Re-visioning the Northeast: economic difference and alternative visions of development in the Brazilian semiarid Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Araujo, Ana M.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • This dissertation documents the creation, maintenance and existence of practices of economic difference, or non-capitalist practices, among residents of the town of Sobradinho in Northeast Brazil. This project traces residents' placed-based responses to the construction of the Sobradinho hydroelectric dam in the 1970s and the role of state discourse and intervention in shaping both a sense of regional identity and in creating a regional economy for the national economic integration of this underdeveloped region. The São Francisco Valley, where the town is located, has witnessed the rapid proliferation of export-oriented agroindustrial firms since the late 1980s as part of Brazil's economic restructuring. As state development strategies have had differing impacts on men and women (i.e. men were targeted as a mobile labor force, while, more recently, women have been recruited as temporary waged labor in the agro-industry), there has been a consequent shift away from former subsistence agricultural livelihoods to those premised on wage labor. Accordingly, this project examines changing gender relations and the generational aspects of the formation of regional economic subjectivities. Despite the seeming entrenchment of market-oriented economic models, this research indicates that residents continue to support older forms of labor practice and also create new labor models that are not premised upon capitalist labor regimes. In keeping with this, women in the community are also involved in what could be termed the care economy or the community economy. Following feminist geographers Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham's work in reading for difference, this study highlights how residents, rather than becoming market-oriented neoliberal subjects, have engaged in a micropolitics of resubjectivation whereby they nurture and sustain forms of economic practice that are not market-oriented. These projects of reworking economic models are linked with a broader re-visioning of representations of the sertão (backlands) towards one centered on the Brazilian semiarid, focusing on culturally and ecologically appropriate production models. In documenting these projects, this dissertation maps possibilities for alternative forms of development, potentialities for a postdevelopment future, and the creation of alternative economic practices under the processes of neoliberal globalization.
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  • Escobar, Arturo
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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