Rebecca Tarlau

in Occupying Schools, Occupying Land

Published in print August 2019 | ISBN: 9780190870324
Published online June 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190870331 | DOI:

Series: Global and Comparative Ethnography


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  • Sociology of Education
  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Political Sociology


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Chapter 5 analyzes the MST’s attempt to transform public schools in the state of Pernambuco, beginning in the late 1990s after the movement already developed a national pedagogical proposal. This chapter argues that regime type is not as important in the context of states with low levels of capacity for implementing policy goals. In the first case of Santa Maria da Boa Vista, the MST’s increasing capacity for educational governance convinced multiple clientelistic regimes that it was worthwhile to collaborate with the movement. In addition, activists’ ability to garner the consent of municipal public school teachers pushed forward the movement’s educational program. The second case of Água Preta shows that the MST’s own movement infrastructure is a major factor that determines social movement outcomes. In this case, while the same political opportunities are open in Água Preta as in Santa Maria da Boa Vista, the internal divides within the settlements in Água Preta prevent local leadership development and thus hamstring activists’ ability to participate in the public schools.

Keywords: Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST); Pernambuco; Santa Maria da Boa Vista; Água Preta; collective leadership; clientelism; patronage; state capacity; social movement infrastructure; moral and intellectual leadership; war of position

Chapter.  14229 words.  Illustrated.

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

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