Writing the History of the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil: Empowerment, Recognition and Agency

By Sonia Fatima Schwendler.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper analyses the use of oral history in the context of land struggle in Brazil. Land concentration, a marked feature of Brazilian society, has been challenged by different social movements, notably the Movimento dos Sem Terra, the Landless Workers Movement (1984). By their collective agency, the landless workers resisted exploitation and expropriation of their means of production, fostering agrarian reform. Based on the remarkable case of land struggle in the São Joaquim Farm, in the southern state of Paraná, it discusses the use of oral history not only as a way of writing and understanding a history from below, but also as a way of empowering social movements, reinforcing a collective identity and enhancing the agency of the participants. Life history or in-depth interviews are understood as part of a biographic method (Marre, 1991), which aims to reconstruct the structural and sociological history of social groups, and to understand how each individual reorganises a collective story in his/her narrative. It concludes that, by taking the experience and the understanding of the history of the invisibles, oral history has implications on the collective agency of the peasantry and the theorization of their social struggle.

Keywords: Oral History, Landless Workers Movement, Brazil, Collective Agency

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.183-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.166MB).

Sonia Fatima Schwendler

Phd Candidate, Queen Mary, University of London, Canterbury, UK

Sônia Fátima Schwendler is a lecturer in Education at the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil, and a PhD candidate of Hispanic Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, UK. She has done research and worked with social movements, especially the MST (The Movement of the Landless Rural Workers of Brazil)since 1994.

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