Dan Furukawa Marques of the University of Ottawa writes…
I am writing to let you know about a senior, undergraduate university course that I will be teaching again in Brazil in May 2015 and that may be of interest to some of your students. Bishop’s University is offering for the third consecutive year an intensive, experiential course called “Social Movements and Social Change in Brazil”, with a special focus on the Landless Rural Workers Movement, from May 5 to 25, 2015. Undergraduate students registered at any Canadian university are eligible.
As you may well know, there has been a renaissance of popular social movements in Brazil over the last few decades, renewing the struggle for social justice. The largest and most well-known of these social movements is the Landless Rural Workers Movement, the “Sem-Terra”, or “MST”. The MST helps organize families to “occupy” under-used land, where they then try to build cooperative, self-governing agricultural communities. Some MST communities provide food, shelter, education and health care for themselves, have created a wide variety of cooperatives, and participate in the broader social, cultural and political movements of Brazil and the rest of the world. This strategy has been so successful that MST membership now nears 1.5 million people on thousands of settlements right across the country. The MST has dozens of educational facilities in Brazil as well, including its own national school in the countryside outside of São Paulo. The MST is also at the forefront of the agroecology movement.
This course will combine experiential, research and writing components. Students will live with families on MST settlements in the States of São Paulo and Paraná and observe and participate in MST agricultural work, meetings and cultural events. A segment of the course will also take place at the MST’s Florestan Fernandes National School and will include meetings with the MST’s national staff. There will also be meetings with other social movements and unions (e.g., Via Campesina, the “Sem Teto” or “Homeless Movement”, the Movement of those Expelled due to Dams (MAB), the Levante Popular da Juventude, the Consulta Popular, the ALBA Social Movements, etc.), with other civil society organizations (Expressão Popular publishers, Brazil de Fato newspaper, Radio Agência, etc.) and with political parties (The Workers Party, Psol, PcdoB, etc). We may also visit the Latin-American School for Agroecology in Lapa, Paraná.
Students will complete preparatory research assignments prior to travelling to Brazil, participate in and lead group meetings, seminars and tutorials in Brazil, and complete a follow-up research paper.
The course is taught by myself, Dan Furukawa Marques. I am Brazilian but have been living in Canada for fifteen years. I spent 2013 and part of 2014 in Brazil doing fieldwork on some MST communities for my Ph.D. thesis and teaching this course. I was a TA for Prof. Bruce Gilbert who first taught the course in May 2013. This trip promises to be a very stimulating educational experience for students as alumni students’ testimonials verify.