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Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

Rebecca Tarlau

Published in print August 2019 | ISBN: 9780190870324
Published online June 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190870331 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190870324.001.0001

Series: Global and Comparative Ethnography

Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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  • Sociology of Education
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Contrary to the conventional belief that social movements cannot engage the state without becoming co-opted and demobilized, this study shows how movements can advance their struggles by strategically working with, in, through, and outside of state institutions. The success of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) in occupying land, winning land rights, and developing alternative economic enterprises for over a million landless workers has made it an inspiration for progressive organizations globally. The MST’s educational initiatives, which are less well known but equally as important, teach students about participatory democracy, collective work, agroecological farming, and other practices that support its socialist vision. This study details how MST activists have pressured municipalities, states, and the federal government to implement their educational proposal in public schools and universities, affecting hundreds of thousands of students. Based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork, Occupying Schools, Occupying Land documents the potentials, constraints, failures, and contradictions of the MST’s educational struggle. A major lesson is that participating in the contentious co-governance of public education can help movements recruit new activists, diversify their membership, increase practical and technical knowledge, and garner political power. Activists are most effective when combining disruption, persuasion, negotiation, and co-governance into their tactical repertoires. Through expansive leadership development, the MST implemented its educational program in local schools, even under conservative governments. Such gains demonstrate the potential of schools as sites for activists to prefigure, enact, and develop the social and economic practices they hope to use in the future.

Keywords: Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST); Pedagogy of the MST; Pedagogia do MST; Education of the Countryside; Educação do Campo; social movement strategy; agrarian reform; education and social change; Paulo Freire; popular education; co-governance

Book.  392 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology of Education ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Political Sociology

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Table of Contents

Pedagogical Experiments in the Brazilian Countryside in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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Transforming Universities to Build a Movement in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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Rio Grande do Sul in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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Pernambuco in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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Ceará in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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Conclusion in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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Epilogue in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

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