I aim here to render visible a series of invisible elements, and discuss contradictions or implicit controversies that childhood within the Landless Movement of Espírito Santo faces in this particular moment of its history – 30 years after the Movement was officially founded during the 1st Meeting of the Landless Rural Workers in Cascavel, Paraná, in 1984 [1] [2].

With my analysis I hope to actively participate in the Landless Movement as an insider and contribute to its further development. This text is thus written primarily for the interested landless people in Brazil and goes together with the short film presented below. Beyond this, I hope that the text and film are also of interest to people outside the Landless Movement – for example my academic colleagues. Thus I will try below to avoid sophisticated terminology; I hope that my writing as a form of documenting and reflecting my close participatory observation creates a colorful, easy-to-understand account that includes silences, dynamics, and multiple versions of the same. I hope it can be interpreted in many ways – even contrary to the suggested interpretation. I also hope that it will become clear for the reader interested in theory, what kind of theory and what ethical-political values are implied in my account.

My analysis is based on observations I made during an ethnographic field research in various places in Brazil, in collaboration with Prof. Erineu Foerste and Prof. Gerda M. Schütz-Foerste from the Department of Education, Federal University of Espírito Santo in the years 2010-2011 and subsequent research stays until today. Being an interested colleague from Europe, I quickly gained access to most of the academics or independent scholars who have written about the Landless Movement, such as Johannes Doll from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Súl, Isabela Camini (former researcher at the Landless Workers’ Movement’s own research unit), or Achilles Delari Jr. (independent scholar and former researcher of/ participant in the Landless Movement). These scholars in turn mediated my access to school teachers of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement, who in turn created spaces and times for me to interact with children from the settlements. The children were in general very enthusiastic and open in their interaction with me, which to a certain extent would have happened with any visitor from far away/abroad.

My research soon became part of broader long-term research projects into countryside education initiated by Erineu Foerste, Gerda M. Schütz-Foerste, and colleagues (cf. Foerste, 2004; Foerste, Foerste-Schütz, & Duarte-Schneider, 2008; Monteiro Barreto Camargo, Kerschr Pedrosa Bento, & Schütz-Foerste, 2010; Schütz-Foerste, Sabino de Macedo, de Souza Chiste, & Tellis-Gonçalves, 2010). I shared much of my data with them and we collectively engaged in data interpretation during my stay in Brazil. Erineu Foerste and his team and students – some of whom have become teachers at the landless schools and hosted me during my stay – made my access to the field possible.

My fieldwork was not limited at the Landless Workers’ settlements; from the first days of my research I realized the necessity of understanding the broader context in which the Landless Movement emerged and of getting to know other rural communities and movements that surround the landless settlements (Caldart, Paludo, & Doll, 2006). I also made it an aim to become acquainted with the everyday living conditions in the urban spaces many landless workers came from (Davis, 2006). I thus conducted fieldwork in many different places and with many different people: with Guarani Indians, with small-scale land workers who own the land they cultivate, with Quilombolas, and with people living in urban favelas. In most cases my access was enabled by Brazilian colleagues, if not from the team of Erineu Foerste then from other groups with whom I cooperated. The funding of my research was covered indirectly through talks I gave at Brazilian universities parallel to my fieldwork.

My research involved ethnography, interviews, and experimentation with video and photography. Bringing together Science and Technology Studies (cf. Haraway, 1991; Law, 2004, etc.) and cultural-historical approaches (cf. Kontopodis, Wulf, & Fichtner, 2011), on the one hand I pursued a detailed documentation and analysis of material relations (e.g. the use of tools and technology; the distribution of land and organization of agricultural production; the availability of electricity and water; the circulation of bills, state funds and money; food conservation and consumption). On the other hand, I examined the role that photos, symbols, and narratives play in the enactment of a collective past as well as in the imagining of collective futures (Middleton & Brown, 2005). I also documented rules of conduct and community morals (cf. Fassin, Bourdelais, & Dozon, 2005).

One could say that this project moves across various disciplines such as social psychology, anthropology, geography, sociology, educational science, art theory, and political philosophy. The employment of the word “anthropological” in the subtitle does not only denote the use of ethnographic methodology – which goes together with Anglo-American anthropological theorizing and a focus on everyday life, action, and performativity – it also implies a more general cross-disciplinary effort to study and develop human subjectivity as suggested by the Soviet school of cultural-historical psychology (Daniels, Cole, & Wertsch, 2007; Vygotsky, 1931/1997, 1934/1987), and more recently by the German school of historical anthropology (Kontopodis, et al., 2011; Wulf, 2009).

[1] For a quick overview of historical information on the Landless Movement and its early steps before 1984, see: (date of access: 2010-11-02).

[2] I will not discuss gender-related aspects of the Landless Movement here. This is an issue to itself, see Caldeira, 2009; da Silva-Bereta, 2003; de Melo, 2001.