERJ undergraduate programme in nutrition. Early on I realised that my vocation was public health.

When I finished college, I studied family health in the Brazilian National School of Public Health (ENSP) at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). My fieldwork was in a community of the west zone of Rio de Janeiro, Santa Cruz, as part of a multidisciplinary team. Inspired by our reading and our spirit, we were restless militants. But we constantly heard phrases like ‘this is something from the academy, it does not work in real life’. This antagonism between theory and reality bothers me deeply. It may be a false dichotomy.

I began my Master’s degree from ENSP/ Fiocruz in 2008, working with the Brazilian family grant programmes, that are not well understood by professionals or the communities they are meant to serve. I learned a lot, but I felt I was becoming an ‘academic’, and started thinking that my place was not the academy.

At the end of the Master’s in 2010, I was invited to join the team responsible for the food and nutrition policy of the whole municipality of Rio de Janeiro, with the prospect to start my PhD in August that year. So I became an activist again and yet, through this work, have again fallen in love with academia and scientific knowledge, for I now understand the role of both in political activism.

There is no neutrality in any scientific study. The very choice of any object of research shows that. Nevertheless, theoretical and methodological rigour is essential. I advocate a constructionist view of science, which is mediated by the trajectory of researchers and their beliefs and values. I reject the idea that analysis has to fit into an analytical model a priori defined. I understand now that my own research is just one narrative among many others that we can find and use in turning knowledge into policies and actions. Science of itself does not create any right judgement.

That´s just me today.