Home Institution

American University

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


This is a paper about communities of share-croppers, landless families, and often-illiterate subsidence farmers who organized themselves to fight for their human rights after they were displaced by a dam. By organizing themselves with the national Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens, they were able overcome their marginalized position and demand changes that would protect their culture, protect their community, give them better access to education, access to work, and access to safe drinking water. What’s more, they are fighting for their right to participate in politics and in decisions about their own lives, and by promoting participation, promoting education, and creating public debates, they are making their society more democratic, and creating new types of citizens. Their movement is socialist, but don’t let that word invoke images military marches or authoritarian leaders. They desire equality and human rights for the marginalized, and an end to the outrageous inequalities of their country (and the world). Their means for achieving this are group discussions, literacy classes, and promotion of the right to own farmable land and have good schools through marches or peaceful occupations (pretty much like sit-ins, if the word occupation makes you squirm). Their movement recognizes that they aren’t just affected by dams, they are affected by all of the structures of marginalization that operate in their society and in the world. Because of this, they want to continue growing and spreading, leaving in their wake communities who are empowered to struggle for their rights.


Politics and Social Change


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