Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Transforming Space and Society? the Political Ecology of Education in the Brazilian Landless Workers' Movement's Jornada De Agroecologia

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Transforming Space and Society? the Political Ecology of Education in the Brazilian Landless Workers' Movement's Jornada De Agroecologia

Article excerpt


The occupation of space is a key geographic tactic for social movements. In this article, we explore how movements' explicit and everyday occupation of space exists along a continuum. Taken together, these occupations can function as part of a broader strategy of creating dialogic spaces for environmental knowledge production. Dialogic spaces have an educational function, and are intended to provoke critical dialogue and transformation within society. Drawing upon a political ecology of education framework, we show that these dialogic spaces are strategically occupied to help transform both material and immaterial territories. We evidence this argument by analyzing the Brazilian Landless Workers' Movement's (MST) Jornada de Agroecology (agroecological journey), which is a social movement meeting. Drawing upon data collected at the 2012 Jornada, we argue that the Jornada's disparate spatial forms are part of a broader journey related to transforming not only space, but also what constitutes agroecology.


Political ecology of education, Landless Workers' Movement (MST), agroecology, dialogic space, convergence, dialogo de saberes


The occupation of space is an integral element of social movements' tactics and larger strategies of resistance (Hayes, 2006; Juris, 2012; St. John, 2008; Wall, 1999). (1) Tactics are specific tools--consisting of resources and actions--which movements coordinate to achieve their broader political strategies (Routledge, 1996: 525). Resistance strategies are fluid; just as movements' opponents are constantly shifting, invoking new forms of repression, so too must popular forces remain adaptable, reconfiguring in counterpoint as a process of movement "within and between different forms and tactics" (Routledge, 1996: 526). An analysis of a social movement's shifting tactics, and larger strategies, in response to changes in the political landscape affords insights into the relationship between spatiality of resistance, and social change.

Spatial analyses of movements' occupations require a temporal component, as the spatial and temporal are inextricably linked (Dodghson, 2008; Harvey, 1990; Pred, 1981; Thrift, 1977; but see Merriman, 2012). There are three dominant approaches to understanding the relation between the spatial and temporal aspects of social movement occupations. The first emphasizes the occupation of space as an explicit break that occurs during moments of heightened emotion (Merrifield, 2002). Movement scholars term these moments a phase of "heightened conflict" (Tarrow, 1998) or a "transformative event" (McAdam and Sewell, 2001). Blockades and sit-ins typify these explosive occupations (Harley, 2014). From the second approach, occupation is an everyday process of reconstructing space and social relations (Auyero, 2004; Chatterton and Pickerill, 2010a). The mundane organizing that is required to maintain autonomous infoshops exemplifies this everyday activism (Chatterton and Pickerill, 2010b). Within the third conception, the ruptural and everyday occupations of space are not distinct (Fernandes, 2000; Halvorsen, 2014; Routledge, 1996). Seen through this lens, social movement actions do not take place in independent time-spaces, but are rather hybrid. Theorizing the spatiotemporal nature of these interconnected spaces, social movements are fluid geographic processes that are not fixed in time (Routledge, 1996: 519).

Movements' spatial occupations are frequently part of a broader strategy of advancing popular education. Social movements have prioritized the production of educational spaces, ranging from the Highlander Center in Tennessee (Morris, 1984), to Black Panther schools in Oakland (Payne and Strickland, 2008), to workers' colleges (Altenbaugh, 1990). Movement strategically prioritizes education, because the politics of knowledge are central to their goals of social change. Changes in the geography of social movements' educational spaces frequently track movements' changing positions in relation to the state. …

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