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Agrarian Social Movements and the Making of Agrodiesel Moral Territories in Northeast Brazil

Manzi, Maya

Titre : Agrarian Social Movements and the Making of Agrodiesel Moral Territories in Northeast Brazil

Auteur : Manzi, Maya

Université de soutenance : CLARK UNIVERSITY

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2013

In response to widespread concerns about the socio-ecological impacts of agrofuel production and development, particularly for food security, efforts have been made internationally to implement more sustainable forms of producing agrofuels. Brazil’s National Program for the Production and Use of Agrodiesel (PNPB), launched in 2004, is one such attempt. Promoted as a socially and environmentally responsible program, the PNPB was made possible through unprecedented alliances between the ’postneoliberal’ Brazilian state, the agribusiness sector, and social movements such as the Rural Trade Union’s Movement (MSTTR) and the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST). In this research, I critically analyze the unexpected engagement of social movements in the making of agrodiesel territories in semi-arid Bahia, Northeastern Brazil by examining the territorial and moral processes and practices that underlie the production of castor bean (mamona) for agrodiesel. The methodology adopted comprised participant observation, informal and semi-structured interviews (n=74) with leaders and members of the MST and the MSTTR in the territories of the Chapada Diamantina and Irece, in central Bahia. Interviews were also conducted with representatives of family farming cooperatives, government institutions, and agrodiesel companies (Petrobras) in the two study areas and in Salvador, capital of Bahia. Research methods also included the collection and critical discourse analysis of archival and other secondary data sources from public and private institutions. Drawing mainly from cultural geography and political ecology literatures, I argue that social movement leaders enable the making of agrodiesel territories mainly through their role as ’agrodiesel gatekeepers’—as legal interveners, managers, and caregivers. Family farmers tend to enable agrodiesel territorial expansion and to disrupt agrodiesel territorial management by not complying with moral prescriptions of loyalty. I see farmers’ disloyalty towards their cooperatives as an everyday form of resistance against agrodiesel oppressive and exploitative practices. I suggest that the making of agrodiesel territories (re)produces gendered and racialized ’(im)moral’ peasants and serves to better contain peasants’ movements. By critically analyzing how agrodiesel practices reproduce, homogenize and differentiate certain subjects, natures, and territories, I hope that this research contributes to politicize the moral geographies of agrodiesel development in semiarid Bahia.

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Page publiée le 12 avril 2014, mise à jour le 17 novembre 2018