Movements in education
Meek, David Duncan
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What are the opportunities and constraints towards advancing agroecological education within Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement? In this dissertation, I advance a theoretical framework, which I term the political ecology of education, to help answer this question. The political ecology of education perspective incorporates insights from the political economy of education and political ecology into a holistic perspective. I first trace the intellectual genealogy of this perspective, and the reason agrarian movements mobilize around agroecology. I then apply the political ecology of education lens to illuminate how political and economic processes mediate the interrelations between an agrarian reform settlement of the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra or MST), known as the 17 de Abril, and a series of social movement and state-funded educational spaces in southeastern Pará, Brazil. I draw upon the political ecology of education perspective to answer three interrelated questions. First, why does the MST see agroecology as a valuable ideological and practical tool? Second, how do MST activists access political programs and financial resources to facilitate the evolution of agroecological education opportunities in southeastern Pará? Third, what are the opportunities and constraints towards disseminating agroecological education within the MST? Specifically, how does the larger cultural milieu influence efforts to disseminate agroecological education? I address these questions by drawing on 17 months of multi-sited fieldwork from 2009 to 2013, during which I conducted life histories, participant observation of agricultural and movement activities, and an analysis of archival aerial photography and multi-temporal satellite imagery. My analysis of these data reveals that activist professors serve as mediators between the state and MST. These professors are able to access, through every day struggle, the political and economic resources to provide institutionalized agroecological education opportunities. By collaborating with institutionalized education, the MST is able to develop its own autonomous radical educational spaces. However, I also identified various impediments to agroecological education, including the political participation of educators, and the histories of credit and agricultural extension. I advance scholars’ critical analysis of the relationships between politics, economy, ecology and education by developing a political ecology of education framework.
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