Territories of hope: A human geography of agrarian politics in Brazil

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The Landless Rural Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)) is widely recognized for its struggles for land and for producing healthy food. Since its birth, 40 years ago, the MST has continued to territorialize itself, producing its own existence. There are hundreds of thousands of families fighting for the peasant condition, which is much more than fighting for land. In this article, I argue that MST members are not simply fighting for land in isolated agrarian reform settlements. Rather, as the mística suggests, they are producing new understandings, practices, and imaginaries of the Brazilian national space. Through their mobilization, their labor on the land, and their solidarity as expressed in countless meetings, marches, and collective organizations, they are actively producing alternative territories that sit within but resist the hegemonic national territory. I incorporate theories from critical human geography to argue that territory is a category that unites land and governance. Territorial control is established by (depends on) the norms, rules, and rights in any given place and time. Within the context of the modern nation-state, the MST can be understood as producing new territories, ones that are aspirational and emerging—I call these “territories of hope” to signal the material and symbolic labor of collective desire. These territories are constituted through relations within MST settlements and between MST members and the state, agribusiness corporations, and the broader public across various spatial and temporal dimensions and scales.



agribusiness, agroecology, Brazil, Peasant, resistance, territory of hope

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Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.