Date of Award

June 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Thomas A. Perreault


Agrarian Reform, Agroecology, Gramsci, MST, Popular Education, Social Movements

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The Brazilian Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (Movimento Sem Terra, MST) is one of the largest social movements in the world. Situated in a country with extremely unequal land distribution, the MST was originally concerned with obtaining land for agrarian reform settlements through the occupation of latifúndia (large estates of the landed elite). However, after realizing its struggle over land rights was rooted in deeper structural issues in Brazilian society, the MST broadened its goals to seeking wider societal change. Over the past thirty years, it has evolved into a movement that pursues social justice by challenging dominant capitalist discourses. This thesis focuses on one tactic in the pursuit of this goal: the movement’s incorporation of agroecology into its official discourse and the subsequent establishment of agroecological schools to disseminate agroecological knowledge across the movement. It argues that adoption of agroecology as both a set of scientific agricultural practices and a new way of life serves as a key strategy in the MST’s counter-hegemonic project. Drawing on Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, complemented by Michel Foucault’s understanding of discourse, this thesis traces the incorporation of agroecology as a strategy in the MST’s “war of position” to change the “common sense” in Brazilian and wider global discourses on agrarian reform. Through peasant pedagogy (“formação”) – both in the classroom and through daily activities – the MST’s agroecological project seeks to construct new understandings of people’s relationships with nature and each other.


Open Access