Home Institution

University of Pittsburgh

Publication Date

Fall 12-1-2014

Program Name

Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development


The purposes of this research are to raise awareness of the occurrence of slavery in the 21st century, explain how and why slavery still exists in the northeast of Brazil, more specifically in Maranhão, and to explain what state and federal agencies and NGOs are attempting to do to eradicate slavery. Despite the emancipation of slavery in 1888, this insidious practice continues in regions with a history of slavery and a lack of anti-slavery legislation implementation. Through examining the challenges of enforcing legislation in the criminal justice system, the author constructs a current characterization of slavery in Maranhão. In the northeast of Brazil, poverty and profit drive the practice slavery. Moreover, a lack of resources, a passive strategy, impunity for those guilty, and lack of political will result in the failed implementation of human rights and the subsequent continuation of slavery in Maranhão, Brazil. In the introduction, the author brings forth a historical setting to demonstrate the progression of anti-slavery legislation in Brazil, and contextualize his field research findings. Towards the end of this section, the author describes the current policy and governmental structure organizing the forces combating slavery in Maranhão. The following methods section addresses the approach of the author given the preceding contextual information as well as a justification and explanation of his auto-ethnographic approach. In Findings and Discussion, Patton explains his findings while offering analysis and auto-ethnographic commentary on the thematic sections corresponding to understanding slavery, its causes, how Maranhão combats slavery, and obstacles such as political complacency and society’s role in public policy. The author cites primary sources including findings from 15 interviews from the cities of Açailandia and São Luís, Maranhão. He cites interviews with the NGOs Pastoral Land Commission, Center for the Defense of Life and Human Rights, a researcher from the Federal University of Maranhão, activists, private attorneys, labor judges, the President of the State Commission for the Eradication of Slavery, Secretary of the State Office of Human Rights and Citizenship, and a federal criminal prosecutor. These primary sources, field research, and analysis make for an auto-ethnography that characterizes modern-day slavery and undermines the role of capitalism in the continuation of slavery in the northeast state of Maranhão, Brazil.


Civic and Community Engagement | Cultural History | Inequality and Stratification | International and Area Studies | Labor History | Latin American History | Latin American Studies | Political History | Politics and Social Change | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance


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