LaShandra P. Sullivan (PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology)

By , April 16, 2012 10:01 am

Please join us in welcoming LaShandra P. Sullivan (PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology). 

Thursday, April 19

12:00-1:20
SS 122 from 12:00-1:20

Protest Camps and Agroindustrial Rurality-Urbanity in Brazil

Prior to democratization in 1988, Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1988) used explicit authoritarian violence to limit the terms for politics and economic organization.  In alliance with large landholders, the government favored a capital-intensive agro-industrial model in the countryside that displaced millions of rural inhabitants in favor of export-oriented monocrop production. In Mato Grosso do Sul particularly, the production of cattle, soy, and especially sugarcane for ethanol fuel drove massive urbanization and proletarianization. Today, former peasants and subsequent generations return to rural areas as day laborers, commuting back and forth from city peripheries to work for the agro-industrial firms that now dominate the countryside. My paper focuses on the land reform protest camps of indigenous Gurani people that dot rural roadsides and “occupy” plantations in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. The camps are a political tactic to gain state recognition of indigenous land rights.  Protest camps consist of people that have moved out of (or circulate between) cities, reservations, and rural work sites. Consisting of ramshackle, make-shift dwellings, these camps present another kind of return to the countryside, one in which people seek to reclaim the countryside as a site of political struggle. I argue that, importantly, these camps do not challenge the legitimacy of the state itself. Instead they both appear to breach politics-as-usual and conform with a form of politics in which “insurgency” operates within the frame for mainstream political action.  However, the camps become viewed as an offensive, potentially mortal threat to the political and economic order by undermining the seemingly settled organization of space.

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