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Tempo Social

Print version ISSN 0103-2070On-line version ISSN 1809-4554


SIGAUD, Lygia. The conditions of possibility of land occupations. Tempo Soc. [online]. 2005, vol.17, n.1, pp.255-280. ISSN 1809-4554.

Invading private lands and setting up encampments has now become the favoured means of pushing for agrarian reform in Brazil, a strategy used by rural organizations such as MST (the Landless Movement) and workers unions. The State has also legitimized these movements' aims to take over occupied lands and re-distribute them. Research conducted in Pernambuco, the state with the highest number of occupations, provides the basis for examining this recent aspect of Brazilian history. The article focuses on the rural zone formed by large-scale sugarcane plantations where many encampments are concentrated and situates the occupations in the context of the region's recent history, revealing the causes behind their multiplication and analyzing their implications. It concludes by turning to South Africa where land invasions - conceived by social movements as the best procedure for obtaining land distribution from the Government - have failed to attain the same magnitude. This comparison allows us to identify the social conditions that have favoured the institutionalization of land occupations in Brazil while hindering them in South Africa.

Keywords : Land occupations; Social movements; Agrarian reform; Northeast Brazil; South Africa.

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