Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Anthropology, University of Alabama

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Georgia
Learning and Landscape Change in the Brazilian Landless Workers' Movement

Global attention to Amazonian deforestation—while important—deflects attention from a related and equally important phenomenon: forest regeneration. Although our knowledge of the ecological dynamics of tropical forest succession has increased greatly, the cultural and political factors mediating forest succession remain poorly understood. Mather’s forest transition model (1990) suggests a link between learning and forest regeneration. Informal learning, gained through social movement participation, has been a focus of adult education studies; yet, it is unknown what economic and political factors motivate this learning, and how they affect agroecological knowledge, cultural conceptions of landscape change, and the occurrence of land cover change. To answer these questions, this research will focus on an Amazonian settlement of the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), a social movement with a strong pedagogical tradition rooted in Paulo Freire’s liberation theology. Ethnographic methods will be combined with quantitative spatial techniques. Research will track changes in environmental discourse in the movement’s monthly journal over a period of twenty-five years. Archival education records will provide contextual data on geographic education disparities. Ethnographic data on the roles of informal learning will be gathered from MST leaders through semi-structured interviews. Settlers’ oral histories will provide insight into the diversity of informal learning experiences among MST. Conceptions of “agroecology” will be elicited from these settlers, and knowledge gauged through a cultural consensus analysis. A survey will quantify levels of movement participation among these individuals. Interviews will be used to elicit perceptions of landscape change. Analyses will illustrate whether participation is a variable influencing the distribution of cultural knowledge surrounding these issues. These data will be correlated with spatial data on land cover change.