Voices from the margins People, media, and the struggle for land in Brazil
Sammanfattning: This study looks into communicative processes and media practices among members of a subaltern social movement. The aim is to gain an understanding of how these processes and practices contribute to symbolic cohesion in the movement, how they develop and are socialized into practices, and how these processes and practices help challenge hegemonic groups in society. These questions are explored through a qualitative study, based on fieldwork and interviews, of a subaltern social movement. The empirical object of the study is the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST), which was founded in 1984 to promote agrarian reform and defend the rights of rural workers in Brazil. At the macro-level, the discussion addresses social realities marked by the meta-processes of globalisation, neo-liberalisation, and mediatisation. Against this background, the experiences of MST militants and of the movement as a whole help us to understand how different communicative processes play a role in the ways people experience globalisation, neo-liberalisation, and mediatisation in their daily lives. Departing from an understanding of communication as a process that structures practices (mediated and non-mediated), this study questions the media-centric understanding of communication, arguing that media practices are created through appropriation processes. The results show that communicative processes are crucial to reinforcing values and symbologies associated with the rural worker identity. There is also a high level of reflexivity about media practices and an understanding that they must serve the principles of the collective. As a consequence, the movement seeks to maintain control over media, routinely discussing and evaluating the adoption and use of media. The interviews show ambivalence towards the alleged dialogic and organisational potential of digital media and to the adaptability of these media to the MST’s organisational processes. Through observation, it is possible to conclude that media have an instrumental function, as opposed to a structural function, in the processes of social transformation engendered by the MST.
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