When Social Movements and States Ally: The Associations That Led to the Creation of Reaf/Mercosur

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Priscila CARVALHO, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais/ Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
The paper discusses complex interactions among rural labor unions, rural social movements, the Mercosur and its member-countries by presenting a detailed account of the process that led to the creation of an institutional space for family farming issues in Mercosur, namely the REAF- Special Meeting on Family Farming, subordinated to the Common Market Group, the executive body of the block.

REAF includes representatives of national governments, trade unions and social movements form each of the Mercosur countries. It meets at least twice a year, discusses common public policies for family famers and is known as one of the most relevant experiences of social participation in Mercosur.

The interactions among these actors are an example of the often tortuous paths for building dialogue among international organizations, states and civil society at the transnational level, since each of them is highly heterogeneous. The research stresses the common political projects that allowed these different actors to establish connections and the relevance of previous articulations among social movements and labor unions. Some of the main actors present through this process are COPROFAM - Coordinator of Family Farmer Organizations of Mercosur, and the Brazilian CONTAG - National Confederation of Agricultural Workers and MDA – Ministry of Agrarian Development.

The analysis is based on the actor-network theory. It follows the associations established by the actors by the time they were struggling to create REAF. This approach has specific theoretical-epistemological assumptions (such as understanding the social as a collective of on-going associations and including objects as actants in its assemblages). Therefore, the paper discusses opportunities and pitfalls of employing this theory for studying transnational social movements and how it differs from other well established theoretical framework in the area, especially network approaches.