• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Title Page
 Dedication
 Acknowledgement
 Table of Contents
 Abstract
 Introduction
 The "Povo da Roca": Identity and...
 The "Roca" and the palm forest:...
 "Os de dentro e os de fora": Differentiation...
 Changes in peasant perceptions...
 Reference
 Biographical sketch






Title: Changes in peasant perceptions of development and conservation
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE PAGE TEXT
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00056218/00001
 Material Information
Title: Changes in peasant perceptions of development and conservation
Physical Description: xi, 335 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Porro, Noemi
Publication Date: 1997
 Subjects
Subject: Peasantry -- Attitudes -- Brazil   ( lcsh )
Peasantry -- Economic conditions -- Brazil   ( lcsh )
Group identity -- Brazil   ( lcsh )
Latin American Studies thesis, M.A   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Latin American Studies -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 1997.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 327-334).
Statement of Responsibility: by Noemi Miyasaka Porro.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Funding: Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00056218
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002327765
oclc - 38847978
notis - ALT1385

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Dedication
        Page iii
    Acknowledgement
        Page iv-v
    Table of Contents
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    Abstract
        Page x
        Page xi
    Introduction
        Page 1
        Background
            Page 1
            Research questions
                Page 1
                Page 2
                Page 3
                Page 4
                Page 5
                Page 6
            Main debates
                Page 7
                "Campesinista-descampesinista" debate
                    Page 7
                    Page 8
                    Page 9
                    Page 10
                    Page 11
                    Page 12
                    Page 13
                    Page 14
                    Page 15
                "What is development?" debate
                    Page 16
                    Page 17
                    Page 18
                    Page 19
                    Page 20
                    Page 21
        Theoretical framework
            Page 22
            Discourse-centered approach as related to social relations
                Page 22
                Page 23
            Positions of enunciation
                Page 24
                Page 25
                Page 26
                Page 27
                Page 28
                Page 29
        Methodology
            Page 30
            Field techniques
                Page 31
                Ethonographic interviews
                    Page 31
                Participant observation
                    Page 32
                    Page 33
                Photographic exercises
                    Page 34
                    Page 35
                    Page 36
                    Page 37
                    Page 38
                    Page 39
                    Page 40
                    Page 41
                Pencil drawings
                    Page 42
                Structured questionnaires
                    Page 43
                    Page 44
                    Page 45
            Combining perspectives as practitioner and researcher
                Page 46
                Page 47
                Page 48
            Combining qualitative and quantitative methods
                Page 49
                Page 50
                Page 51
        Chapter organization
            Page 52
            Analytical cycle design
                Page 52
                Page 53
            Analytical cycle design
                Page 54
                Page 55
                Page 56
    The "Povo da Roca": Identity and ethnicity
        Page 57
        Introduction
            Page 57
        Peasantry formation in the Mearim valley
            Page 58
            Literature review
                Page 58
                Page 59
                Page 60
                Page 61
                Page 62
                Page 63
                Page 64
            Oral narratives
                Page 65
                Ludovico village
                    Page 65
                    Page 66
                    Page 67
                    Page 68
                    Page 69
                Monte Alegre village
                    Page 70
                São José dos Mouras village
                    Page 71
                    Page 72
        Symbols and practices
            Page 73
            House
                Page 73
                House as a physical structure
                    Page 73
                House as a strategy
                    Page 74
                House as a function
                    Page 75
                House as a status
                    Page 76
                House as a representation of the household
                    Page 77
                    Page 78
            Roca
                Page 79
                Page 80
                Page 81
                Page 82
                Page 83
                Page 84
            House and Roça
                Page 85
                Page 86
                Page 87
        Peasant identity and ethnicity
            Page 88
            "Povo da roca":Peasant as as social identity
                Page 88
                Page 89
                Page 90
                Page 91
                Page 92
                Page 93
                Page 94
                Page 95
            "Povo da Roça" vs. "Povo da Rua": Peasant ethnicity
                Page 96
                Page 97
                Page 98
                Page 99
                Page 100
                Page 101
        Conclusion
            Page 102
            Page 103
    The "Roca" and the palm forest: Perceptions of development and conservation in the "peasant social system of survival"
        Page 104
        Introduction
            Page 104
            Page 105
        Economic and environmental settings
            Page 106
            Literature review
                Page 106
                Peasant as an economic anthropological category
                    Page 106
                    Page 107
                    Page 108
                Babacu palm forest as an ecological zone
                    Page 109
                    Page 110
                    Page 111
                    Page 112
                    Page 113
                    Page 114
                    Page 115
                    Page 116
                    Page 117
                    Page 118
                Research site's environmental setting
                    Page 119
                    Page 120
                    Page 121
                    Page 122
                    Page 123
                    Page 124
                    Page 125
            "Povo da Roca's" Agro-extractive system
                Page 126
                Page 127
                Page 128
                Roca as a use of the larger ecosystem and as a set of human driven ecosystems
                    Page 129
                    Page 130
                    Page 131
                    Page 132
                    Page 133
                    Page 134
                    Page 135
                    Page 136
                    Page 137
                    Page 138
                    Page 139
                    Page 140
                    Page 141
                    Page 142
                    Page 143
                    Page 144
                    Page 145
                    Page 146
                    Page 147
                    Page 148
                    Page 149
                    Page 150
                    Page 151
                    Page 152
                    Page 153
                    Page 154
                    Page 155
                    Page 156
                    Page 157
                    Page 158
                    Page 159
                    Page 160
                    Page 161
                    Page 162
                    Page 163
                    Page 164
                    Page 165
                    Page 166
                    Page 167
                Babacu nut-cracking and charcoal making
                    Page 168
                    Page 169
                    Page 170
                    Page 171
                    Page 172
                    Page 173
                    Page 174
                    Page 175
                    Page 176
        Economic production and social reproduction
            Page 177
            Production and consumption
                Page 177
                Page 178
                Page 179
                Page 180
                Page 181
                Page 182
                Page 183
                Page 184
                Page 185
                Page 186
                Page 187
                Page 188
                Page 189
            Social reproduction and social dismissing
                Page 190
                Page 191
                Page 192
        Peasants' perceptions of development and conservation
            Page 193
            Page 194
            Page 195
            Page 196
            "Babacu is the father and the mother of the people": Perception of conservation
                Page 197
                Page 198
                Page 199
                Page 200
                Page 201
                Page 202
                Page 203
            "Babacu is what freed us and what is the project?": Perception of development
                Page 204
                Page 205
                Page 206
                Page 207
                Page 208
        Conclusion
            Page 209
            Page 210
            Page 211
            Page 212
            Page 213
            Page 214
            Page 215
    "Os de dentro e os de fora": Differentiation among "povo da roca"
        Page 216
        Introduction
            Page 216
            Page 217
            Page 218
            Page 219
            Page 220
            Page 221
            Page 222
            Page 223
        Political identity: "The Blacks" as an analytical focus
            Page 224
            Literature review
                Page 224
                Page 225
                Page 226
                Page 227
                Page 228
                Page 229
                Page 230
                Page 231
                Page 232
                Page 233
                Page 234
                Page 235
            "We, the Blacks" and "We, the people of struggle": Different experiences building a political identity
                Page 236
                The experience of Monte Alegre
                    Page 236
                    Page 237
                    Page 238
                    Page 239
                    Page 240
                    Page 241
                    Page 242
                    Page 243
                    Page 244
                The experience of Ludovico
                    Page 245
                    Page 246
                    Page 247
                The experience of São José dos Mouras
                    Page 248
                    Page 249
        Internal differentiation and political identity
            Page 250
            Page 251
            Page 252
            Page 253
        Internal differentiation: Different political positions in different life histories
            Page 254
            Page 255
            Page 256
            Page 257
            Page 258
            Page 259
            Rooted strategies
                Page 260
                Peasant labor
                    Page 260
                Wage labor
                    Page 261
                    Page 262
                Collective labor
                    Page 263
            Mobile strategies
                Page 264
                Slave labor
                    Page 264
                    Page 265
                    Page 266
                Gold mining and labor at the frontier
                    Page 267
                Urban/free-lance labor
                    Page 268
                    Page 269
                    Page 270
                    Page 271
        Conclusion
            Page 272
            Page 273
            Page 274
            Page 275
            Page 276
            Page 277
    Changes in peasant perceptions of development and conservation
        Page 278
        Introduction
            Page 278
            Page 279
            Page 280
            Page 281
            Page 282
        Literature review
            Page 283
            Page 284
            Page 285
            Page 286
            Page 287
            Page 288
            Page 289
            Page 290
        Experiences favoring political positioning
            Page 291
            Experiences in gender social relations
                Page 291
                Page 292
                Page 293
                Page 294
                Page 295
                Page 296
                Page 297
                Page 298
            Access to social welfare
                Page 299
                Page 300
                Page 301
                Page 302
                Page 303
            Access to public investments
                Page 304
                Page 305
                Page 306
                Page 307
                Page 308
        Changes in peasant perceptions of development and conservation
            Page 309
            Page 310
            Page 311
            Page 312
            Page 313
            Page 314
            Page 315
            Page 316
            Page 317
            Page 318
            Page 319
            Page 320
            Plate
        Conclusion
            Page 321
            Page 322
            Page 323
            Page 324
            Page 325
    Reference
        Page 326
        Page 327
        Page 328
        Page 329
        Page 330
        Page 331
        Page 332
        Page 333
    Biographical sketch
        Page 334
        Page 335
Full Text









CHANGES IN PEASANT PERCEPTIONS OF
DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION











By

NOEMI MIYASAKA PORRO


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1997
























Copyright 1997

by

Noemi Miyasaka Porro

























To Ana, Pedro, Felipe, and Roberto.





Pages
iv v
Missing
From
Original













TABLE OF CONTENTS




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............................................. iv

ABSTRACT .................. ................................ x

CHAPTERS


1- INTRODUCTION ................................... .............1

B background ...................................... ...............1
Research Questions .......................... ........... 1
Main Debates .............................................. 7
"Campesinista-descampesinista" debate .................... 7
"What is development?" debate ......................... 16
Theoretical Framework .........................................22
Discourse-Centered Approach as Related to Social Relations......... 22
Positions of Enunciation .................................... 24
Methodology ..............................................30
Field Techniques ........................................ 31
Ethnographic interviews .............................. 31
Participant observation ............................... 32
Photographic exercises ............................... 33
Pencil drawings ..................................... 42
Structured questionnaires ............................. 43
Combining Perspectives as Practitioner and Researcher.............. 46
Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods ................. 49
Chapter Organization .............................. ........... 52
Chapter Descriptions ..................................... 52
Analytical Cycle Design ..................................... 54









2 THE "POVO DAROQA": IDENTITY AND ETHNICITY ................. 57

Introduction ................................................... 57
Peasantry Formation in the Mearim Valley. ............................ 58
Literature Review ......................................... 58
Oral Narratives .......................................... 65
Ludovico village ................................... 65
Monte Alegre village ................... ...........70
SAo Jos6 dos M ouras village .......................... 71
Symbols and Practices .........................................73
House ................................... ............73
House as a physical structure ........................... 73
House as a strategy ................... ... ...........74
House as a function ................................. 75
House as a status ................................. 76
House as a representation of the household. ................ 77
Ro a ..... .............................................. 79
H house and Roga ............................ .............85
Peasant Identity and Ethnicity .................................... 88
"Povo da Roga": Peasant as a Social Identity .................... .88
"Povo da Roga" vs. "Povo da Rua": Peasant Ethnicity .............. 96
Conclusion ............................................ 102

3 THE "RO(A" AND THE PALM FOREST: PERCEPTIONS OF DEVELOPMENT
AND CONSERVATION IN THE "PEASANT SOCIAL SYSTEM OF
SURVIVAL" ...................................... ...............104

Introduction ................................. ............... 104
Economic and Environmental Settings .............................. 106
Literature Review .................................. .. 106
Peasant as an economic anthropological category .......... 106
Babaqu palm forest as an ecological zone ................. 109
Research site's environmental setting ................... 119
"Povo da Roga's" Agro-extractive System ................... .. 126
Roga as a use of the larger ecosystem and as a set of human
driven ecosystems ................................. 129
Babagu nut-cracking and charcoal making. ................ 168








Economic Production and Social Reproduction ........................ 177
Production and Consumption .............................. 177
Social Reproduction and Social Dismissing ..................... 190
Peasants' Perceptions of Development and Conservation ................ 193
"Babagu Is the Father and the Mother of the People": Perception of
Conservation .......................................... 197
"Roga Is What Freed Us and What Is the Project?" Perception of
Development ........................................... 204
Conclusion .................................... ............. 209


4 "OS DE DENTRO E OS DE FORA": DIFFERENTIATION AMONG "POVO DA
ROCA" ........................................................ 216

Introduction .............................. ............ 216
Political Identity: "The Blacks" as an Analytical Focus .................. 224
Literature Review ................ .................... .. 224
"We, the Blacks" and "We, the People of Struggle": Different
Experiences Building a Political Identity ....................... 236
The experience of Monte Alegre ................... .... 236
The experience of Ludovico ........................... 245
The experience of Sdo Jos6 dos Mouras. .................. 248
Internal Differentiation and Political Identity. ......................... .250
Internal Differentiation: Different Political Positions in Different
Life Histories ............................................. .. 254
Rooted Strategies. ..................................... 260
Peasant labor ...................................... 260
W age labor ...................................... 261
Collective labor ................. .................. 263
M obile Strategies ....................................... 264
Slave labor ............. ..... ...............264
Gold mining and labor at the frontier/ free-lance labor ....... 267
Urban/ free-lance labor ..........................268
Conclusion ....................................................272








5 CHANGES IN PEASANT PERCEPTIONS OF DEVELOPMENT AND
CONSERVATION ............................................... 278

Introduction .................................... .............278
Literature Review ..................................... ....... 283
Experiences Favoring Political Positioning .......................... .291
Experiences in Gender Social Relations ........................ 291
Access to Social Welfare ................................. 299
Access to Public Investments ................................ 304
Changes in Peasant Perceptions of Development and Conservation ......... 309
Conclusion .................... .............................. 322

LIST OF REFERENCES ............................................. 327

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................. ............335










Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts


CHANGES IN PEASANT PERCEPTIONS OF
DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION

By

Noemi Miyasaka Porro

December 1997

Chairperson: Dr. Marianne Schmink
Major Department: Center for Latin American Studies

Development policies and related projects, either by governmental or non-

governmental agencies, are considered the most important tools and investments in dealing

with rural poverty in Brazilian Amazon. Their targeted people have been categorized by

anthropologists as peasants, having a specific culture and economy. On the other hand,

these same people are designated and treated by development planners and agents as

beneficiaries, clients, or participants of the mainstream Brazilian culture and capitalist

economy. However, after half a century of development policies affecting these people,

controversial effects on natural and social environments led conservationists, development

agents, governments, scholars, rural leaders, and politicians to an updated debate about

the validity and feasibility of development efforts. Additionally, in the anthropological

arena, researchers are revising and even reconceptualizing the peasant category.

I have investigated identity, ethnicity, and changes in perceptions of development







and conservation among rural people in three villages in the Mearim Valley, in the State of

Maranhao, in the Brazilian Amazon. My analysis was based on a discourse-centered

approach as related to the social relations theoretical framework. My qualitative data were

collected through ethnographic field methods, and changes in perceptions of development

and conservation were elicited through the analysis of 57 ethnographic interviews and

participant observation records. Quantitative data involving 118 households regarding 64

socio-economic variables gathered through structured questionnaires were statistically

analyzed to visualize some of the physical, economic, and social constraints of the context

in which people's perceptions were stated.

I concluded that, throughout their historical antagonistic experiences in social

relations with the larger capitalist society, peasant social groups in the babagu palm forests

have been combining culturally their own forms of social organization and economic

production, in order to maintain their physical existence and unique social identity.

However, although a coherent social system has been maintained, in the process of social

relations, internal differentiations have occurred. As a relevant differentiation, in dealing

with development policies, there are situations in which peasants seeking changes in social

relations can integrate their social identity to a political identity. My argument is that in

such a process, changes in peasant perceptions of development and conservation can

occur, as they connect social and political plans. Therefore, to achieve effective results in

development and conservation policies and projects, peasant perceptions of these

processes should be considered in their social and political perspectives.













CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION



Background


Research Questions


My thesis is about social groups who live in the babacu babassuu) palm forests in

the Mearim Valley, in the State of Maranhao, in the Brazilian Amazonia, and identify

themselves as "o povo da roga" (the people of rossa) in diverse social situations. As

approximately 300,000 families1 do, they practice a unique system of production

combining agricultural and extractive activities in these secondary forests which cover

18.5 million hectares mainly in Northern and Northeastern Brazil2. Their system of

production, which I call an agro-extractive system, is deeply integrated in a specific

economy and culture.




1 There are no census data available for this category, however, authors such as May
(1990:50) and Anderson et al. (1991:97), as well as the Brazilian Association of Babaqu
Industries, estimated such a number.

2 According to research carried out by the Brazilian Ministry of Industry and Commerce
between 1979 and 1982 using Landsat satellite images, there were 18,436,159 ha in the
states of Maranhio, Piaui, GoiAs, and Mato Grosso, as areas in which babacu palms were
considered a significant component of the vegetation. Lately, different authors have
reported an expansion of the babaqu palm forests in the Amazonian region.

1













CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION



Background


Research Questions


My thesis is about social groups who live in the babacu babassuu) palm forests in

the Mearim Valley, in the State of Maranhao, in the Brazilian Amazonia, and identify

themselves as "o povo da roga" (the people of rossa) in diverse social situations. As

approximately 300,000 families1 do, they practice a unique system of production

combining agricultural and extractive activities in these secondary forests which cover

18.5 million hectares mainly in Northern and Northeastern Brazil2. Their system of

production, which I call an agro-extractive system, is deeply integrated in a specific

economy and culture.




1 There are no census data available for this category, however, authors such as May
(1990:50) and Anderson et al. (1991:97), as well as the Brazilian Association of Babaqu
Industries, estimated such a number.

2 According to research carried out by the Brazilian Ministry of Industry and Commerce
between 1979 and 1982 using Landsat satellite images, there were 18,436,159 ha in the
states of Maranhio, Piaui, GoiAs, and Mato Grosso, as areas in which babacu palms were
considered a significant component of the vegetation. Lately, different authors have
reported an expansion of the babaqu palm forests in the Amazonian region.

1













CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION



Background


Research Questions


My thesis is about social groups who live in the babacu babassuu) palm forests in

the Mearim Valley, in the State of Maranhao, in the Brazilian Amazonia, and identify

themselves as "o povo da roga" (the people of rossa) in diverse social situations. As

approximately 300,000 families1 do, they practice a unique system of production

combining agricultural and extractive activities in these secondary forests which cover

18.5 million hectares mainly in Northern and Northeastern Brazil2. Their system of

production, which I call an agro-extractive system, is deeply integrated in a specific

economy and culture.




1 There are no census data available for this category, however, authors such as May
(1990:50) and Anderson et al. (1991:97), as well as the Brazilian Association of Babaqu
Industries, estimated such a number.

2 According to research carried out by the Brazilian Ministry of Industry and Commerce
between 1979 and 1982 using Landsat satellite images, there were 18,436,159 ha in the
states of Maranhio, Piaui, GoiAs, and Mato Grosso, as areas in which babacu palms were
considered a significant component of the vegetation. Lately, different authors have
reported an expansion of the babaqu palm forests in the Amazonian region.

1










Throughout their historical antagonistic experiences in social relations with the

larger Brazilian society, these social groups who identify themselves as "povo da roga"

have been combining culturally their own forms of internal social organization and their

agro-extractive system of economic production, in order to survive physically and as a

social group. In this thesis, I refer to this overall system, which combines historical,

cultural, social, and economic aspects, as the "peasant social system of survival." The

"peasant social system of survival" is an analytical instrument I use to explain the term "o

meio de vida" (the way of life)3 which is used by the subjects of my research.

My thesis is also about how a development agent can transform her/himself into a

learner. How s/he can learn to understand and interact with people living in a different

social system. As an agronomy student, I was educated to modernize the "rural zone,"

bringing economic development to rural laborers through the "technical assistance and

rural extension system." However, as I moved to the Mearim Valley in 1986 to work as a

development practitioner for grassroots organizations, gradually I began to learn the

meaning of being a "peasant" and the consequences of this economic development model

which combined modernization with concentration of both political power and wealth.

Since then, peasants have taught me about their economic, cultural, ecological, social, and

political struggles in facing the larger Brazilian society.

This integrational perspective of the diverse aspects of their lives, in struggling

with development policies, guides my description and analysis throughout this thesis.



3 There are authors who used the term "the way of life" itself as a resource to explain
different societies, as for example, "the American way of life."









During the nine years I lived in the Mearim Valley, working as a practitioner in peasant

villages (including the ones of my research site), I had accumulated many questions.

During twelve months of graduate courses, as a master's student at the University of

Florida, I learned a set of concepts such as development, peasant, conservation.

Therefore, during the Summer of 1996 as a graduate student in fieldwork, I organized the

following research questions, which represented a first effort in focusing my research

object:

1. Can the so-called "povo da ro9a" still be conceptualized as peasants, after these
years of being submitted to "Development policies"?

2. How do they survive through their "peasant social system," which includes
unique perceptions of development and conservation, in a context of antagonistic
social relations with the larger society?

3. Are there changes in their "social system of survival" that include political
positioning?

4. Are there changes in their perceptions of development and conservation in this
process of struggling with the larger society?


These questions also were present in many conversations among the subjects of my

research. "As coisas vao mudando mode o movimento de hoje em dia ... se di de

entender." (Things are changing because of the movement of nowadays .. if one can

understand it dona Lindalva). "Essa vida 6 uma luta, mirmA, sei o que ha de se fazer."

(This life is a struggle, my sister, I don't know what we should do dona Cel6). "Pro

pessoal da roga, o meio de vida que tinha era esse, num tendo ... (To the people of

roga, this (access to land) was the way of life, if it is gone ... ? seu Iramaro). Because

circumstances of my personal life sent me back to academia, these are the research









questions I intend to examine in this thesis. To make clear what my thesis is about, its

objectives, means, and expected results in answering my research questions, I set four

other questions as guidelines for my entire work.

The initial question is "What is my thesis (argument)?" First, that the social group

on which I am focusing, who live in the denominated rural area of the Mearim Valley, can

be conceptualized as peasants, having a unique social identity and system of survival, the

"peasant social system of survival," which includes specific perceptions of development

and conservation. In addition, I want to explain that in being submitted to an antagonistic

social relation with the larger society, the peasant system allows and drives internal

differentiations. I argue that "povo da roga" can differentiate themselves by assuming

different political positions. There are situations in which people can opt to integrate a

political identity to their social identity as peasants in their struggles for changes in social

relations, seeking their rights as citizens of the state. Finally, I want to argue that in this

process, there are changes in their perceptions of development and conservation, although

they maintain their distinct peasant identity.

The second question, "Why do I want to defend such a thesis?" has two aspects:

first, throughout history, the so-called "povo da roca" has given significant contributions

to economic development and environmental conservation for Brazilian society. As a

social group they have managed to do this while maintaining their own agency in dealing

with their "peasant social system of survival." However, these contributions have

happened through unfair social relations with the larger society. My argument is that,

currently, these social relations are directed by the Brazilian state through a set of notions,









rules, and practices aiming at modernization, imposed by industrialized countries, self-

denominated as developed countries, to modernize countries denominated by them as

developing or underdeveloped countries, the so-called "Development Policy." Such a state

of affairs is eroding "povo da roga's" chances of physical and social survival, negating

their peasant identity, and their rights as citizens of the State. This situation leads "povo da

roga" to assume a political identity, attempting to achieve a better living and their rights as

citizens. The second aspect is related to the Brazilian state, which recognizes them as

belonging to Brazilian society, having rights and obligations regarding development and

conservation among others, but does not consider their different perceptions and practices

towards resources. Showing that this view, which supports most of the public policies, is

against peasants' rights as citizens of the State, I want to contribute to their political

struggles for changes in unfair social relations with the larger society.

"How can I analyze that?" is the third question I answer in two steps. First, by

identifying and examining "povo da roga's" symbols and systems of economic production

and social reproduction, I intend to explain the meaning of peasant social identity and the

"peasant social system of survival" in the Mearim Valley, which includes specific

perceptions of development and conservation. In a second step, I analyze the process of

internal differentiation regarding their political positioning. If I identify collective political

identities intended to provoke changes in their social relations while maintaining their

social identity as peasants, I can consider that "povo da roga" can integrate both social and

political identities. In this integration, I discuss some social aspects involving types of

strategies adopted to fulfil household requirements, types of labor relations, and political









positioning, which affect the way changes occur. I also examine some experiences which

provide fertile ground for political positioning: gender relations, access to social welfare,

and access to public investments. I analyze the fact that they manage recognition by the

state by assuming a political identity, seeking to provoke social changes, including changes

in perceptions of development and conservation.

"What are the expected implications of my thesis?" I intend to offer a theoretical

approach in understanding "povo da roga's" experiences in the Mearim Valley, but which

also can be a conceptual contribution in understanding other peasant groups. Additionally,

I expect to produce knowledge applicable to conservation and economic development

projects, respecting the "peasant social system of survival."

Once the objectives and guidelines of my thesis have been established, I go on in

this introductory chapter to reproduce my view of the two main debates in which I believe

my thesis is inserted: "Campesinista vs. descampesinista" debate and "What is

Development?" debate. They are important debates for my thesis because while

international and Brazilian development policies are trying to transform "povo da roga"

from underdeveloped into developed beings, scholars are analyzing this process as a

possible "descampesinization," or the loss of peasant identity and their "peasant social

system of survival."

What do the subjects of my research think about these? To situate my thesis within

these two debates, I reproduce here some statements that show the problematic of the

peasantry in dealing with the process of development and/ or "descampesinization."

According to one of my interviewees, "The povo da roga means mainly to have land to










work, right? ... this is the meio de vida (way of life) ... Without land, we cannot work

freely" (Joao da Rosa). Access to land and freedom to organize their own labor are the

basic foundation of the "povo da roga" identity, because these make possible the "meio de

vida", or "the peasant social system of survival." Because Brazilian state's "Development

policies" resulted in wealth, power, and land concentration, as a consequence, "povo da

roga" have increasingly been deprived of access to land and freedom to organize their own

labor. Are the "povo da roga" losing their identity, entering in the "descampesinization"

process? This is the question impelling the two debates that I present next.


Main Debates


"Campesinista-descampesinista" debate

The subjects of my research live in villages where most of them experienced

agrarian conflicts, recovered their rights over the land, and are currently dealing with

development projects related to the Land Reform Program, the main governmental

investment involving peasants in the Mearim Valley. I also interviewed people who did not

participate in such a process of agrarian conflict, but have been affected by the Land

Reform program. Intending to understand peasants' perceptions of development and

conservation and their changes, I need to understand what is development, and how it

affects "povo da roga". Are they leaving their peasant "meio de vida"? Are they

maintaining their peasant identity in dealing with development actions?

Development projects, either by governmental or non-governmental agencies, are

the most important tools and investments in dealing with rural poverty in the Brazilian










work, right? ... this is the meio de vida (way of life) ... Without land, we cannot work

freely" (Joao da Rosa). Access to land and freedom to organize their own labor are the

basic foundation of the "povo da roga" identity, because these make possible the "meio de

vida", or "the peasant social system of survival." Because Brazilian state's "Development

policies" resulted in wealth, power, and land concentration, as a consequence, "povo da

roga" have increasingly been deprived of access to land and freedom to organize their own

labor. Are the "povo da roga" losing their identity, entering in the "descampesinization"

process? This is the question impelling the two debates that I present next.


Main Debates


"Campesinista-descampesinista" debate

The subjects of my research live in villages where most of them experienced

agrarian conflicts, recovered their rights over the land, and are currently dealing with

development projects related to the Land Reform Program, the main governmental

investment involving peasants in the Mearim Valley. I also interviewed people who did not

participate in such a process of agrarian conflict, but have been affected by the Land

Reform program. Intending to understand peasants' perceptions of development and

conservation and their changes, I need to understand what is development, and how it

affects "povo da roga". Are they leaving their peasant "meio de vida"? Are they

maintaining their peasant identity in dealing with development actions?

Development projects, either by governmental or non-governmental agencies, are

the most important tools and investments in dealing with rural poverty in the Brazilian








8

Amazon. There are significant implications for development projects' aims and procedures

due to the way targeted people are categorized. Although in the academic arena the rural

people targeted by these projects have been categorized as peasants by anthropologists,

having therefore a specific culture and economy, which confers on them a unique social

relation with the larger society, development agents and conservationists in general do not

operate on this basis. Instead, these same people, who are designated by them as rural

workers or small producers, are treated as beneficiaries, clients, or participants of projects,

which attempt to promote them from an underdeveloped to a developed condition in a

modem world. Development agents assume that "povo da roga" share the same values and

goals as mainstream Brazilian culture and capitalist economy.

However, after half a century of development actions affecting these people, poor

results have led development practitioners, governments, scholars, rural leaders, and

politicians to an updated debate about their validity and feasibility. More recent

approaches, rooted in conceptual issues such as sustainable development or more

practical ones such as participatory appraisals now underway, also have been the object of

debate.

Additionally, as rural people have been increasingly affected by development

actions, researchers in the academic sphere have engaged in the so-called "campesinista-

descampesinista" debate. And among "campesinistas," some anthropologists are revising

and even reconceptualizing the peasant category. The "campesinista-descampesinista"

debate is related to whether economic differentiation among peasants will lead to the

proletarization of the majority, while a few of them will become capitalist entrepreneurs.










On one hand, "descampesinista" scholars affirm that increasing commoditization of rural

production and increasing constraints to peasant modes of production will make them

dependent on wage labor, which in their point of view, by definition, is a clear sign of the

proletarization process and establishment of capitalism. On the other hand,

"campesinistas" argue that the nature of underdevelopment in peripheral capitalist

countries will not allow a complete process of proletarization. On the contrary, peasants

provide cheap labor and cheap products, which are essential for peripheral capitalism

existence. Yet, the fact that they are selling wage labor is rather peasants' new strategy to

maintain their household economy (Deere 1990:1-2).

Such a debate is important to my thesis because I observed situations in which

peasants worked for wage labor and, at the same time, provided me with strong evidences

for my arguments as a "campesinista." The debate is also important because most of the

development projects evolving in my research site are operating based on

"descampesinista" arguments.

Among "campesinistas," recent works from authors such as Carmen Diana Deere,

Alain de Janvry, and William Rosenberry, have presented important contributions and

challenges to the classical peasant concept elaborated by A.C. Chayanov in the beginning

of the century, and lately, in the post-war, by Eric Wolf, Theodor Shanin, and James

Scott, among others. I summarize here some of these authors' main ideas about the

peasant concept and its relation to economic differentiation and consequent social

changes.










Chayanov's theory of peasant farm organization can be summarized by six main

issues: 1. A peasant farm is a unit in which entrepreneur and worker are the same

individual; therefore, benefits of the former are balanced by the losses of the latter; 2.

Because of land scarcity, consumption needs, and unemployed labor force, peasant

priorities measure his/her needs as a worker, rather than as an entrepreneur; 3. Peasants

defer net profit when employment of their labor force is at risk; 4. Peasants as

entrepreneurs, at risk of negative income from their farms, can sell labor force to others'

undertakings; 5. Peasants serve as a reserve of labor force, in some circumstances; 6. The

amount of peasant production affects the degree of their self-exploitation, because the

peasant household is a unit of production and a unit of consumption simultaneously.

Rather than a sign of the elimination of the peasantry or social class differentiation,

Chayanov perceived differentiation among peasants more in terms of demographic causes

and as part of the very nature of the peasant farm (1986: 39-41, 243-245).

Shanin categorizes peasants "as those small agricultural producers who, with the

help of simple equipment and the labor of their families, produce mainly for their own

consumption and for the fulfilment of obligations to the holders of political and economic

power" (1990:24). Instead of viewing peasants as a backward branch of agriculturalists,

and these as a branch of industry, Shanin viewed peasants as a type of society. Such a

society, whose units of social relations would be the peasant family farm and peasant

village community, is based on a non-structural dynamism. These features made peasantry

a world wide stable and independent "small producers' society," although in periods of

crises, peasants need to lower consumption or withdraw from market relations. For










Shanin, who also assumed hierarchical subgroups among peasants, the cut-off line for

belonging to the peasantry is the use of land through family farming (1990:61).

James Scott conveyed the different rationality of the peasants as compared to the

capitalist rationality. The author theorizes a peasant "moral economy," in which, more

than net profit, they opt for risk avoidance, adopting a "subsistence ethic" and establishing

criteria for a norm he called "safety-first" (Scott 1976: 19, 28). Scott also viewed some

different responses to external forces according to the characteristics of different types of

peasant household, in terms of land, income, and labor force availability. Beyond these

internal differentiations, he presents as possibilities for changes: rebellions, and alternatives

to these such as migration, banditry, state patronage, and other marginal opportunities. He

considers such alternatives to rebellions as either individual undertakings or of temporary

character or yet emergent forms ofproletarization, that is, the loss of their peasant

identity. According to him, when a village's economy is more vulnerable to an economic

change in the urban sector than to changes in harvests or crop prices, ... it does not

seem justifiable any longer to speak of peasant politics, for the political and economic life

of such villages has more in common with that of the proletariat, or rather the lumpen-

proletariat, than with that of peasantry" (1976: 214).

Eric Wolf, in explaining social changes, avoided the term "moral economy" as

referring to peasant economy because he believes it reduces culture to values, and values

to morality. According to him, reducing social changes to a mere function of peasants'

values would be to attribute a culture-free rationality to them (1983:327-328). In his

conceptualization of the peasantry, Wolf highlighted two important controversies: 1) there










is a "dialectical interpenetration" involving social behavior and cultural symbols. That is

why his concept of Closed Corporate Peasant Community is constructed based on a

processuall understanding of economic and political history"; and 2) regarding social

changes, "behavior and conceptual minding are intrinsically affected by structural

determinants of economy and polity, rather than being a result of individual decision

making, or timeless structures of the mind" (1983: 327). However, I would point out that,

although his peasant conceptualization looks at structural relationships involving

economy, politics, and culture, instead of just at fixed cultural elements, the way he looks

at such relations, in my view, is defined by specific and in some sense restrictive

connections between peasants, market and state.

In sum, the great contribution of the authors mentioned was to build a framework

differentiating peasant and capitalist economies and societies. However, in one perspective

or another, these authors conceptualized peasantry as a category according to relations to

land, occupational and productive approach, physical dwelling, fixed kinds of connections

to market and larger society, and strict economic behavior as determinant criteria, leaving

little room for their human agency in acting as social and political beings, and establishing

new strategies. This is what the following authors intended to add in the process of

understanding the peasantry.

Carmen Deere departed from a distinction between fundamental and subsumed

class processes to make her point as a "campesinista." Fundamental class process is a class

relation between a) producers of both labor and surplus labor and b) extractors of surplus

labor. Subsumed class process refers to the distribution of these extracted surpluses, as








13

merchants, moneylenders, and landlords do. Deere concluded that peasants can participate

in both processes and still be distinct from proletarians (1990:12-14), because although

some members of the peasant household sell their labor force, their household as a unit has

access to means of production, being a unit of production and consumption, as well as a

unit of reproduction of labor force (1990:265). She also differentiates patron-client

relation from relations between peasant either as seller or as extractor of labor force, and

outsider extractors because of the seasonality of this process and its objective: to satisfy

basic consumption needs to maintain their own peasant unit of production. Another great

contribution of hers was the view of the household as a place of potential internal conflicts

(as in gender relations, for example) and as a place where members of the household who

participate in multiple class relations converge.

More than just adding knowledge to the body of studies about the peasant

concept, in a very recent book, Reconceptualizing the Peasantry, Michael Kearney (1996)

challenged the anthropologists by claiming the end of the peasant concept, viewing such a

concept as a "containment" of these people's agency. What is "containment"? I will give

here a rough analogy, seeking for a common understanding of the term "containment". If

I talk about a traditional Bolivian indigenous woman, the image which comes to one's

thoughts is a tanned woman with long braided hair under a round black hat, colored scarf,

and rounded skirt. Even though one knows this hat is an adoption from the English

engineers who worked at Latino railroads, and the skirts were borrowed from the styles of

Spanish ladies, the image of the indigenous woman still can be an entire picture that

visually expresses her indigenous identity. "Containment" would be to negate her Bolivian








14

indigenous identity because she uses an English originated hat. "Containment" would be to

identify her as a half-Spaniard because she uses such a skirt. Culture can be viewed as the

socially constructed ability to interpret experiences and generate social behavior and

relations. Therefore, culture is the ability to combine English hats and Spanish skirts,

creating a new and unique picture. "Containment" would fragment this picture, negating

the wholeness of the Bolivian cultural identity, if they adopt any unexpected strategy,

imprisoning people in static categories. Such a simplistic example of changes in traits or

visual cultural features can be extrapolated to my discussion about changes in structural

social relations.

Kearney affirms that, to confine peasant identity to a specific and unchangeble way

to produce, or to be exploited, is a "containment" because peasants have their own agency

in combining different strategies as their social, political, economic, and ecological

surroundings are in dynamic changes. He differs from Deere's view of peasants assuming

articulated identities in distinct modes of production engaged in class relations as petty,

capitalist, feudal, and collective (Deere, 1990:270). Kearney reinforces ethnicity as a

concept to better understand people he calls polybians, because categorization according

to class relations would be still a "containment" in a world where transnational migration,

informal markets, and overall economic globalization have blurred class relations and

became more than temporary deviants. According to Kearney, polybian is a social

category which emerges when neatly organized structures, categorizations, and relations

do not function anymore. He says that polybians can share some aspects of a culture,








15

although differing in occupational activities, geographical location, labor relations, etc. and

that this social category is related to "hypertexts" (Kearney 1996:133).

In my interpretation, hypertext, which is a term from post-modernist theory, means

a context in which the prescribed norms, written rules, or assumed conventions have

collapsed. In their substitution, phenomena which are not structurally organized take

place, initiating a chain process which can change an entire perceived reality. For example,

the dilution of geographical international frontiers confusing citizenry, or black markets

defining new currencies can provoke changes in concepts as stable as state and nations.

Such conceptual and practical changes will surely affect, for example, theoretical

explanations based on class relations.

Indeed, studying the Mearim Valley, where economic globalization has affected

even the babaqu economy (an economy involving both extractive activities based on

peasant economy and industries based on capitalist economy), the self-denominated "povo

da roga's" experiences apparently seem deeply immersed in or affected by the chaotic

inter-relation of the so-called underdevelopment (which I discuss in the next section) and

development agents' attempts to deal with it. Therefore, neatly organized structures or

models to explain and represent their realities, such as class relations or fixed

anthropological categories, would in the end reject the "povo da roga" as peasants because

they do not fit in their explanations of the reality.

As a matter of fact, during my field work in the Mearim Valley, I observed that

there was no longer one exclusive main hierarchic structure to explain peasantry. Rather,

there is an unfragmentable web of processes, either viewed as real or invented, related to










cultural, economic, and political aspects. The reality I intend to analyze and represent is

like interwoven threads in a fabric with such diverse and unique features that to analyze

fragments or just one or two threads or color out of the entire fabric would be

meaningless. Therefore, to explain "povo da roga" only through a productionist approach

or class relations would be "containments".

There is a coincidence between the appearance of development as a policy

proposed by the state and an attention to the "peasant" as an anthropological concept. In

this introduction, therefore, it is still pertinent to discuss how the debate regarding the

peasant concept is connected to the debate regarding development. I will discuss here,

how some of those pre-established anthropological norms to categorize social groups have

become a "containment" and also how some assumptions of the theory of modernization

regarding development have been challenged.

"What is development" debate?

Development agents in the Mearim Valley operate according to the understanding

that development is a process to be applied on poor people in the denominated

underdeveloped regions in order to promote them to a developed condition, meaning

adequate participation in the market economy. Such a condition is measured by

parameters such as economic growth and social indices established by the developers

themselves. Authors such as Arturo Escobar, Gustavo Esteva, Naila Kabeer, David

Korten, Wolfgang Sachs, Celso Furtado4, "world systems," and dependency theorists,


4Celso Furtado, through CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America and the
Caribbean), presented works as Desenvolvimento e Subdesenvolvimento (1964), and
Estados Unidos y Subdesarollo (1971), analyzing Development policies in Brazil.










among many others, have explained and/or criticized development from different

perspectives and with different intentions. However, development has presented a unique

resilience to critiques and negative evidences.

Esteva's view of development can explain its resilience and the connection

between the debate about development and the "campesinista-descampesinista" debate.

According to him, development is literally an American invention, with a precise date of

origin, to make two-thirds of the world believe they are underdeveloped. Promising

"democratic fair dealing" instead of colonial exploitation, on January 20, 1949, President

Truman declared colonialism's death and a new era of Development. Since then, many

phases have passed: from development as purely economic growth, through development

as a cure for communism, lost decade of development, global and distinct (women,

environment, habitat, etc) development, human-centered development, redevelopment,

and recently sustainable development, which Esteva terms "conceived as a strategy for

sustaining 'development', not for supporting the flourishing and enduring of an infinitely

diverse natural and social life" (1992:6, 12-16). All along these expressions, development

has kept its main feature of an "invented" remedy to cure an "invented" condition:

underdevelopment. The resilience of the treatment as well as the disease is explained by

the fact that the treatment is the core condition to maintain the condition of both the

"developed helper" as well as of the "underdeveloped sick."

Of course, Truman was not the first one to talk about development, but he was the

first one to attach to this word the power which created this distinctive and phenomenal

process at the international policy level. To refer to this process, I will use the capitalized










word, Development. Capitalized Development hereafter in this thesis, therefore, will

mean the set of notions and practices, related to modernization theory, imposed by

industrialized countries to modernize countries denominated by them as developing or

underdeveloped countries. When the word is used to mean enhancement, evolving over

time, an alternative definition to be discussed below, it will be written decapitalized.

Although I believe each very local social group uniquely conceptualizes what

development is, using diverse words for this concept related to enhancement, in order to

have a common understanding throughout this thesis, decapitalized development

approaches Korten's (1990:67) definition: "development is a process by which the

members of a society (or social group inserted in larger societies) increase their personal

and institutional capacities to mobilize and manage resources to produce sustainable and

justly distributed improvements in their quality of life consistent with their own

aspirations."

Having established the distinction between capitalized Development and

decapitalized development, I want to connect it to the first debate. What is the relation

between Development as a public policy and the "campesinista-descampesinista" debate?

Still according to Esteva, the invention of developed and underdeveloped countries, was

possible due to the reduction of diverse systems of values to exclusive market economic

values.

Establishing economic value requires the disvaluing of all other forms of social
existence. Disvalue transmogrifies skills into lacks, commons into resources, men
and women into commodified labor, tradition into burden, wisdom into ignorance,
autonomy into dependency. It transmogrifies people's autonomous activities
embodying wants, skills, hopes and interactions with one another, and with the










environment, into needs whose satisfaction requires the mediation of the market.
(Esteva 1992:18)


This statement is related to the core of the "campesinista-descampesinista" debate.

"Descampesinistas" are exclusively looking at economic values to declare peasants in or

out of their existence as peasants. To be a proletarian or a peasant is a matter of receiving

or not receiving an economic value named the wage. No matter what other values they

maintain or create, they will be transported to another category. Declared

"descampesinistas" or Development agents operating from "descampesinista" assumptions

are "containing" a social group by negating them their identity and their different forms of

accessing and using resources, imposing economics as the only cut-off line to belong to

peasantry. In my studies, I intend to look at wage as related to many values other than

solely economic.

To illustrate this point and to connect both debates to my thesis focus, I reproduce

here the main ideas of a chapter titled "Point IV of President Truman's Program and the

Babaqu Institute" from the book "History of the Commerce of Maranhao" (facsimile in

1993). This chapter is about how, in 1951, Brazilian politicians and entrepreneurs in

Maranhao mobilized themselves to solve "the problem ofbabagu" and its industrialization,

given the opportunity of "point VI of the program for technical assistance, which the

United States government is implementing in economically little Developed countries"

(Meirelles 1993:115). The consequences of this external American policy and its contrast

with the views of local residents are good examples of the imposition of market criteria in

peasants' social groups.










For the so-called "povo da roga" babaqu is seen as a solution: "the relief of the

poor," "the father and the mother of people,""a pot which is always full,""an offering from

nature," or the "last escape of the povo da roga." By contrast, outsider entrepreneurs have

used two concomitant discourses, referring to babagu on the one hand as having strong

strategic potential for Development purposes, while on the other hand citing "the problem

of babacu," which means the dependency on extractivism as the peasant economy basis,

impeding industrial success. Several attempts to both proletarize peasants and to

mechanize extraction failed, demanding help from Truman's Development program to

solve the invented "babagu problem." Supporting Development actions related to

"Truman's Plan", an institute in Texas, the Southwest Research Institute, worked on

several technologies to better exploit babagu, and many awards have been offered for a

machine which could replace manual kernel extraction (Meirelles 1993:117-121). More

than a hundred patents and terms regarding inventions have been issued, yet "the problem

of babagu" still persists.

When the Brazilian government and entrepreneurs mobilized to participate in

Truman's Development propositions involving the exploration of babaqu, to examine "the

problem of babacu," the president of the Brazilian National Council of Economy came to

Maranhdo and stated this discourse:"We need therefore ... to end this divorce between

the man of the city and the man of the countryside, as an imperative of our national

security and the nation's very survival. It is not possible to keep having two Brazils (the

poor underdeveloped rural and the modern urban) in one Brazil" (Meirelles 1993:119).








21

It is my contention that since the beginning of Development actions in the babagu

region, they were intrinsically connected to the elimination of the peasants as a

differentiated social group, through integration into the larger society. My view is that this

integration meant to transform peasants into proletarians in the Brazilian capitalist society

of classes, to more efficiently exploit labor surplus, intensifying power, wealth, and land

concentration. This perspective is confirmed by recent studies by the United Nations

Development Program UNDP, in which Brazil occupies the fifty fifth place in a list of

countries, in terms of fairness in income distribution. According to UNDP, in Brazil, the

richest 10% of the people earn 30 times as much as the poorest 40%, and forty two

million Brazilians live in poverty, that is more than one in every four citizens (United

Nations Development Program, 1996).

The president of the Brazilian National Economic Council in his rhetoric, went

beyond classical anthropologists who categorize peasants as a distinct society, referring to

"two Brazils" or two nations. However, having recognized the difference, he sought to

eliminate it as a very condition to the establishment of Development in Brazil. Since then,

over half a century ago, and despite many changes, Brazil still is not considered a

Developed country, the "problem of babagu" remains unsolved, and peasants are still

different from "the man of the city." My thesis is about how the so-called "povo da roga"

have maintained their peasant identity and the "peasant social system of survival", while

the state has promoted policies which are referred to as the Brazilian process of

Development, and what consequences this has for peasant perceptions of development and

conservation.











Theoretical Framework


Because my research is about change in forms of perceptions and its

representations, and because my subjects' economic, social, and cultural environments are

in such chaos and in even faster movement, selecting an adequate theoretical approach and

reliable sources of information became essential to my research. Were systematized

quantitative data from government agents the best sources about economic results to

analyze peasants' perception of development? Would scattered qualitative data from

different informants conduct me to consistent findings? Listening, viewing, and feeling

processes led me so many times to contradictory results that I started to doubt the basis

for my ear, eye, and soul perspectives and the basis to which all the information converged

back: my rational framework. Soon I realized that many times my subjects were operating

in a different framework, although we shared the same language. How could I, with a

diverse rationality from my subjects, theorize about their identities, ethnicity, and changes

in their perceptions?


Discourse-Centered Approach as Related to Social Relations Theory


I chose the discourse-centered approach as related to social relations theory as the

best way to work on my inquiries. Discourse-Centered approach is based on the idea that

the subjects are the best interpreters of themselves and that well-prepared ethnographers

can produce accurate analysis and theories based on their recorded interpretations. The

socially contextualized discourses of the interviewees build the explanatory body of their











Theoretical Framework


Because my research is about change in forms of perceptions and its

representations, and because my subjects' economic, social, and cultural environments are

in such chaos and in even faster movement, selecting an adequate theoretical approach and

reliable sources of information became essential to my research. Were systematized

quantitative data from government agents the best sources about economic results to

analyze peasants' perception of development? Would scattered qualitative data from

different informants conduct me to consistent findings? Listening, viewing, and feeling

processes led me so many times to contradictory results that I started to doubt the basis

for my ear, eye, and soul perspectives and the basis to which all the information converged

back: my rational framework. Soon I realized that many times my subjects were operating

in a different framework, although we shared the same language. How could I, with a

diverse rationality from my subjects, theorize about their identities, ethnicity, and changes

in their perceptions?


Discourse-Centered Approach as Related to Social Relations Theory


I chose the discourse-centered approach as related to social relations theory as the

best way to work on my inquiries. Discourse-Centered approach is based on the idea that

the subjects are the best interpreters of themselves and that well-prepared ethnographers

can produce accurate analysis and theories based on their recorded interpretations. The

socially contextualized discourses of the interviewees build the explanatory body of their










reality or, rather, their perception of the reality. Although I analyze their interpretations

and exercise a kind of filtration, methodological techniques help to position such re-

interpretation.

In this way, the categories I use for my analysis are not necessarily given by prior

theories, although many of them coincide with classical anthropological categorization.

Rather, I made an effort to divest myself of preconceived categories, relations, and

structural hierarchies, and waited to acquire them from my interviewees' discourses, which

implied speech, silences, and body language, in addition to my training to perceive

differences between answers of the type "what-she-wants-to-hear" and the type "what-I-

want-her-to-understand."

Discourse-Centered approach as related to social relations theory seeks to gain and

produce knowledge through the expressions of subjects not only as individuals, but also as

members of social groups, who interact among themselves and with the larger society

through historically constructed social relations. In the case of the so-called "povo da

roga," their social group is positioned in a larger society of classes, therefore, meaning

relations between social classes submitted to the Brazilian state.

The discourse-centered approach implies that economic, cultural, and other

aspects of their lives are embedded intrinsically in their social fabric and are not exclusively

determinants in themselves. So, in my arguments, culture for example is not only the set of

traditions or norms linearly transmitted from one generation to another, but it is inherently

connected with all other aspects, which as researchers, we often fragment for analytical

purposes. In this sense, culture can be viewed as "the knowledge people use to interpret








24

their [individual and social] experiences and generate social behavior" (Spradley 1980:6).

People interpret their experiences either in their daily livelihood or towards economic or

political aspects regarding their connection to the larger society, and they can generate

new social relations. I do not advocate therefore, a fixed peasant culture, using it as a

criterion to state who are peasants or who are not. In the same way, peasant economy is

viewed in this thesis as a component of the peasant social system of survival, and not as a

clear-cut criterion.

Therefore, because I want to understand how their perceptions are changing as

they have been struggling for changes in social relations, I need to focus on their

discourses in the context of these social relations, internal to their social group and

between them and the larger society. By using such a theoretical framework, it is

important to clarify now the distinction between theoretical concepts (which I use in my

explanation) and terms which they use in their discourses. I do this through the

understanding of "Position of Enunciation" theory.


Position of Enunciation


This theoretical approach is relevant to my thesis because the subjects of my

research, in their discourses, do not identify themselves as peasants or "camponeses," in

Portuguese. Among themselves or in informal conversations, they use the term "povo da

roga," as self-denomination. In my point of view, the closest translation of"povo da roga"

would be: the people who practice slash-and-burn cultivation within the forests, through

family labor. However, this apparently minimal step of translating is, certainly and deeply,








25
a reduction of the full meaning of those words, because "roga" is not just a physical place

where they set up their crops. It is a symbol which gives meaning for their own self-

identification. Among other things, "roga" is also an expression of the dynamic system

driving social relations within a peasant household, among households, and between

households and the larger society. Through my eyes I could only perceive the physical

aspect of"roga", but through my interviewees' discourses I could learn about a reality

perceived through the subjects' eyes.

On the other hand, when they speak more formally to outsiders, especially to

Development agents, they represent themselves as "os lavradores" or "os trabalhadores

rurais," or "quebradeiras de coco babacu." My argument is that "povo da roga" is a term

for self-identification, while "quebradeiras de c6co" (nut-cracker women) or "rural

workers" are terms of representation for outsiders. Both terms correspond to the

theoretical concept "peasant." Terms used by the subjects of the research, once analyzed

in contextualized discourses, even translated to another language, are sources which

provide reliable material for analysis, because once conceptualized and theorized, it

acquires power of explanation of the subjects' perceived reality.

To theorize about the social relations expressed in their discourses, I need to

define the position from which I myself as a researcher listened, analyzed, and now write

about peasants. This means that every statement I make in this thesis is related to how my

southeastern Brazilian operating mind perceived discourses spoken in their unique

Portuguese of rural Maranhao, and then translated them into my limited English. We need

to read the results knowing that they came from an author positioned as a student in an








26

American university, an ex-practitioner who worked in these same villages, doing now a

three-month research period.

Also, I need to define the position from which the interviewees self-define

themselves and represent themselves to the outsiders. Of course the discourses they stated

to me are different either from those they speak to themselves or to a completely foreign

stranger. Additionally, discourses vary according to temporal, situational, and spatial

positions. Interviews taken in meeting places are different from those taken in work

places. Positions are related to gender, age, marital status, and many other variables which

the researcher needs to accurately select as significant for the research purposes.

Drawing upon Stuart Hall's idea of "positions of enunciation" (1994:392), the

recognition of such positions relativizes the statements, either those of the researcher or

those of the subjects themselves, because in positioning the discourses, one can see their

specific temporality and spatiality. The discourse-centered approach requires an analysis of

people's discourses in a given position as an integral part of a context, in which the

causes which led to such an expression, for example how a question was set up or who

asked the question, are relevant to the analysis.

In addition to aspects of time and place, the interactional processes going on in the

social, cultural, and natural environments in which the discourses were stated are relevant

to the analysis. Therefore, we can have different meanings for the same words expressed

in a depleted environment as compared to a resource abundant environment. For example,










the word "precisao" (literally translated as necessities5) in a discourse referring to their

first years of peasant economy establishment holds a whole universe of understandings,

which differ from the word "precisao" in their current context where, surrounded by

landlords' pastures, they need to work for wages to supply their necessities. "Precisao," in

this sense, is not only a 'folk term' (Spradley 1980:89-91) that can be "translated" into

academic terms, like in a dictionary, but once understood in a contextualized discourse,

can become the basis for analyzing whole systems and processes.

One of the interviewees, as I asked about what the word development meant to

her, answered me: "Development is the road, but now we have the road, and we do not

have anything to carry on this road .. they (nut-cracker women) do this extractivee

activities) "mode a precisao" (due to their necessities). The word "precisao" in this

discourse needs to be interpreted according to a historical time, geographical and

ecological place, and other aspects that define the position of the speaker. Figure 1.1.

shows a diagram representing the positions from which the interviewees state their

enunciations.

In my model of representation, my concepts as a researcher are not fixed, nor are

my informants' statements: the superposed geometric figures intend to mean chronological

and physical mobility.





5 Precisao is a complex category, with multiple meanings. Precisao can mean a physiological
function, or a daily necessity as food purchase, but also an unpredicted emergence. It can
be a daily elementary need or an essential matter. This is one of the words which assume
social and political meanings.





















Yeas f ecet ccpaionYersundr evlomen pliie


Term of use
Self -identification
"Povo da roca"

Precisio

Lack of oads


Position of enunciation

Forests and land as abundant resources


STerm nfI. If
Self-identification Terms of representation
"Povo da ropa" "Quebradeiras de coco"
S-- ---. "Rural workers"
Precisio
Lack of production to
carry on loads

Position of enunciation

Forests and land as scarce resources


PEASANT SOCIAL GROUP


'"Peasant"

I4- Theortical( (
S conccpl .



Position of research


Preciio: I Precisso:
caused h lack ot
Developmcnl Development
Anthropologist development
SPlanner

Position of audience


BRAZILIAN CAPITALISTT LARGER SOCIETY


Figure 1.1: Scheme representing "positions of enunciation," relation between terms
of use in interviewees' discourses and concepts in theoretical analysis.


Years of recent occupation


Years under Development policies










Also, the model intends to show differentiation in terms of audience. In the

example shown, the same discourse can have different interpretations according to the

position of the speaker and the position of the listener. In my example, "precisdo" can be

understood as "poverty, underdevelopment, necessity of Development" by a Development

agent and as "environmental and social disruption due to interference by Development

actions" by an anthropologist.

Recognizing these positions means acknowledging also that my description and

analysis of their identity, for example, are not identical to the persons I am writing about.

Rather, they are representations of their identities in a context, place, time, ecological, and

political condition, those which I can perceive from my position. In my conceptualization

therefore, as a point of departure, identity could be considered as the concept individuals

use to define themselves as belonging to a social group. However, it is not a frozen

concept that builds a fixed category, but rather a construction in permanent evolution,

driven by individuals' agency, influenced by the social relations internal to the peasant

social group, and also by the relations between them and the larger society. Therefore,

since peasant as a social identity expressed by their discourses is evolving over time as

their social relations have changed, my conceptualization of peasantry will be also in

constant construction and re-construction. That is why I chose discourse-centered as

related to social relations as my theoretical approach, and ethnographic field techniques as

my method of data collection. I describe next the methodology I applied in my fieldwork.

The analytical methods will be described in each related chapter.












Methodology



According to Spradley (1980:26-33), most social science research follows a linear

sequence, which can be summarized according to the steps: 1. Define a research problem;

2. Formulate hypotheses; 3. Make operational definitions; 4. Design a research instrument;

5. Gather the data; 6. Analyze the data; 7. Draw conclusions; and 8. Report the results.

Ethnographic research, however, does not follow this linear design. Rather,

Spradley proposes a cyclical design shown in Figure 1.2.





Collecting
ethnographic
data
Analyzing
ethnographic
questions
Making an
Selecting an ethnographic
ethnographic record
project

Writing Analyzing
an ethnography ethnographic
data







Figure 1.2: Ethnographic research cycle
Source: Spradley (1980)




Once I selected my ethnographic project, in my fieldwork, I was inspired by

Spradley's critique, and began to design my research as a web in which discourses and








31

practices should be traced and connected in a social fabric. During this process, I utilized

the following field techniques to grasp emic (from the point of view of the insiders of a

cultural group) meanings and perspectives: ethnographic interviews, participant

observation, photographic exercises, recording of unstructured dialogues, field journal,

interviewees' profiles, and pencil drawings. To get some etic (from the point of view of the

outsiders of a cultural group) perspectives, I interviewed people and collected written

official and non-official data in governmental and non-governmental institutions. I also

applied structured questionnaires for quantitative data about socio-economic variables.

Here, I will describe and justify some techniques for field data collection.


Field Techniques


Ethnographic interviews

This is a technique that seems much like a friendly conversation, but seeks to

objectively elicit ethnographic data, which should be recorded. As I selected a topic-

oriented mode of ethnography (my topic is perceptions of development and conservation),

I usually started my interviews with a "grand-tour" question. This is a type of broad

question which allows the interviewee himself/herself to conduct the interviewing process.

For example, I asked: "how is life going here?" Almost all answers, from men and women

as well, ended up by relating life to their "rocas," therefore, I narrowed my grand-tour

question to "how are the rogas going here?". Answers varied, but consistent themes and

references to environmental issues such as "a terra esta ficando fraca" (land is weakening)

or "o mato esti pouco" (forests are becoming scarce) were frequent. Also, development








31

practices should be traced and connected in a social fabric. During this process, I utilized

the following field techniques to grasp emic (from the point of view of the insiders of a

cultural group) meanings and perspectives: ethnographic interviews, participant

observation, photographic exercises, recording of unstructured dialogues, field journal,

interviewees' profiles, and pencil drawings. To get some etic (from the point of view of the

outsiders of a cultural group) perspectives, I interviewed people and collected written

official and non-official data in governmental and non-governmental institutions. I also

applied structured questionnaires for quantitative data about socio-economic variables.

Here, I will describe and justify some techniques for field data collection.


Field Techniques


Ethnographic interviews

This is a technique that seems much like a friendly conversation, but seeks to

objectively elicit ethnographic data, which should be recorded. As I selected a topic-

oriented mode of ethnography (my topic is perceptions of development and conservation),

I usually started my interviews with a "grand-tour" question. This is a type of broad

question which allows the interviewee himself/herself to conduct the interviewing process.

For example, I asked: "how is life going here?" Almost all answers, from men and women

as well, ended up by relating life to their "rocas," therefore, I narrowed my grand-tour

question to "how are the rogas going here?". Answers varied, but consistent themes and

references to environmental issues such as "a terra esta ficando fraca" (land is weakening)

or "o mato esti pouco" (forests are becoming scarce) were frequent. Also, development









issues came out in discourses such as "sem recurso, a terra ndo assegura esse tanto de

gente" (without financial support, the land cannot handle such a lot of people) and "nunca

vi projeto gerar fartura" (I never saw development projects create abundance). Such

themes led me to organize my mini-tour questions towards my topics, and signaled that

they were part of not only my but also their concerns. This coincidence of researcher's

and interviewees' concerns is discussed in the book Doing Critical Ethnographies

(Thomas 1993).

Mini-tour questions are the ones which allow the researcher to narrow her/ his

ethnographic questions to a research focus. Other kinds of ethnographic questions which

follow this process of determining and working on the focus of inquiry are: descriptive,

structural, verification, and contrast questions. I interviewed 57 major informants,

transcribed integrally 43 interviews in Portuguese, and translated into English some

excerpts of questions and answers. All of them were integrated in the participant

observation technique, in a feed-back process.

Participant observation

Participant observation was the basis by which ethnographic interviews

approached peasants' discourses. According to Spradley, ethnography is the

understanding and description of a culture through the insiders' eyes (1979:9-10). To

write an ethnography for my thesis, I did 57 ethnographic interviews with 32 women and

25 men, most of them while participating in harvesting, babaqu breaking, and evening

conversations. Thirty five of the interviewees have participated in development projects









and 22 have not. Statements of both sets of informants were contextualized by my

participant observation.

As a technique, participant observation cannot be disaggregated from other

techniques. For example, during my ethnographic interview recordings, diverse sounds

besides the interviewees' voices were registered. Strange electronic sounds from

contraband clocks from Paraguay, or chickens cackling in living rooms were the frequent

soundback of my tapes. Participant observation transforms what would be only sound

interference into meaningful insights.

Observing while taking part in people's activities, I learned the significance of

having a variety of outsider merchants selling electronic goods, medicines, used and new

clothes, etc., not only in terms of how much they drain from resources that Development

agents think should be re-invested in Development, but also how much their merchandise,

many from informal international markets, affected prestige and other social relations in

these small villages. Participant observation also allowed me to understand my "poultry"

interference, as I learned about the connection between social relations among women,

and chicken breeding.

Participant observation is also important for building accurate informant profiles,

field journals and broadening visual data from photographic exercises. After I received

back my developed films, I needed to consult my field journal where my participant

observation was registered and give ethnographic meaning to the images.










Photographic exercises

Like the recorder, a camera was necessary to capture ethnographic details for later

analysis. In this example, I illustrate my process of rapport building, before starting an

ethnographic interview.

Francisca Sergio, mother of 3 children, is a single woman head of household, as

shown in Figure 1.3. As she does not participate in projects, I barely remembered her

name, but she accepted me to work with her for a day. Although she has a man who

"walks for her," that is, a lover man who is committed enough to slash, burn, and plant a

"roga" for her, she needs to work very hard to weed, harvest, and transport its production

by herself and her children's labor. As they say, the important thing is not to "brocar"

(slash or clear the lot), but to take care of the crops. Such demand for labor at "roga" and

babaqu breaking, ends up in restrictions for her two-room house.

Usually, the commonest furniture in most of the houses is a "bilheira" (regionally

traditional piece of woody furniture to support the water filter or pot, and some aluminum

cups). In her case, showing her bad financial condition, the pots are placed in a block of

clay hidden by a piece of black plastic, while the shining cups are balanced on a piece of

wood, leaning against a wall covered by magazine pages and Catholic saint pictures. She

seemed pleased that I asked for a photo, but assumed a very rigid posture for a pose.

As we can see in Figure 1.4, behind the main entrance door made of babaqu leaves

and tied by a simple vine, the hen's chicks hatched that night. Francisca swept away the

ants who came to eat the rest of the eggs and would also kill the chicks. Francisca is

admired for her abilities in chicken breeding.










ffl W-z ;f T .W
0O_-7
r~j^.i i


Figure 1.3. Francisca Sergio

She is a requisited expert in "marcar galinha," a marking technique to cut different
parts of a toe of one of the chicken's feet, without it getting infected. For example, a
chicken without two thirds of the second toe of the right foot is dona Maria's chicken.



































Figure 1.4: Francisca Sergio and her chickens


This allows each woman to know which ones are her chickens, among the 1,243

free chickens circulating in the village, according to the quantitative data I collected. Also,

to avoid bad luck announced when a chicken begins to crow like a rooster, one should

take the chicken's blood and paint a cross with it on the right side of the chicken owner's

door. These lessons opened doors to ask questions about gender relations. Chica herself

has a deep facial scar, that resulted from arguing with the man "who walks for her."









As shown in Figure 1.5, before going to work, she also cared for her pig, whose

meat she would sell for US$1.28 /kilo some days later. With this she would pay some

emergency needs, such as medicines for her daughter.


Figure 1.5: Francisca Sergio and her pig.


Some people did not pay her back at the time they agreed. But she explained to

me that "everyone is different; some want to pay, some not, and that is it." Next to the

two neighbor children, who just decided to quit school for a day, we can see "cuxi," a

shrub with edible leaves. By observing the people who usually come to take its leaves, I

learned about Francisca's social network: "comadre de fogo" (fictive kinship determined









by jumping a fire in specific feast days in June) and "comadre de alma" (fictive kinship

established through the Catholic Church), "mie de parigdo" (the midwife) and "mae de

pegag9o" (a woman who helped to gather the baby) were categories I recorded.

As we agreed the day before, I would go with her to the forest to gather and break

babaqu nuts. She said she would go at 7:30 AM, but her comadre, who would go with us,

appeared only at 9 o'clock. They kept talking, while Francisca finished the house chores,

leaving rice and beans cooking. The work rhythm was very intense, but not regulated by a

clock. Finally, as I show in Figure 1.6, each woman took her machete, a bottle for water,

a sack, a knife, and a basket made of babacu leaves, and left home.


Figure 1.6: Francisca Sergio and her "comadre" going to work.









On the way to work, the women stopped by the school, shown in Figure 1.7,

where I saw them using a "palmatoria" (traditional paddle used to punish slaves, by

beating their open hands) to discipline students.


Figure 1.7: The village's school


Close to thirty children in different grades attended school that day, from about 8

o'clock to 11 o'clock. The best equipped had old ten-page booklets called "Carta de

ABC." The teacher earns sixty five dollars a month. The women made some

recommendations regarding house chores to their children and exchanged news with the

teacher, their "comadre".







40

As we walked one and a half miles, we entered a forest, and they started to gather

the babagu fruits fallen underneath the palms. We walked through the forest, sitting only

when a basket full of fruits was collected. Some immature babaqu fruits spread on the

ground had their water drunk by monkeys, which also carried off some products from

"rogas," leaving scraps throughout the forest. Ants, spike lianas, and a variety of flies

bothered us. While breaking nuts, as shown in Figure 1.8, the women up-dated all issues

going on in the village.


Figure 1.8: Francisca Sergio breaking babacu nuts.







41

Contrasting to her first photo, Francisca is relaxed, giving me her interview, while

waiting for her comadre to finish breaking her gathered nuts. It is 4:00 PM, and we have

eaten nothing but a cup of black coffee at 8AM. I am dizzy, but rapport was established.

Killing lice, we talk about our men, and I begin to explore the meaning of being a single

woman in a peasant village.


Figure 1.9: Francisca Sergio giving an interview.










Pencil Drawings

Another alternative to photographic exercises is pencil drawings. Some situations

demand recording after the fact and a more discrete tool than a camera. A good example

would be my experience when I was working one certain morning for the household of

seu Manoelzinho, 65 years old, and dona Rosa, 70, helping him and his neighbor to

transport his rice from the "tijupa" (a little storage shelter) in the field to a "pai61" (a

storage building) at the homeyard. At noon, dona Rosa had a heart attack. It was decided

to send her to the hospital and, in less than one hour, nine men, coming from different

"rogas," were ready to handle her hammock and hang it, through a "boca de lobo" type of

knot, on a tree trunk. While all but two men ran ahead, the remaining two put the trunk on

their shoulders and assumed a synchronized rhythm of march, which allowed the hammock

to stay quite immobile. They would exchange positions with the men ahead all along the

way (12 km).

After the men departed I drew some details I could not register by photographing.

Dona Rosa was declared dead soon after she entered the hospital. The next three days the

village's routine was completely changed. Although the dry beans were about to drop in

the fields, everybody stopped working. A day and night of vigil allowed people from

different villages to arrive. Drawings and field notes were adequate tools to register both

details of hammocks' knots and the intriguing mixture of good humor and tragedy during

the death, vigil, and funeral in a peasant village.










Structured questionnaires

In my studies, some of my inquiries demanded quantification of socio-economic

variables to understand the context in which some of the discourses were stated.

Therefore, I used a structured questionnaire (see Figure 1.10) with 64 variables regarding

economic and social aspects, statistical analysis of which I discuss in the related chapter.

However, although they were elaborated with participation of local people, and all

measures and most of the terms and relations were suggested by them, I see these results

as representations of only fragments of some aspects of people's lives.

Therefore, I do not intend to make assumptions regarding their perceptions based

on numerical manipulations. Yet, interestingly, these numbers also were essential to

"cleanse" myself from ethnocentric assumptions and to indicate to me some intriguing

points, as we will see in Chapter 3.

I organized these data in a Corel Quattro-pro 7 spread-sheet. Averages,

correlations, and regressions gave me the necessary insights to contextualize some of the

ethnographic statements. I extracted from the spread-sheet some tables and graphics

which appear in some sections.

As discussed in the previous section, the techniques and data are not divorced

from my person. The next section refers to my subjective perspective in using these

techniques in my research methodology.











ASS EMA Associaeao em Areas de Assentamento no Estedo do Maranhio
LEVANTAMENTO SOIO ECON6 MICO
MUNICIPIO 4 p, -. .A
GLIBIA___ POVOADO O .11.d dLL


J) Nome dos Responsdveis:
Home 4/4(; 0644424 djn ?la. IdadeXJ _Apecido-JAjdLj_
Mullhsr 4rd.~Y~a .~. 2LaLIZ9 dA C~LJ~r~. ldadca A pelido c


2) FilIos Que Aforam. em Case:
.i a 4IaI 1 I,1 1 I 9 110
IDA SUN ('ii
ma~x" A~t ~~ I FJ I I


3) Outros Dependentes:
Idede Sexo Parontrmoo

_- '- ____--


4) Tempo e Local de doradias
Quvnto Tempo MrTa Neste Lugar,_ Anos.
Unde Morava Antes: N n natural dde n n. t. ag- A
Quintas Verxe Miiou do Lugar nee Oltimo 10 Anos: -


Possui Animais? Quanlaos
QB Gado
Burrtos
..L.. Cmenrea
Cavalasln


6) Qual o Tamanho c Situacdo das Rocas
93/9g
Tamsnho (em liohas) 7
A Area 6 Cortnnus (Sim/N1o)__


Possui CriapOes? Quantas
2 Porcos
- Cabras/Ovelbha
Pates
SGalinhe a


Nos ijitimos Trds Anos?

9q /3,


9s/ 96


Tipo. de Terreuo
I A -'A.& f
Ex; baiXan, chapada. enco*ts, earr, vazante, erpoeire gronse ou final

7) Costuma Haver Rofados S-eparados de Outras Pessoas da Familia?
_y- do Quem ? Qoal o Tamanho? ? ------

8) Costuma Empregar Pessoas de Fora da Familia para Trabalhar na Rosa?
J ( ) Sim $1 Nio em que Atividdea 7 .-- ---- --
S Quaunts flilriS Paga por Ano? 6 0

9: Costuma Trabalhar para Outros?
( ) Sim ( Nao. em que Ser vigo .- _
Quantes Diarias por Ano ? em que Meses ? ---- -- "


Figure 1.10. Structured questionnaire
source: ASSEMA (1996)


____~


_ _














JO) Tipo de plantio Realizado na Ultima
( ) 56 Anros Linhba
( ) Arros +. Milho Linbas
( ) Arros + Mandioca Linhsl
f-, Arros + Mand.+ Milho Linhae
I ) Arros + Feijio I inhas
( ) Outro __" LiaLbs

I 1) Variedades Utilizadas:
A rrs t Ia oA -t-
bilho C03 .--
Mandiuca _
Fe;jao L>Ui Aa

1 3) produpdo Colhida no Ano;
Arroa gM Alqueires.
Milboth Sacos 60 Kg.
Feijin ,0 Latae

1 4) Situagdo do Mandiocalo
QuIntos S~oo de Farinho Produzin
Em i9927 '-
Quaia oe Measue de Maior Producao?
fl A16m dq "or o Plautio. Aiuda Possui
Mandiocil? -' Quatas Linha? -

1 6) possui plantios do truleiras


( ) 96 Mandoca Linhas
( ) 56 Milho. Linhin
( ) Mandiocn + Milho Linhas
( ) Feijo Abafado Linhas
(C9 Feijao Lastro 1 Linhu


12) Outros plantios Feitos no Ropa,



pMft ^ w'. ^L Ln t < _


15) Consumo Mensal da Pamilia;
Arros 3. Alqucires
Feijio -&Kg
Farinba _Kg
AGcair fSKg
Caf6 / Kg
OIto Latae
babuo Kg
Querosene _. Litros
:amrne Y Kg
Sal Kg
Pilh s, Uuidadeo


Banana oQ CUore Motnio fO p6s
Larinja 1L- pia Abtcate p6s
maoga 1 pis Onlros Lr lL jI .
Abacaxi h.L iudue re --______ ---
A1aracnoja Z. Cova -

17) possui Areas do pastagem;
*n Linhae. Cercade? Siluas5o Atual _I __- ______

18) Ocupapdo no Extrativismo:
Quantan peissoa do family trabalham com babagu? 3
Quebram a csco prineipulmente: ([4 em c.ae ( ) no mato
Quantos dies da nsmens iao utilindoae no quabra do c6eo? 3_
UlJlizm animal pera transporto do c8oo inteirao? 4 ~
Qu.ntidad& do bahbog quabried por semana: f f__
*!astumn fazer carro de caeca do baba;u7 ..-
Quantas late pr6duz pot mns? 10
Qual o consumo mensal do carrion em sus cau?. 1; latest
Utilizs outros produton do babn~u?
QuT e f f ____________
Data da entreviala: 'l /06 I _.


Figure 1.10. (continued)










Combining my Perspectives as Practitioner and Researcher


Quantitative data for 1988 to 1995 were collected through questionnaires

elaborated by a technical team, of which I was an associate coordinator in a job as a

technical manager for development projects. The objective of the questionnaires was

application for development project purposes. Most of the quantitative and all the

qualitative data, however, were collected by me through research methods in

anthropology and ethnographic field methods, as a student in a master's degree program

in the Tropical Conservation and Development program, in the Center for Latin American

Studies at the University of Florida. The main tool for ethnographic data collection in this

case is the researcher herself. Therefore, my own gender, class, political assumptions,

personality, life history, and present emotions were part of the research construction

(Kleinman and Copp, 1993). The fact that I worked as a development practitioner during

eight and a half years, managing projects funded by non-governmental agencies such as

the Ford Foundation, OXFAM, Inter-american Foundation, Brot fir die Welt, Misereor

and governmental institutions such as Brazilian Institute for Environment Protection in this

same region, gave me a deep concern about people's agency, established specific personal

and professional links, and became part of the data. However, because I was part of the

"invented" Development process, my paths as a practitioner within the villages were quite

different than the ones I acquired as a researcher. As a practitioner, my paths included

only the meeting place, some homes and a few rogas in each of the 42 villages I used to

work with. Whole days in the forest were possible two or three times a year. As a








47

researcher, I interacted with people participating in projects as well as with those who did

not. In two months I did 16 incursions in different sites of the area, as far as 18 km from

the settlements. I will illustrate the importance of combining both practitioner and research

perspectives.

I knew the village of Ludovico, one of the villages in my research site, in 1986,

when a German friar who was helping the villagers in their agrarian struggles introduced

me to them as a volunteer. For my practitioner eyes, they were people who wanted to

invest in development actions to ensure their rights over the land, people whose skin color

or ethnic differences I did not even notice. Since then, I have participated in many

meetings they have "always" held at "the" church, which I took for granted as a

homogeneous participatory place. In 1989 I started to work professionally as a project

manager and they kept using the same place for meetings, which congregated blacks as

well as non-black leaders and other people (I will discuss my findings about black identity

in Chapter 4). In the summer of 1996, however, as an ethnographer, I recorded anguished

statements about racism and discrimination. I learned that less than three generations ago,

the village was divided, with the blacks living on the low side and the whites on the high

side. After dark, blacks would not go to the high side of the village and vice versa. Blacks

were not welcomed by many whites in their dancing parties. Meanwhile, the leader of the

blacks, Roseno Reis owned a statue of a saint, which was placed in the church in the low

side. Years later, a German priest came and a new church was built in the high side.

Roseno got upset, took out his saint, and went away from the village, leaving behind most








48

of his then already settled relatives. They are now in their third generation after blacks and

whites began to intermarry, and racism has become invisible for untrained eyes.

As the shock about my lasting ignorance passed, I realized that blacks were not

fooling me about their participation at the new church, and that I still view, as I did as a

practitioner, "this" church as the place where people, blacks and non-blacks, effectively

chose to hold their meetings. However, as a researcher, I learned about the different

meanings of participation and interaction between human agency and cultural symbols.

The combination of both perspectives led me to invest strongly in participant observation

to grasp my interviewees' emic perspective, understanding why blacks decided to stay and

assume a common path along with other peasants, within the context of their problematic

social relations with the larger society.

As a result of this technique and combined perspectives, I could understand not

only about ethnic differences, but also the meaning of "the 2 o'clock hunger" in a context

shared with those babaqu nutcracker women who have black coffee at 5 or 6 in the

morning and the next meal at 5 o'clock PM. Only when I shared with a crew of men in

wage labor the cold of a night in an open shelter in the middle of the palm forest, could I

approach the burden of the label "male breadwinner" for those exhausted fathers who

could not properly feed their children, but still would pass many more cold nights there in

their thin hammocks. I could learn about their unique sense of humor in dealing with

narrow rules at the village level and the impositive attitudes of us, development

practitioners and researchers, and I could experience the wonderful tiredness after a drum

party.










Most of the answers for my inquiries came from data collected through

ethnographic field methods. However, there were specific questions, in order to set the

context where the discourses were stated, which required quantitative data analysis. I

needed therefore to combine qualitative and quantitative methods.



Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods


Because I chose ethnographic field methods, many factors that in other research in

social science would not have been taken into account became relevant parts of the data.

In sociology, for example, through statistical methods, the objective is to eliminate the

individual character of each informant and researcher, manipulating numbers in order to

reach a sterilized and nonexistent average individual who can represent the social group.

In this method, the more individuals' interference are eliminated, the better the

representation of reality. However, in my point of view, even questions aimed towards

statistical manipulation are still a reflection of the researcher's previous perception of the

other's reality, and the data which fill patterned questionnaires are also each respondent's

perception of their own reality. While these factors are problems to be minimized in some

social sciences, for ethnographers they are relevant pieces of data.

For example, I asked "seu" Inacio Alves to be my survey assistant in one of the

villages, because he already had worked on these questionnaires in previous years. We

discussed the procedures, and he applied 63 questionnaires with 64 socio-economic

variables. One of the questions, question 8, was: "Costuma empregar pessoas de fora da








50

familiar para trabalhar na roga?" (Do you commonly hire people besides the family to work

on roga?). And the next question was "how much do you pay for it?" Most of the answers

for question 8 were "No"; however, most of them answered diverse amounts in the next

question. Instead of following statistical correctness and throwing out both questions, I

learned that "empregar," which has in fact two meanings, to use or to hire, can be

perceived differently by a capitalist agent and by peasant respondents. However, more

important than that, I learned the relevance of the word "empregar" linked to

employment, wage labor, or to hire, as a synonym of forced work and, sometimes,

compared to slavery. I learned how and why sr. Inacio could understand perfectly my

perception during his training, but as he set the question to other people, he could not or

did not want to convince them to answer it in my way. This is because the word

"empregar" has implicit attributes which are against their values such as autonomy, honor

in having freedom to organize their own labor, and common use of resources, among

others.

People indeed paid in cash or engaged days of labor to each other, but they did not

conceive these practices as related to employment or wage labor, or to the word

"empregar". Then I improved my listening, better positioned my interviewees' discourses,

and their distinct perceptions of free labor and wage labor, which are foundations in

understanding their identity.

As I systematized the 118 questionnaires involving 618 people regarding 64 socio-

economic variables, I learned that some variables I believed were correlated in a direct

cause-effect relation, were not confirmed. For example, because of their strong statements










against wage labor as forced work, I had taken for granted that peasants with access to

land in Ludovico would not submit themselves (or would do it in a lesser degree) to wage

labor. Yet my statistical analysis showed that access to land through the Land Reform

program and amount of days in wage labor were not correlated.

However, instead of assuming the results as proof that Land Reform is

insignificant in improving peasants' income or that peasants are already in a process of

proletarization, replacing their "peasant social system of survival" through "roga" with

working for a wage, I combined these findings with my findings through qualitative

techniques. These numbers helped me to understand and contextualize their answers in the

ethnographic interviews. I learned then that they need wages to fund their undertakings in

"rogas," not to substitute them. By interviewing "povo da roga" I learned about many

other variables in their social, cultural, and natural environments which affect the

correlation between access to land and wage labor. However, such variables, whose

intensity cannot always be measured by numbers, acquire meaning just when viewed in a

very integrated fashion, provided by their discourses.

Therefore, analysis of quantitative measurements gave me good indications of the

context and made me aware of many questions taken for granted. However, for my type

of inquiries, for as many fragments of reality as I could measure, it would be still a

fragmented reality, leading to false interpretations.

Regression was also applied on two variables related to size ofroga, because I

wanted some measures to better understand the stated connection among their production

strategies, economic development, and environmental conservation. Results helped me to










visualize some of the physical, economic, and social constraints of the context in which

people's perceptions were stated, through time. Therefore, combining findings from 57

ethnographic interviews and statistical procedures, I built a better frame for my thesis

based on discourse-centered approach.





Chapter Organization


Chapter Descriptions


As this thesis is about changes in peasant perception of development and

conservation, I initially need to present the social group who identify themselves as the

"povo da roga". Therefore, Chapter 2 discusses the "povo da roga" as a peasant social

identity. In its first section I describe how peasant identity was built throughout history,

contrasting literature review with historical narratives from my informants. In the

following section, some symbols and practices, which give meaning to such identity, are

described and analyzed. In the third section I analyze how "povo da roca" can be

conceptualized as peasants. I discuss how the subjects of my research adopting

peasant as a social identity historically built their ethnicity through a "peasant social

system of survival."

In a sequence, Chapter 3 is about peasant perceptions of development and

conservation within the "peasant social system of survival". In the first section, I review

the literature investigating economic and ecological systems in the babagu palm forest










visualize some of the physical, economic, and social constraints of the context in which

people's perceptions were stated, through time. Therefore, combining findings from 57

ethnographic interviews and statistical procedures, I built a better frame for my thesis

based on discourse-centered approach.





Chapter Organization


Chapter Descriptions


As this thesis is about changes in peasant perception of development and

conservation, I initially need to present the social group who identify themselves as the

"povo da roga". Therefore, Chapter 2 discusses the "povo da roga" as a peasant social

identity. In its first section I describe how peasant identity was built throughout history,

contrasting literature review with historical narratives from my informants. In the

following section, some symbols and practices, which give meaning to such identity, are

described and analyzed. In the third section I analyze how "povo da roca" can be

conceptualized as peasants. I discuss how the subjects of my research adopting

peasant as a social identity historically built their ethnicity through a "peasant social

system of survival."

In a sequence, Chapter 3 is about peasant perceptions of development and

conservation within the "peasant social system of survival". In the first section, I review

the literature investigating economic and ecological systems in the babagu palm forest










region. Through the recordings of one day of participant observation, in the second

section, I analyze how the peasant system of production is related to different ecosystems

and how "roga" itself can be viewed as a set of human-driven ecosystems. In this section I

also describe the babaqu breaking process. The next section refers to the integration

between extractive and agricultural activities as economic production and how it is

related to social reproduction. In each step I highlight and analyze the differences between

peasant and capitalist economy. The overall objective of this chapter is to demonstrate that

"povo da roga's" perceptions of conservation and development are intrinsically connected

and are based on the "peasant social system of survival."

Chapter 4 is about internal differentiation within the "povo da roga." Using black

peasant identity as an example, I distinguish social identity and political identity, and

discuss their different expressions. Following, in the next section, through twelve

interviewees' profiles I describe and analyze how "povo da roga," in the same labor

relation and adopting the same strategies regarding mobility, can differentiate themselves,

internally to their social group, by adopting different political positions. In some social

situations, peasants can integrate their social identity with a political identity, searching for

their rights as citizens of the State and for changes in social relations with the larger

society.

In Chapter 5, I argue that social changes are results of both social relations internal

to peasants' social groups and social relations between them and the larger society,

therefore implicitly involving the state. I analyze some experiences of interaction among

"povo da roga" themselves and between them and the State, which provide a fertile









ground for political positioning. I demonstrate that some peasants construct a political

identity because they are struggling for their rights as citizens. This search for their

citizenry can provoke changes in their perceptions of development and conservation,

influencing in a feed-back relation the construction of the assumed peasant political

identity.



Analytical Cycle Design


My analysis and thesis writing, following the same design as my fieldwork

research, present a cyclical path. My findings prescribe a dynamic view of my subjects'

representation and conceptualization. Therefore, although my analysis is conclusive for the

inquiries I set for this thesis, it also preconceives a permanent construction of the so-called

"povo da roga's" social and political identities, demanding new studies, shown in Figure

1.11.
Starting my analytical cycle, in the present chapter, I stated the main research

questions of my thesis: 1. Can the "povo da roga" still be conceptualized as peasants, after

these years submitted to "Development policies"? 2. How do they survive through their

"peasant social system," which includes unique perceptions of development and

conservation, in a context of antagonistic social relations with the larger society? 3. Are

there changes in their "system of survival" that include political positioning? 4. Are there

changes in their perceptions of development and conservation in this process of struggling

for social changes?











Eliciting the research questions raised by
my fieldwork observations and the
studies of the main related
theoretical debates (chapter 1)



Conceptualizing peasant
as a dynamic social and political Conceptualizing peasant
identity, setting new inquiries as a social identity
(Conclusion) (Chapter 2


Identifying changes in perceptions ofamig perceptions of
development and conservation as of
of the construction of a political identity, development and conservation
in seeking their rights as citizens as part of the "peasant social system
of the State. (Chapter 5) ofsurvival" constructing
p their social identity (Chapter 3)


Analyzing internal differentiations within
"povo da roca" in terms of political positioning,.
Demonstrating that "povo da roca" can integrate
social identity with political identity, in searching for
changes in social relations.(Chapter 4)





Figure 1.11: Cyclical analysis design for researching "changes in peasant
perceptions of development and conservation."



Following the circle, I will conceptualize the subjects of my research as peasants,


having a unique social identity and therefore, ethnicity (Chapter 2). I will demonstrate that


this identity is experienced and expressed by a "peasant social system of survival," which

includes specific perceptions of development and conservation (Chapter 3). However, as

peasants are positioned in a larger society, and are in certain ways submitted to the state,

through historically antagonistic social relations, I will show that they differentiate


themselves regarding political position (Chapter 4). Because such a context leads to a

shift, or better said, to an integration of the social plan with a political plan, I will argue

that in some social situations peasants can assume a political identity. Also, through this








56

process of searching for changes in social relations, changes in perceptions of development

and conservation can occur (Chapter 5). By conceptualizing peasantry as having both

social identity and political identity, I will attribute a dynamic character to my analysis.

Although conclusive for the questions I set in the first chapter, I will raise new

questions regarding these dynamic identities. My thesis will demand new inquiries,

because as social relations change, peasants as social agents and political agents will also

change their perceptions and practices, leading me to re-start the cycle.













CHAPTER 2
THE "POVO DA ROCA": IDENTITY AND ETHNICITY



Introduction


In this chapter I examine peasant identity and ethnicity in the Mearim Valley.

One's identity is related to how s/he perceives him or herself and simultaneously how

society perceives him/her. Because how peasants perceive and identify themselves is

affected by the way the larger society perceive, identify, and interact with them, we can

talk about a social identity. I argue that the so-called "povo da roga" can be

conceptualized as peasants, and that peasant identity can be viewed as a social

construction resulting from a conjunction of political, economical, environmental, and

cultural factors affecting, either as incentives or constraints, their human agency in

interacting with the larger society throughout the historical process. In the first section, I

describe the peasantry formation according to written sources and contrast it with my

subjects' narratives according to their oral history. In the second section, I describe and

analyze some of the symbols which give meaning to their peasant identity and ethnicity. In

the last section, I analyze and theorize the significance of peasant identity and ethnicity in

understanding how peasants perceive development and conservation in the Mearim Valley.













CHAPTER 2
THE "POVO DA ROCA": IDENTITY AND ETHNICITY



Introduction


In this chapter I examine peasant identity and ethnicity in the Mearim Valley.

One's identity is related to how s/he perceives him or herself and simultaneously how

society perceives him/her. Because how peasants perceive and identify themselves is

affected by the way the larger society perceive, identify, and interact with them, we can

talk about a social identity. I argue that the so-called "povo da roga" can be

conceptualized as peasants, and that peasant identity can be viewed as a social

construction resulting from a conjunction of political, economical, environmental, and

cultural factors affecting, either as incentives or constraints, their human agency in

interacting with the larger society throughout the historical process. In the first section, I

describe the peasantry formation according to written sources and contrast it with my

subjects' narratives according to their oral history. In the second section, I describe and

analyze some of the symbols which give meaning to their peasant identity and ethnicity. In

the last section, I analyze and theorize the significance of peasant identity and ethnicity in

understanding how peasants perceive development and conservation in the Mearim Valley.













Peasantry Formation in the Mearim Valley


Literature Review


As a point of departure, the formation of the peasantry in the State of Maranhao

could be analyzed historically as the integration, to different degrees, of three distinct

ethnic groups: detribalized indigenous people, descendants of African slaves, and migrants

from northeastern Brazil. However, as the peasantry, as a cohesive social group, was

formed, we should relativize such criteria as geographical origin, ancestry, or race to

define peasant ethnic boundaries. I observed that currently, the subjects of my research,

although referring to their original places or ancestry to explain their past, are eliciting

other dynamic criteria for establishing their ethnic boundaries.

I analyze, therefore, these changes of criteria to define ethnic boundaries to explain

the formation of peasantry. I begin by reviewing some written sources. Beginning in the

17t century, the colonization process expelled several indigenous tribes from the region,

but some indigenous individuals remained in the Mearim Valley and joined the formation

of the peasantry in Maranhao. Later, Africans were brought to the state of Maranhao as

slaves during the second half of the 18" century to work on cotton farms: approximately

1,000 people per year were imported between 1770 and 1804 (Droulers and Maury 1980:

1036). After 1819, when cotton prices began to decrease, or in other situations, when the

sugar plantations began to decay and especially after the abolition of slavery, in 1888













Peasantry Formation in the Mearim Valley


Literature Review


As a point of departure, the formation of the peasantry in the State of Maranhao

could be analyzed historically as the integration, to different degrees, of three distinct

ethnic groups: detribalized indigenous people, descendants of African slaves, and migrants

from northeastern Brazil. However, as the peasantry, as a cohesive social group, was

formed, we should relativize such criteria as geographical origin, ancestry, or race to

define peasant ethnic boundaries. I observed that currently, the subjects of my research,

although referring to their original places or ancestry to explain their past, are eliciting

other dynamic criteria for establishing their ethnic boundaries.

I analyze, therefore, these changes of criteria to define ethnic boundaries to explain

the formation of peasantry. I begin by reviewing some written sources. Beginning in the

17t century, the colonization process expelled several indigenous tribes from the region,

but some indigenous individuals remained in the Mearim Valley and joined the formation

of the peasantry in Maranhao. Later, Africans were brought to the state of Maranhao as

slaves during the second half of the 18" century to work on cotton farms: approximately

1,000 people per year were imported between 1770 and 1804 (Droulers and Maury 1980:

1036). After 1819, when cotton prices began to decrease, or in other situations, when the

sugar plantations began to decay and especially after the abolition of slavery, in 1888










- black people of African descent constituted communities characterized by the

denomination "os pretos" ("the blacks"). They were communities originated from the so-

called "quilombos" (maroon communities) or communities were, after abolition of slavery,

ex-slaves joined by having worked for a common slave-holder, by kinship or, by a

common trajectory. They lived in the denominated "terras de preto." According to

Almeida, "terras de preto" are those lands which were donated, bought or acquired by ex-

slave families, with or without a legal document. There are some cases in which the state

conceded land for these families for services in warfare. The author highlights as a main

characteristic of"terras de preto" the common use of the land (1989:174). Many other

black families and individuals, however, did not stay together in the "terras de preto" but

joined mixed peasant communities along with indigenous descendant individuals and

immigrant peasants from the Northeast.

Migrants began to come to this area in the 19t century, mainly since the 1920s,

from Ceari, Piaui, Pernambuco, and Paraiba, among other states, due to successive

droughts, the failure of the sugar-cane plantation economy, and the search for free access

to land to survive (Almeida and Mourdo 1979:11). The first immigrants, named

"assituantes" (settlers) founded settlements called "centros" (centers), and based on their

social status as "assituantes," organized the arriving families (other immigrant families, ex-

slave descendant families, or individual indians or their descendants).

These three ethnic groups, which were perceived by the interviewees as they

represented their past, formed a common social group, through a system which I called the

"peasant social system of survival," establishing a unique and common social identity. As








60

I stated in the first chapter, throughout their historical antagonistic experiences in social

relations with the larger Brazilian society, "povo da roga" have combined culturally their

own forms of social organization and their agro-extractive system of economic

production, in order to survive physically and as a distinct social group. Peasant social

system of survival is the system resulted from the combination of these historical, cultural,

social, and economic aspects.

Therefore, it is important to distinguish the subjects' representation of their past

(in which they refer to ethnic groups distinguished according to geographical origin,

cultural or racial criteria) from the process of their reproduction as an emergent social

group (in which they refer to boundaries between them and the larger society). My

argument is that, as peasants formed a cohesive social group in order to face antagonistic

social relations with the larger society, criteria such as skin color or place of origin lost

their relevance. To analyze how peasants have maintained themselves as a social group as

they faced Development policies, I need to relativize such criteria.

Development undertakings (capitalized Development as related to the

modernization goals) in the babaqu region started around the 1950s; however, in the

Mearim Valley, these did not greatly affect essential aspects of the peasantry (access to

palm forests and land), until the end of the 1960's and beginning of the 1970s. For a

significant period of time from about the abolition of slavery in 1888 to the 1960s and

1970s, therefore, this emergent peasantry was able to organize its own labor force, having

free access to land and other natural resources. This period is characterized by my








61
interviewees' discourses as "o tempo da terra liberta" (the time of the free land), which is

associated with "o tempo da fartura" (the time of the abundance).

At this time, the most important feature of the "free land" was the common use of

the natural resources (which resulted in better conservation of the environment as I will

discuss in Chater 3). Although one can question such ideal images, what is important to

my purposes here is the fact that, having passed through detribalization, slavery, and a

unique form of labor immobilization in the Northeast plantations, these people indeed had

enough time, resources, and freedom from external pressures, to build and establish a

distinct way of life. This created the basis for a "peasant social system of survival,"

expressed in specific forms of social organization, culture, economy, and forms of

negotiating social relations. They formed the peasantry of Maranhdo which encompasses

diverse groups, of which I focus on the denominated "povo da roga."

It is important to clarify that this peasantry, although sharing the basic features of

the "peasant social system of survival," is not homogeneous. There are similarities and

differences within the so-called "povo da roga." First, they came from different historical

processes in social relations: slavery, detribalization, and an exploitative form of labor

extraction in plantation systems in the Northeast, but they have had in common the

disruption of their original social groups or societies, and the oppression from the larger

society.

Second, they have different historical connections with the environment in the

Mearim Valley: Indians were in this region centuries before the arrival of the colonists,

while people of African descent were brought during the colonial period, and immigrants










from the semi-arid Northeast came in movements of recent occupation. Here what is

shared is their previous displacement and the necessity to establish strong connections

with the land and natural resources in order to resist external pressures.

A third contrast is the degree of cohesion and the composition of their new units of

social organization, the villages. Detribalized indigenous people were individuals inserted

in these peasant villages. Immigrants organized themselves towards "centros," but shared

these social and physical spaces with families of other ethnic groups (slave descendants or

Indians), economic categories (small holders), and even social classes (landlords). The

slave descendants who organized themselves in "terras de preto" presented more closed

and cohesive units; they absorbed individuals and families from other ethnic groups but as

exceptions and under conditions of sharing the same black peasant identity. In Chapter 4,

we will discuss how non-blacks can incorporate the "black identity". These differences

affect the norms of acceptance of outside elements and the speed of internal

differentiation. All of these situations have in common the "peasant social system of

survival," which has been reinforced by both a unique code of common use of resources

(land, water, forest, game, among others) and by unfair agrarian policies imposed by the

larger society.

There are many other similarities and differences involving "povo da roga's" ethnic

groups, which I intend to discuss throughout my thesis. Therefore, for this thesis, based on

the presented historical view, I chose as research sites three villages, representing three

different social situations, with the following characteristics:










* Monte Alegre is denominated by its residents as a "terra de preto" in the
municipality of Sgo Luis Gonzaga, whose origin is related to the time of the
abolition of slavery. Monte Alegre (which has 57 families) is surrounded by five
other villages (in a total of 125 families) within this "terra de preto." The forest
resources (secondary growth called "capoeiras" with diverse species, including
babaqu palms) have been relatively maintained, although disruptions can be
observed since 1975, when an agrarian conflict, followed by expropriation by the
state, provoked changes in their social organization. Also, in 1996, a Development
project the cattle project stimulated the conversion of more than 10% of
their land into pastures, in spite of the protests by some of the villagers. All 57
households of Monte Alegre are socially identified as "the blacks" and are
beneficiaries of the Land Reform program, members of the Association "Unidos
Venceremos".

* Ludovico is considered by its villagers as a centroo," which was founded by
immigrant "assituantes" from Ceard, in recent occupation, around the end of the
1930s. The total number of households in Ludovico is around 90. Ludovico
belongs to a social web connecting eleven other peasant villages in the municipality
ofLago do Junco, which also achieved access to land through agrarian conflicts.
However, they are like islands surrounded by a sea of cattle ranching properties.
This fact resulted in a depleted environment with extensive areas of pastures
associated with babaqu palms, and rare patches of old secondary growth. Among
these 90 households, only 32 families participated in an agrarian conflict and are
beneficiaries of the Land Reform program; others are landless tenants, and small
and medium estates' owners. The 32 families created an Association called
"Associacgo dos Trabalhadores Rurais de Aparecida."

* Sao Jos6 dos Mouras is perceived by its residents as a centroo." It is located in the
municipality of Lima Campos, founded by immigrants from Ceard and by a black
extended family who had come from a "terra de preto." This village has a main
house settlement and other smaller subdivisions, but all 63 households took part in
an agrarian conflict and are participants of the Land Reform program, since most
of those who did not participate in this process left the village. The forest
resources, secondary growth with diverse species including babaqu palms, are
relatively conserved. In 1994, the villagers, organized in the "Associagao dos
Trabalhadores Rurais de Sao Jos6 dos Mouras," decided to divide the land in
individual plots, while maintaining the palms as a common resource.


To examine the main contrasts, throughout this thesis, I use the cases of Monte

Alegre and Ludovico. Monte Alegre is an example of a "terra de preto" originated in the









colonial period, with more "capoeiras" (secondary growth with diverse species) than

Ludovico. Monte Alegre is composed of a cohesive and relatively rigorous group in terms

of criteria for admittance. Monte Alegre is subject of relatively frequent Development

projects. Ludovico is the example of a centroo" of recent occupation (1930s-1940s), in a

very depleted environment, with a social group composed of peasants of different

categories regarding access to land, labor relations, and state benefits, resulting in a less

cohesive unit. Ludovico is also an example of village which achieved its rights over the

land through the Land Reform program, but was ignored in relation to their rights for

subsequent public investments. (The third site, Sao Jos6 dos Mouras, provided me

significative insights; however, the division of the land is too recent and will surely bring

deep changes in their experience. I use Sao Jos6's case only occasionally to illustrate some

points in my thesis.)

The main similarity, a characteristic of the "peasant system of survival" shared by

these three social situations, is the common use of the land (until 1994 for Sao Jos6),

water, forests and other natural resources, and their resistance through the agrarian

conflicts and subsequent actions against the unfair social relations imposed by the larger

society. These processes can be traced through the discourses of people I interviewed.

I will summarize now the narratives of the elders, in which they set out their

perceptions of the environmental and historical incentives and constraints for their human

agencies. I use excerpts from my informants' discourses, in order to analyze their

interpretation of history and to build my view of peasant identity, ethnicity and

consequences for social relations.









Oral Narratives


Ludovico Village

The "assituantes" of the village of Ludovico arrived at the end of the 1930s.

Through Droulers' and Maury's map of the occupation of the Mearim Valley in Figure 2.1,

we can locate geographically, historically, and ecologically the discourses of my

informants. According to the older interviewees, Ludovico was settled in unclaimed lands

by two extended inmigrant families from Ceara: the Alves, followed by the Lopez. Some

years later, around 1945, some slave descendants, a black extended family from a "terra de

preto" in the city of Cod6, the Reis family, bought part of the land from the first immigrant

families, who were called "assituantes" (the first ones who settled the place).

Because I am analyzing peasant perceptions of development and conservation, it is

important to remember that political, economic, ecological, and cultural (in which I

include knowledge, beliefs, symbols, and practices) aspects all are perceived by peasants

as interconnected, as interwoven threads making a peasant system fabric. Therefore, when

the Alves, Lopes, and Reis families came, and were settling the village of Ludovico, like

needles, they were weaving threads of economic and cultural aspects, combining threads

of religious motifs to threads of environmental conditions. Either challenging or

challenged by ecological, cultural, and political constraints, they established their system

of economic production and social reproduction. I became intrigued by this explanatory

fabric, as I recorded the discourse of dona Francisca de Araujo (Dona Chiquinha), 71

years-old.









Oral Narratives


Ludovico Village

The "assituantes" of the village of Ludovico arrived at the end of the 1930s.

Through Droulers' and Maury's map of the occupation of the Mearim Valley in Figure 2.1,

we can locate geographically, historically, and ecologically the discourses of my

informants. According to the older interviewees, Ludovico was settled in unclaimed lands

by two extended inmigrant families from Ceara: the Alves, followed by the Lopez. Some

years later, around 1945, some slave descendants, a black extended family from a "terra de

preto" in the city of Cod6, the Reis family, bought part of the land from the first immigrant

families, who were called "assituantes" (the first ones who settled the place).

Because I am analyzing peasant perceptions of development and conservation, it is

important to remember that political, economic, ecological, and cultural (in which I

include knowledge, beliefs, symbols, and practices) aspects all are perceived by peasants

as interconnected, as interwoven threads making a peasant system fabric. Therefore, when

the Alves, Lopes, and Reis families came, and were settling the village of Ludovico, like

needles, they were weaving threads of economic and cultural aspects, combining threads

of religious motifs to threads of environmental conditions. Either challenging or

challenged by ecological, cultural, and political constraints, they established their system

of economic production and social reproduction. I became intrigued by this explanatory

fabric, as I recorded the discourse of dona Francisca de Araujo (Dona Chiquinha), 71

years-old.
















I-
t4,0


4 rLANTICO


PARA


P I


(


EI S A L A
S........0 o




(Cailef rnalng (DO- foet)
expaneio)


I' r\






A U I









B A H I A



m0e 4awU



eerzI m MIslc IaCoon O Ce XXx
1 (Immigration of people from Norlheaslen
Brazil in ae 20hl ocalnty)


* SBo J0w6 doe Moms
0 Ldovioo
* Moat. Alegre


Figure 2.1: Frontier expansion in Maranhlo
source: adapted from Droulers and Maury (1980)







67

Dona Chiquinha's discourse shows how "voices from the air", as well as droughts

impelled people to move. The consistent narratives of immigrants from Ceard about a

mystical book called "So Cipriano e Cruz Caravaca" and the search for the "green flag"

and other advice from Father Cicero, a priest related to a messianic movement, who is

venerated by many immigrants, show the importance of cultural factors (which are

typically considered by Development planners and agents as myths without consequences).

The different aspects of migration are so connected in her discourse, that in my analysis it

becomes meaningless to fragment it, transform in numbers, building an average migrant to

represent a reality that she is telling me as a whole, in her interview.

Noemi: And how was Ludovico settled?
Dona Chiquinha: My great-grandmother, who came from Ceard ... because of
the droughts ... lived in a place called Japao (another village in the Mearim
Valley), and she died when she delivered my grandmother. My grandmother, ..
Ana Maria, was raised by godparents. She was 15 years old ... when people
obligated her to marry a widower she had 10 children One day, this
man and the sons went to harvest cotton; they were sleeping in a "tijupazinho"
(little shelter in the middle of the roca), and this man heard a voice: 'Francisco
Beliu'. He answered: 'Who is this?' and the voice said: 'Go home and rest 3 days,
because your days are over.' ... He went home ... he did not become
sick, but after 3 days he died. ... After that, my grandmother left Japao for Pau
Real (another village). On her way, she met a man who wanted to marry her. They
married ... but there was a "topada" (he pretended he accidentally bumped her
daughters), he invented it intending to kiss her daughters. The girls told about it.
The man disappeared that night with all her belongings. My grandmother Ana
Maria left that place and kept going to Pau Real. There, she found another guy
who wanted to stay with her. Grandmother had good luck. This one lived with her



Most of the discourses about their settlement histories, which I opportunistically

collected, came from women. Even when I asked men, they usually called an old woman

to answer. This is probably because oral history transmission takes place at home, a sphere









generally managed by women. My observations led me to think that peasants' history is

associated with the symbol of the house which I will discuss in the next section. In my

recordings, they usually traced a matrilineal guide to tell their saga. Dona Chiquinha's

narrative led me through four generations, using women's lives to tell about migration and

settlement. Men and women as well refer to "Everything started with Donana, or Ana

Maria."

Her discourse refers to agricultural undertakings and its dependency on the family

unit of production: once her grandmother's household was diminished by the death of

Francisco Beliu, Ana Maria migrated not only in search of a new place without droughts,

but to reconstitute the family unit. Interestingly, Francisca's discourse also opens the

household "black box," by telling details about this "unit." Obligated marriages, rape,

harassment, and betrayal were present throughout her narrative and were viewed as

determinant factors in her interpretation of migration and settlement. Therefore, economic

or political factors, such as the crisis of the cotton or sugar plantations in the Northeast,

pointed out in my literature review, were not absorbed equally by peasants and non-

peasants. Although my subjects were indeed deeply affected by such crisis and droughts,

other factors, such as internal social relations, and religious beliefs, made peasants

perceive, live, and interpret their migration in a different way. In Chapter 3, I discuss that

this distinct form of perceiving and interpreting is applied to perceptions of development

and conservation. Such perceptions are expressed more related to their internal social

relations and cultural aspects, as we can see in the following excerpt:









My mother was seduced by a rich farmer ... she used to get water in a place
called Mutum, 3 miles away, and he seduced her there. The have-nots, must
bow to those who have. My uncles decided to move from Pau Real to
Primavera (another village). At that time, the land was free. When they got the
idea in their heads, they left. It was forest. There were jaguars. They were
men of courage. All big men. They had knives, bought shotguns. .. The men
decided to move and women followed them. .. From Primavera they came here;
they opened a path from there to here, to settle with the jaguars. .. The ones
who settled here were my uncles. And my mother, who cooked, and my
grandmother. This place was of my people. ... (Francisca Araijo)


Dona Francisca's interpretation of Ludovico settlement combined not only

economic aspects such as availability of land or ecological aspects such as lack of water,

but also social aspects such as the relation between peasants and rich farmers. Listening to

the whole recording, I learned that her discourse gives the geographical design, the

internal social relation framework (marriages, concubinage, "compadrio"- although this

relation is not a "fiction," the closest translation is "fictive kin relations" because it is not

by blood, family hierarchy, relations between the "assituantes" pioneer and followers, men

and women, and blacks and non blacks), as well as the relations between them and

outsiders (rich farmers and church). She also adds her opinion about cultural expressions:

"the have-nots must bow to those who have."

From the 1930s when her uncles settled Ludovico until the 1980s, when they

began to face land conflicts, they had enough time to practice a unique system of

economic production combined with their social reproduction as peasants. Therefore,

when they identify themselves as "o povo da roga," this means a specific logic in managing

economic resources (through "peasant social system of survival"), but also sets boundaries

between their social group and outsiders. In the 1980s, most of the members of the three









families faced an agrarian conflict with a cattle rancher called Coutinho. After violent

arrests, a kidnapping, and gun battles lasting days, they recovered their rights over the

land, with mediation by the Catholic Church, through a purchase by the Land Institute of

the state of Maranhao. Since then, although by law they should have access to

governmental investments from the Land Reform Program, very little has been done: just a

failed small project for pineapple cultivation and a short term rural credit program.

Through non-governmental agencies, they experimented with small projects such as

manioc flour production, a rice hulling unit, women's home-gardening, and recently,

hand-made soap manufacturing. To legalize the land and have access to development

projects, with the help of the church and non-governmental organizations they created the

"Associagao dos Trabalhadores Rurais de Aparecida/ ATRA," whose members are those

who fought or participated during the agrarian conflict, and whose objectives are to have

collective ownership of the land and organize its production. Because of both agrarian

conflict and Development projects, Ludovico's internal differentiations accentuated as

only 32 families became beneficiaries and owners of 536 hectares of land bought by the

state.

Through a different trajectory, we can also learn about the construction of peasant

social group in Monte Alegre.

Monte Alegre village

According to dona Euzebia Parga, dona Vitalina Andrade, and dona Maria de

Jesus Bringelo, Monte Alegre was a slave cotton farm of the last century. After the

abolition of slavery in 1888, the ex-slaveholder offered them the land for sale. Women









worked at neighboring farms harvesting cotton, to pay him for the land. Monte Alegre

then became a "terra de preto," where twelve blacks, to whom the land was sold,

organized themselves economically and socially. Therefore, they practiced a peasant

economy for several decades. However, from 1972 to 1975, they had leadership problems

within the community, and one of the descendants of the twelve blacks, Josimo, started to

act as a land owner and ask for rent. Josimo's descendants began to sell parts of the land,

and in 1975, the black peasants of Monte Alegre lost their land rights to an entrepreneur

claiming ownership of the whole area.

According to the interviewees, in 1978 three women of Monte Alegre started to

organize the resistance. After years of conflicts, police and ranchers of the self-declared

landlord burnt 96 peasant houses in Monte Alegre. These actions were authorized by the

State Security Secretary and by the president of Justice Tribune (president do Tribunal de

Justi9a). However, in 1979, Monte Alegre was declared subject to the Agrarian Reform. It

was not until June 13, 1984 that they were able to recover their legal rights over the land,

and 2922 hectares were obtained through governmental decree. Since then, they founded

an Association, with support of the Catholic Church, called "Unidos Venceremos".

Sio Jos6 dos Mouras village

According to Francisco de Paula Rocha and Maria Adelina Chagas, the first

settlers of Sao Jos6 dos Mouras, named "assituantes," arrived around the 1940s. Most of

them came from the state of Ceara. The village is located in the city of Lima Campos.

They occupied the so-called "terra devoluta" (unclaimed land), in the time of the "terra

liberta" (free land); each household used to organize its own production, working on land







72

with common tenure. There was no land ownership but people respected certain informal

tenure rights. In 1964, a firm called Carioca claimed land ownership, and then until 1972

peasants paid rent without questioning the Carioca firm and two subsequent owners. This

situation is called "terra de dono," owner's land. However, from 1972 to 1988 there was a

series of conflicts between the owner and peasants, because their "rogas" became

threatened and their "peasant social system of survival" was at risk. In 1987, land

ownership was reallocated by the federal government on behalf of the peasant community.

Since 1987 the land has been subject to a governmental settlement project. In 1994, the

community decided to divide the "terra reformada," reformed land, in fifty-eight plots,

leaving one larger collective area where most of the village's houses are located.

Additionally, four women and thirty four men received governmental credit. Therefore,

currently, land is for individual use and tenure, although palms remain as a common

resource, for the sixty-three peasant families who live in the 2,636 ha of this village.

When my interviewees told me about their histories, although describing

connections and relations to the larger society, they always established a kind of boundary

between their social group and the larger society: "the haves" vs. "the have-nots"; "the

blacks" vs. "the whites"; "the people of struggle" vs. "the people outside." Overall, they

contrasted "the people ofroga" vs. "the people of the street (or city)" (o povo da rua).

Their discourses are histories of the construction of their social identities and relations

with the larger society. From within their narratives, I elicited some themes. In the next

section, I discuss two of these themes, "roga" and "house", as symbols and related

practices, which express such a social identity.










Symbols and Practices


As I proceeded to interview people, some words appeared consistently. Among 57

interviewees, 50 talked about "house" and "roga" when I asked about life in general

(Those who did not refer to "house" and "roga" were unmarried youths and teenagers,

and retirees). As I investigated and improved my questions, I found out that such words

were more than entries with related definitions, as in a dictionary. They represented

fundamental parts of the "peasant social system of survival", converging physical and

cultural meanings, and generating new social relations. They were the symbols which gave

and still give meaning to peasant identity. I describe and analyze them because they are the

foundation to understand peasants' perceptions of development and conservation.


House


House, as a physical structure

Physically the house can be described as a generally rectangular structure built of

trunks at the corners and sides of doors. Between two trunks, there are thinner trunks, all

of them buried close to a foot and a half underground. In transverse, tied to the woody

structure by "cip6 escada", a specific vine, stems ofbabagu palm leaves are placed indoors

and outdoors to support the clay, which gives the final form of walls. Roofs are made of

babaqu leaves tied to the woody structures, or of clay tiles, according to the financial

conditions of the dweller. Doors and windows can be of mats made of babagu leaves or of

raw wood. The house floors are generally of beaten soil. The number of rooms varies










Symbols and Practices


As I proceeded to interview people, some words appeared consistently. Among 57

interviewees, 50 talked about "house" and "roga" when I asked about life in general

(Those who did not refer to "house" and "roga" were unmarried youths and teenagers,

and retirees). As I investigated and improved my questions, I found out that such words

were more than entries with related definitions, as in a dictionary. They represented

fundamental parts of the "peasant social system of survival", converging physical and

cultural meanings, and generating new social relations. They were the symbols which gave

and still give meaning to peasant identity. I describe and analyze them because they are the

foundation to understand peasants' perceptions of development and conservation.


House


House, as a physical structure

Physically the house can be described as a generally rectangular structure built of

trunks at the corners and sides of doors. Between two trunks, there are thinner trunks, all

of them buried close to a foot and a half underground. In transverse, tied to the woody

structure by "cip6 escada", a specific vine, stems ofbabagu palm leaves are placed indoors

and outdoors to support the clay, which gives the final form of walls. Roofs are made of

babaqu leaves tied to the woody structures, or of clay tiles, according to the financial

conditions of the dweller. Doors and windows can be of mats made of babagu leaves or of

raw wood. The house floors are generally of beaten soil. The number of rooms varies










Symbols and Practices


As I proceeded to interview people, some words appeared consistently. Among 57

interviewees, 50 talked about "house" and "roga" when I asked about life in general

(Those who did not refer to "house" and "roga" were unmarried youths and teenagers,

and retirees). As I investigated and improved my questions, I found out that such words

were more than entries with related definitions, as in a dictionary. They represented

fundamental parts of the "peasant social system of survival", converging physical and

cultural meanings, and generating new social relations. They were the symbols which gave

and still give meaning to peasant identity. I describe and analyze them because they are the

foundation to understand peasants' perceptions of development and conservation.


House


House, as a physical structure

Physically the house can be described as a generally rectangular structure built of

trunks at the corners and sides of doors. Between two trunks, there are thinner trunks, all

of them buried close to a foot and a half underground. In transverse, tied to the woody

structure by "cip6 escada", a specific vine, stems ofbabagu palm leaves are placed indoors

and outdoors to support the clay, which gives the final form of walls. Roofs are made of

babaqu leaves tied to the woody structures, or of clay tiles, according to the financial

conditions of the dweller. Doors and windows can be of mats made of babagu leaves or of

raw wood. The house floors are generally of beaten soil. The number of rooms varies









more in terms of resource availability than number of people. Some houses also shelter

small animals, generally laying hens, but pigs, dogs, and cats also stay around. This

absolutely biodegradable house is conveniently adapted to face temperatures as high as

400C during the dry season as well as 1,500 mm of rain during the rainy season.

House, as a strategy

Such a physical structure, however, means much more than only shelter. It

symbolizes many of the social relations which drive the "peasant social system of

survival". By studying this symbol, I learned that different meanings for concepts, as for

example rural and urban, can be perceived through the understanding of the "house".

Some of my interviewees had houses within the urban perimeter, in which members of

their rural household live for certain periods or for certain objectives, and apparently can

be categorized as urban. However, in their internal discourses those structures were

denominated as "casa de pousada" or "casa de parada" (house to stop by), which means,

they are not to live in, but rather an urban structure used as a strategy to support a rural

life. Generally in places called "pontas de rua" (marginal streets in the sub-urban areas),

"casa de parada" is used by some sick members of the household, acquaintances, or

relatives, retired elders who need to get their social security checks once a month, children

of school age, and so on. Therefore, a peasant household can use its "casa no centro"

(house in the village) and also a "casa na rua" (house in the street, meaning in the city) to

support their "peasant social system of survival." Generally, in "casa de pousada," even

when some member with an urban income to complement their supplies of rice, beans, etc.

from the "roga" assumes the role of head of household viz-a-viz an IBGE census-taker for









example, she or he is subordinated to the head of the peasant household, whose physical

and social survival is based on "roga." Therefore, the criteria used by the IBGE, such as

access to public services, types of occupation, and population numbers become diffuse in

categorizing human groups according to their dwellings in rural villages and urban towns.

This will have consequences in public policies and Development programs directed to

Land Reform areas.

House, as a function

Yet, house is not only related to its physical rural or urban location, but also to its

function: "casa de parada," "casa de morada" (house for living), and "casa de trabalho"

(house located close to the work place, used temporarily for seasonal undertakings). By

examining the meaning of "casa de trabalho," I learned how such a symbol is undergoing

changes, absorbing new meanings. I exemplify here how the increase in wage labor affects

the "house" symbol. As I realized I did not know the owner of a house we passed by, I

asked my companion, Leonides, 48 years old:


-Who is living in that house, now?
-That is not a "casa de familiar" (family's house); it is a "casa de trabalhador." Seu
Joao [a peasant from another village] made a contract to clean the pastures of
Nazareno. So, he is using Pantico's house; he and his work crew are here for three
months now. ... My son is "walking for" (courting) the young woman who cooks
for them.

Although seu Joao and his crew live in Ludovico, participate in church activities,

buy in the cantina, stop by people's houses, establish relations of love, etc., they know they

do not belong to Ludovico and therefore do not participate in the social relations internal

to the village at the same level as do permanent native villagers. Still, the fact that they are







76

working for wage labor is not perceived as a clear-cut line for categorization as outsiders.

Although he is sub-contracting people other than his sons to work for a richer rancher and

living temporarily in a "casa de trabalhador", people realize he is doing so as a strategy to

maintain his peasant household, which is sheltered in his "casa de familiar" in another

village.

House, as a status

"Casa de familiar" in Leonides' discourse, although contrasted with "casa de

trabalhadores" in functional terms, can also be categorized according to marital status. I

learned that "casa de familiar" is one where the head of household maintains a relatively

constant partnership. If a woman head of household is single and has different partners,

her house is called "casa de rapariga" (house of a single woman who had or has sexual

relations, without marrying). For men in the same situation there is no name for their

house, which confirms different status possibilities for men and women. Although women

and men as well use expressions such as "I hunt a man/woman," "she/he served me for 7

years," "she/he could use him/her for a while," which give an impression of equality in

terms of gender relations, the analysis of the symbol "house" shows that, within the

peasant culture, women are more narrowly controlled than men in terms of marital status.

House is, therefore, a symbol which expresses cultural aspects driving gender relations,

too. "Casa de sendeira" is for those women who are separated from their husbands but do

not yet, have other partners. "Casa de vi6va" is for widows who do not yet have a

permanent or temporary partner.









House, as a representation of the household

More than to a young virgin male, the exit of a female virgin from her parents'

house, with or without consent, symbolizes the creation of a new household; otherwise

she will be labeled as a "rapariga". Different ways to get out of parents' houses define

different forms of marriage. As Dona Nazir Andrade, 42 years old, explained to me:


Se a moca sai de casa por ela, s6zinha, a responsabilidade por ela 6 dela mesma.
Ela tem que se virar para se arrumar, com casamento ou ndo. Se ela sai pela porta
ou janela que seja, mas acompanhada pelo rapaz, ele 6 o responsivel por ela. Ele
tem que botar roga para ela, arrumar casa para botar ela embaixo. O pai pode
exigir casamento.

(If the virgin leaves home, alone, she is responsible for herself. She has to take care
of herself, with or without marriage. If she leaves, either through the door or
window, but accompanied by the guy, he is the one responsible for her. He must
plant a "roga" for her, make a house to shelter her. The father can demand a
wedding.)

Interestingly, expressions like o rapaz me carregou de casa" (the guy carried me

out of the house) or "ele buliu com a moga estando ela dentro de casa" (he messed with

the virgin while she was inside the house) or "ele roubou a moga de dentro da casa dos

pais" (he stole the virgin from her parents' house), are not related to violent or aggressive

actions. All my female interviewees stated that female and male youngsters know and

agreed about the day and plans for the virgin to escape from home. To steal, carry, or

mess around with are expressions more related to a violation of the symbolic house, as a

physical representation of the household unit.

It is important also to see that most of the stolen marriages involve a third person

or family, sheltering or interceding for the young couple, "os padrinhos" (godparents). The









couple run away from the virgin's parents' house, and go directly to their god-parents'

house or to the young male's parents' house or to a respectable widow's house. This is a

social norm that helps to make the father calm down, not only because he knows his

daughter is in a respectable house, but also because he cannot invade another household to

rescue his daughter. Such a norm allows youngsters human agency in "breaking the rules"

while having a socially acceptable solution. So, the way female virgins exit their parents'

house defines the many types of marriage: "casou roubada ou carregada" (married stolen

or carried off), "casou fugida" (married through flight), "casou no queima" (Queima can

mean clearance of merchandise, but in this case, it means mass wedding. This kind of

marriage is not common anymore; it was frequent one generation ago, when

transportation was more difficult, and priests' appearance rare. With or without consent, a

large number of couples from different villages, some of them living together for years,

were blessed collectively by a priest in a given village.) Another case, "casou na igreja

verde" means that the couple had their "marriage" in the forest or in the bushes (the

"green church"), and the virgin remained silent in her parents' house. Once discovered, it

is said that "she dishonored her parents' house."

"House", therefore, is a symbol representing the peasant unit, the household. This

symbol establishes norms, rules, and relations, not only for the insiders of the peasant -

social group, but also in relation to outsiders. Outsiders disrespecting "povo da roga's"

house are viewed as extreme violators. If, in a metaphor, the deprivation of the "roga" is

to take away the maintenance of life, the deprivation of the "house" is to take life itself. By

listening to the people of Monte Alegre, for example, when they talk about the burning of









their houses, they say "everything ended," viewing the elimination of the houses as death.

Referring to those who had their houses burned, they say that these people "passou pelo

fogo" (passed through fire), as in a baptism or resurrection. House is a symbol of the

"peasant social system of survival" because it represents the unity that compounds and

protects the whole. This unit should be maintained through "roga".


Roca


To explain the symbol "roga," I will begin by making the connection between the

term of local use "povo da roca" and the concept "peasant". Why do the people I

interviewed during my fieldwork identify themselves as "o povo da roga"? What is the

meaning, the hidden concept, behind this term? Perhaps the closest translation would be

"the people whose family practices slash and burn cultivation in agricultural plots within

the forest." However, "roca" means much more than a physical place or a productive plot

where they plant rice, beans, corn, manioc, and a diversity of other vegetables. Analyzing

my ethnographic interviews, I learned that "roga" represents a way of living, familial links,

relation to the land, freedom from wage labor, and overall the materialization of the

"peasant social system of survival."

Seu Jos6 Martins is a 76 year-old man; he came from Ceara to Maranhdo to look

for a better place to plant "roga." He indeed found a place and started his "rogas."

Meanwhile, in the 1950s, he also went to work as a laborer in the famous Matarazzo

industries, a symbol of the modernization brought by Development, in Sao Paulo. There

he also stayed for three years working as a rural laborer in a "fazenda" (rural enterprise,




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