Fighting the Government: A Cycle of Protests in Pará (Brazil)

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Renata LACERDA, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The aim of this presentation is to analyse and describe ethnographically the cycle of protests performed in the municipality of Novo Progresso, Southwest of Pará, Brazil.

The notion of cycle allude to the moments of the events but also to the in-between, when the mobilization which mediates the protests takes place. During this cyclic process, the conflicting state branches and agencies, as well as national and international NGOs, research institutes and communication means (press, radio and social media) have had a key role producing the recognition (or not) of the sometimes contradictory demands of heteroneous social agentes: farmers (large and small), land reform settlers, gold prospectors, lumber companies, merchants and indigenous tribes. These various social and political categories have formed changing alliances called movements among themselves to fight the government – i.e. to contest different environmental and land management public policies implemented in the region – through collective actions, but also legal and judicial disputes.

We argue that this notion of cycle of protests brings to light the variations of the relative value of the demands on space and time, as well as the conditions and creative effects of these events repeated ritually almost every year since 2003, when the first blockade of the BR-163 highway in Novo Progresso was organized by farmers and lumber companies against the demarcation of the Indigenous Land Baú of the Kayapó people. Since then, the expertise acquired by various social agents in the making of movements to fight is enabling the reduction and flexibilization of the National Forest of Jamanxim, a federal conservation unit, and of the rural settlement Sustainable Development Project Terra Nossa.