Date of Award

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John S. Burdick


Activist Subcultures, Agrarian Change, Brazil, Ethnography, MST, Youth

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This thesis examines the forces that strengthen and weaken young people’s involvement in Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers’ Movement, the MST, during the twilight of the PT years, 2012-2014. The MST responds to displacement, environmental devastation, and capital- intensive development by fighting for land reform and socialist transformation. Although the MST’s politics of redistribution have attracted significant attention from activists and academics worldwide, little ethnographic attention had yet been paid to the experiences and subjectivities of rural youth affiliated with the movement. By attending to structural conditions, dynamics of family, sexuality, and gender, and political socialization in three regions of Brazil, this study deepens understandings of youth and agrarian change, as well as the challenges of sustaining intergenerational activism. Bringing scholarly attention to such innovative examples is important, as the future of food and farming depends on the willingness of youth to engage in agriculture as a cultural way of life. Moreover, given the increasingly regressive, authoritarian, and exclusionary national politics that are deepening inequalities and unraveling social protections in Brazil; ethnographic analysis of how political alternatives are generated and sustained by youth, is crucial to understanding emerging inclusionary political projects in Latin America.


Open Access