SOCIAL MOVEMENTS IN BRAZIL AND THEIR
Abstract – Using a distinction first proposed by Alain Touraine between historic and
social movements, Ghanem’s review of grassroots initiatives in Brazil argues that,
despite differences in composition and aims, movements such as the landless rural
workers, indigenous groups, and the women’s movement in Brazil have attempted to
shift the current socioeconomic order toward a new equilibrium – a process that is,
however, not yet complete. In Ghanem’s view, these movements are best described
as historic movements. Addressing their educational aims, the author finds that they
tend to fall into two types: (1) the self-provision of knowledge related to the set of
problems that gave rise to their movement in the first place; (2) the striving for access
to knowledge that is due to them as citizens and yet not given to them by the state.
Often, social movements in Brazil are obliged to offer educational services through
their own resources, services which are characterized by precarious conditions and
which make the right to quality education still a distant dream.
Zusammenfassung – Ghanems Überblick über vor-Ort-Initiativen in Brasilien
bedient sich einer von Alain Touraine angeregten Unterscheidung zwischen his-
torischen und sozialen Bewegungen. Damit wird argumentiert, daß trotz Differenzen
in Zusammenstellung und Zielen, Bewegungen wie Landarbeiter ohne Grundbesitz,
einheimische Gruppen und die Frauenbewegung in Brasilien übereinstimmend versucht
haben, das gegenwärtige sozialökonomische System in ein neues Gleichgewicht zu
bringen – ein Prozeß, der noch nicht abgeschlossen ist. Nach Ghanems Auffassung
kann man diese Bewegung am besten als historische Bewegung definieren. Bei der
Erlangung ihrer Bildungsziele sieht der Autor den Ansatz zweier unterschiedlicher
Methoden: 1) die Selbstversorgung mit Wissen in Zusammenhang mit den Problemen,
die zur Gründung ihrer Bewegung geführt haben; 2) die Bemühungen um Zugang zu
Wissen, das ihnen als Bürger zusteht, vom Staat jedoch nie gewährt wurde. Oft müssen
soziale Bewegungen in Brasilien Bildungsdienstleistungen mit eigenen Mitteln
finanzieren, Leistungen, die durch prekäre Konditionen charakterisiert werden und das
Recht auf eine qualitativ gute Bildung kaum näher rücken lassen.
Résumé – Partant de la distinction établie en premier lieu par Alain Touraine entre
mouvements sociaux et mouvements historiques, l’étude de l’auteur menée sur les
initiatives populaires au Brésil relève que, en dépit des différences de structure et
d’objectif, les mouvements brésiliens tels que ceux des ouvriers agricoles non pro-
priétaires, des groupes autochtones ou des femmes ont tous tenté de faire progresser
l’ordre socio-économique en place vers un nouvel équilibre, objectif qui n’est cepen-
dant pas encore atteint. Selon l’auteur, ces mouvements sociaux se désignent le mieux
par mouvements historiques. Lors de l’analyse de leurs objectifs éducatifs, il constate
qu’ils ont tendance à se diviser en deux groupes: ceux qui transmettent en toute
autonomie les connaissances liées à l’ensemble de problèmes qui a engendré leur
action, et ceux qui luttent pour obtenir l’accès au savoir qui leur est dû en tant que
citoyens et leur est encore refusé par les autorités. Les mouvements sociaux brésiliens
sont souvent contraints d’investir leurs propres ressources pour proposer des services
International Review of Education – Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft –
Revue Internationale de l’Education 44(2–3): 177–189, 1998.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
éducatifs, qui se caractérisent par des conditions précaires et maintiennent le droit à
une éducation de qualité au stade d’une lointaine utopie.
Resumen – Usando una diferenciación propuesta por primera vez por Alain Touraine
entre los movimientos históricos y los movimientos sociales, Ghanem sostiene con la
revista que realiza de las iniciativas locales de base en el Brasil que, pese a las
diferencias existentes en cuanto a la composición y los objetivos, los movimientos
tales como los de trabajadores rurales sin tierra, los grupos indígenas y el movimiento
de la mujer en el Brasil han apuntado a cambiar el orden socioeconómico corriente
para obtener un nuevo equilibrio, un proceso que, sin embargo, aún no se ha com-
pletado. Desde la óptica de Ghanem, la descripción más acertada de estos movimientos
sería la de movimientos históricos. Contemplándolos según los objetivos educa-
cionales, el autor comprueba que estos movimientos tienden a pertenecer a dos cate-
gorías: (1) la autoadquisición del conocimiento relacionado con la problemática que
dio origen al movimiento mismo; (2) el esfuerzo por acceder al saber, al que todos
tienen derecho como ciudadanos y que aún no se les ha concedido por parte del Estado.
Con frecuencia, los movimientos sociales en el Brasil se ven obligados a ofrecer ser-
vicios de educación a través de sus propios recursos, que se caracterizan por condi-
ciones precarias y que convierten al derecho de recibir una educación de calidad en
un sueño que aún está muy lejos de realizarse.
Defining social movements
This article assumes that the educational practice carried out by social move-
ments is closely connected with the manner in which these movements grow,
look for new members, and present themselves to other groups. Taking this
as the point of departure, the article makes a brief distinction between social
movements and historic movements in order to depict with greater precision
the nature of the predominant movements in contemporary Brazil. The article
will then show the terrain in which they act and the difficulties they face in
their quest for inclusion in the social structure. This inclusion means mostly
access to rights already stated in the law, one of which is the universal right
As a prerequisite to understanding the educational work of social move-
ments in Brazil, as in other countries, it is necessary to clarify the meaning
of the term “social movement” and to distinguish social movements from
historic movements. In spite of the abundant literature on social movements
(in Brazil as well as elsewhere) and the recurrent use of this term in political
debates, there has been little effort to clarify its meaning.1To simply assume
that the term includes each and every group that engages in collective action
is not very helpful. Some might consider it sufficient to say that a collective
action becomes a social movement when it confronts a problem and presents
a list of demands that gives cohesion to the group.2Such a definition is
useful in ordinary discourse, but its limitations emerge when we consider the
distinction between synchronic processes (referring to changes within an
existing social system) and diachronic processes (referring to shifts from one
social system to another). We will call historic movements those that result
in diachronic processes of social change (Touraine 1989). We will reserve
the designation social movements for those that refer to synchronic processes
of dispute on the broader guidelines of a given social system. Under these
broader guidelines some actions can bear upon the political system and con-
stitute political pressure groups. Others can occur within organizations and
are marked by reciprocal relations around defined norms based on guidelines
which emanate from the political system. It should be clear that a social
movement can also combine (and generally does) action on the organizational
level with political pressure.
Fundamentally, social movements address class conflict and have as their
paradigm the labor movement, as a class actor opposing its adversary in the
social control process created by industrialization. In this model, the self-
definition of the actor (identity), the manner in which the opponent is
defined (opposer), and the objective of the conflict (that which is at stake)
are three elements that interact and mutually strengthen each other. A historic
movement, in contrast, struggles against exclusion and in favor of national
integration. In historic movements, the main objective is to mobilize all
possible segments in favor of the country’s development.
To assess the performance of a social movement requires one to analyze
its actions in detail. There needs to be a minimum set of criteria such as what
type of problem is addressed, what image the group has of itself, and how it
defines its adversary. Since the majority of the collective actions which will
be mentioned here have not been previously submitted to analysis, we are
obliged to assume that they are classifiable according to a predetermined
concept and consider them as instances of historic movements.
In the case of Brazil, it is important to remember that more than twenty
years of a dictatorial military regime (1964–1984), which established a period
of accelerated development and modernization, added new social problems
to those already historically accumulated. This period created many obsta-
cles to the expression of popular interests and aspirations, which nonetheless
multiplied among groups in civil society. The accumulation of these sup-
pressed interests, given the closed political system and in spite of their dif-
ferences, brought about a convergence of pressure to open up the system.
This movement rapidly took on a political character and became a call for
Some authors assume that the social movements have played a leading role
in Brazilian democratization over the past two decades. Other authors, without
necessarily underestimating these movements, contend that the main effort
to open the system came from political pressure groups within the parties
(Cardoso 1985). The social origin of a great number of these groups was in
the economically privileged upper classes, including those of an openly con-
servative perspective. Whatever the case, the fight to open a closed political
system brought together a varied assortment of groups, which shared a
collective opposition to the regime while preserving their own particular char-
acteristics. There are those who interpret this process of putting together a
collective identity as the distinctive mark of the educational dimension of
the movements. In their view, the creation of an “active conscience” makes
“learning how to organize and participate” a reality.
Characteristics and educational effects of social movements in Brazil
In examining the educational dimensions of the movements, several aspects
must be discussed. First, we must differentiate between the forces that operate
in urban areas and those active in rural zones. Second, we must point out
two lines of action that in our opinion are strongly related to modernizing
processes in Brazil: those regarding ethnic issues (primarily concerning the
Afro-Brazilian population) and those concerning gender. As will be argued,
such distinctions are more analytical than real because all the various move-
ments converge toward the central issue of constructing a modern, and socially
and culturally integrated nation.
The emergence of popular group movements, observed during the crisis
of the military regime at the end of the 1970s, occurred at a time when impor-
tant economic and social transformations had already taken place because
the military regime accentuated the consolidation of industry and urbaniza-
tion. At the end of the 1950s the majority of the population was rural; thirty
years later more than 70 percent of the inhabitants were living in urban areas.
The industrialization process came about at the same time as urbanization,
although they were in many ways separate processes. It was in this setting
that labor relations, placed on the agenda by the workers (chiefly metal
workers), became an important social issue within the main industrial centers,
together with the struggle for state infrastructure and services required for life
in the cities. There were those who demanded child care facilities, schools,
health centers, paved streets, sanitation (water and sewers), electricity, street
lights, police services, and – the basis for much of the struggle – low-cost
housing. There is an estimated deficit of 10 million housing units in the
country and, in the case of the city of São Paulo (with approximately 9.15
million inhabitants), 1 million live in shanty towns and 3.5 million in inner
city slums although São Paulo is the richest city in the country.3These
problems become particularly aggravated by the immense inequality in income
distribution, which is amply recognized as one of the worst in the world.
In rural zones, two types of movement are evident: those related to indige-
nous people’s rights and those that confront the vast landed estates. The basis
of both is the highly concentrated landed property structure. Of the 6 million
agricultural establishments, half are small properties. These add up to 10
million hectares (2.69 percent of the agricultural land). The large properties
comprise 165 million hectares (44 percent of the agricultural land), and among
these are those that have more than one 1,000 hectares and use only 6.7 percent
of their area. The 61 landed estates with more than 100,000 hectares use only
0.14 percent of their area. This concentration appears at first sight to be the
result of a very backward rural world.
For the indigenous people, the essential problem of right to land intersects
with the theme of cultural self-development and the preservation of their
surroundings. These people are exposed to prolonged contact with the non-
indigenous world. Their population is relatively small, and the frequent pres-
sures of economic growth lead to conflicts over land and natural resources.
Indigenous people thus face unfavorable forces, and the support they receive
from the mass media and the NGOs cannot reverse this situation in the long
term. Historically, the government has confined indigenous people into ever
smaller lands. In order to impede the destruction of their traditions, the indige-
nous people have been obliged to contest the steady socioeconomic expan-
sion and the protection of big land tracts in the north and west of the country,
where 60 percent of the present indigenous population is found. These groups
rely on the tradition of managing resources in a gentle and environment-
friendly manner, which brings their projects close to non-indigenous strate-
gies of sustainable development, opening possibilities for balancing control
over extensive land with low demographic density. For the environmental
groups, the issue is one of making possible a partnership with the indigenous
groups themselves, while simultaneously bringing the state to adopt a clear
compensatory policy (in contrast to neoliberal strategies), to ensure the con-
stitutional rights of indigenous groups and to promote native sociodiversity
combined with biodiversity.
For the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (Movimento dos
Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST) the problem of the concentration of
agrarian property is acutely linked to one of the most dynamic sectors of the
economy, the banking system, given that enormous areas of land are used
as collateral for mortgages, loans and financial speculation. Ultimately,
these interests sustain the preservation of a highly unjust landed property
In both rural and urban areas, the movements resist a binary division of
society and attempt to promote social integration and to invent mechanisms
to make this possible. The struggles that prevail in the national arena do not
fit into the framework of structured social relations within which social move-
ments operate. These struggles are, on the contrary, a non-negotiable oppo-
sition to the status quo. In these struggles the central question is to define to
what extent the new society will be more inclusive and egalitarian, whether
it will maintain or increase the contingent of millions of marginalized people.
For example, the issue is not whether industrial policy and business man-
agement will favor armaments or food production, but whether entrepreneurs
can expand their activities in order to incorporate the majority of those who
function within the informal economy. In my view, these are, conceptually,
historic movements and not social ones.
Regarding the formal workplace, the movements are not merely preoccu-
pied with combating exploitation of labor but with addressing wider problems
of marginalized peoples. Among the movements with a privileged place in
public opinion are those in defense of street children and landless workers –
groups lacking even minimal conditions of existence, be it in the city or in
Challenges to historic movements
The movements we have described are historic movements facing a situation
that is critical and particularly adverse. Three aspects of this state of affairs
must be highlighted. First, a good number of their leaders are divided on the
issue of how to combine the revolutionary theories under which they were
formed as militants (the goal of which is always to destroy a given order),
with the demands of an institutionally democratic system regulated by legal
norms, bearing in mind that these norms are systematically infringed by the
state, which fails to guarantee social rights.
Second, there is a serious gap in Brazil between the political parties and
the popular movements. Those who are elected tend to maintain a merely
formal link with the political parties in such a way that electoral platforms
are inconsistent with policy implementation. Information about the perfor-
mance of the government is insignificant, and the weight of mass communi-
cation media (whose control is highly concentrated) is a determining factor
in projecting the candidates’ profiles and ensuring their election.
Third, the victory of the neo-liberal discourse is undeniable and has been
devastating in its effects. Although governments since 1994 have succeeded
in controlling inflation, the reforms they have introduced have opened the
economy to the external market, threatening and even destroying entire sectors.
Furthermore, governments have pursued a “minimalist state” formula, scrap-
ping state enterprises and pushing through privatization programs while simul-
taneously cutting social expenditure.
It is in this unfavorable context that the social movements act. Education
within these movements takes various forms. In addition to the education
that happens naturally through involvement of people in their actions, the
movements adopt a multiplicity of more systematic educational initiatives.
Some of these take place in training centers, but the great majority are carried
out as courses, seminars, meetings, and debates. In general, such movements
need to have the support of NGOs to collect information and systematize the
educational programs. There are no more than 180 NGOs, of different sizes,
which fit the definition of civil non-profit organizations, and which can be
described as “democratic agents of social, economic, and political develop-
ment”. A research effort conducted with 145 of these demonstrated that 34
percent were dedicated to some form of education, called popular education,
education for citizenship, training, or political education (Landim 1994).
Specific education programs
We will now mention just a few of the most significant experiences in edu-
cation connected with the movements. It is to be noted that when the Workers’
Central Union (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores, CUT, the largest central
union in the country) was set up, schools were organized in order to teach
both union militants and members of other groups and movements. The educa-
tive role of the media produced by union organizations is considerable.
Bulletins, leaflets and newspapers add up to 12 million copies in circulation
monthly. Besides the central unions, each of their branches provides training
programs for militants and leaders. The themes of these programs include
management training for the unions, negotiating practices, political activism,
globalization, outsourcing trends, and social policy.
The MST set up its own training system to prepare both militants and
leaders of the movement as well as public school teachers in areas where
camps and settlements4have been organized. For at least four years the
National Movement of Street Boys and Girls has maintained an educational
center functioning in three sectors, corresponding to three of the country’s
regions. These sectors have served the movement’s activists as well as other
social workers (called “educators”) involved in assistance programs for poor
children and adolescents.
The education program for indigenous people reflects the variety and dis-
persion of these ethnic groups (there are about 206 peoples and 170 lan-
guages), but in general they have been directed at Indian teacher training with
the intention that this would promote bilingual school education. The coop-
erative movements, such as the sisal workers in Bahia or the fishermen in
Pernambuco, try to combine their literacy initiatives for youth and adults with
productively oriented programs.
Women’s movements, such as the Movement of Rural Working Women of
Rio Grande do Sul, have gained the recognition of working and social rights
and continue fighting for the fulfillment and expansion of these rights. This
particular rural movement covers 100 municipalities and involves about 35,000
peasant women. A number of feminist groups combine their action against
gender inequality with the agendas of other movements and political parties.
Some of them campaign for reproductive rights. Catholic Women Pro Choice,
for instance, struggles for the right to contraceptives and abortion.
Another important aspect of the women’s movement is the denunciation
of domestic violence and the demand for public programs to support victims
of violence. However, it must be pointed out that the far-reaching process of
change which launched Brazil into its urban-industrial era created new forms
of production, consumption and communication. A parallel process took place
in the social and cultural realm, altering daily practices and interpersonal rela-
tions, including gender relations (Touraine 1992). In this process, mass com-
munication media, especially television, have played a role that has been
perhaps even more important than women’s movements in encouraging the
questioning of gender inequality. This has removed obstacles to the affirma-
tion of feminine identity, including recognition of diverse forms of women’s
The work of the women’s movements offers important analogies to that of
an indefinite number of groups and organizations that make up what has been
conventionally called the Black Movement.5The majority of these groups
combine two objectives: denouncing discrimination in giving legal assistance
to crime victims, and promoting a positive identity for the black community.
In some cases, they fight for the legal acknowledgment of lands remaining
from the quilombos (a name given to those areas that were controlled by
fugitive slaves during colonial times).
As we can see, the activities of the movements are largely efforts to change
public opinion, and to that extent, they have an educational character. The
National Forum Against Rural Violence, for example, aims to make safety a
public issue. It fights for public authorities to recognize security as a funda-
mental citizen’s right, it attacks the current privileged treatment given to
landed estates to the detriment of guaranteeing individual lives, and it strives
to overcome the corporate behavior of state organs (e.g. their preference for
protecting business interests). It also criticizes the inefficiency of the law
and the collapse of the prison system. Although it considers mass media as
“creators and manipulators of truth”, and “producers and reproducers of the
culture of violence” and of “antidemocratic concepts of security,” the Forum
sees some media vehicles as allies. This educative mobilization strives towards
a public security policy which counts on wide participation in elaborating and
controlling it, which is democratic (serving the entire population), which is
preventive in nature and not merely repressive, and which seeks to bring
national legislation into line with international norms.
The movements generally recognize the democratic necessity to go beyond
the particular interests of the specific group of which they are a part, thus
affirming their capacity to formulate general policies for reorganizing or trans-
forming social life. In this way, the educational programs are faced with two
fundamental aims: to modify public opinion and to empower themselves
through the elaboration of public policy. These are two fronts that would lose
effectiveness if dissociated.
The magnitude of these challenges can be recognized by analyzing the
housing movement, for example, which draws together people with very low
incomes and insufficient access to basic services in health and education.
These movements have to face the widespread practice of real estate specu-
lation in urban centers and the impressive power of real estate capital. They
campaign for land restructuring, the occupation of empty urban spaces, and
the modification of legal procedures relating to property and the use of urban
land. These movements also have to make urban, housing and land policies
compatible with one another.
Another group worth mentioning is the Community Organization Move-
ment (Movimento de Organização Comunitaria, MOC). This group covers
10 municipalities within the region of Feira de Santana in the State of Bahia.
MOC attempts to influence municipal management by means of popular
mobilization during the elaboration of “organic” laws (the organic law of the
municipality is the highest law at this level of government). Parallel to this,
MOC has developed a project to train literacy teachers. This involves grass-
roots groups, municipal administrations6and a state university. From this
position the movement tries to increase its bargaining power and to accom-
plish the goal of establishing a favorable and systematic relationship with
Some important institutional preconditions for a dialogue between the
movements and state organs were created over the past few years at the munic-
ipal, state and federal levels. There are a number of councils with reciprocal
membership, that is, with government and non-government representation,
created within the executive sector. These include the councils of social assis-
tance and the councils of child and adolescent rights. The latter have been
officially assigned the task of defining guidelines for basic social policy (such
as health and education). The majority of the child and adolescent rights
councils have a merely formal existence. The social assistance councils, on
the other hand, are negotiation arenas. For this reason, educational programs
of the movements have to deal both with rights sanctioned in legislation and
with how they work within the relevant state organs. They also have to address
the problems with which sectoral policies must deal (De Tommasi 1997).
The movements have shifted from demanding autonomy for themselves in
the 1970s and 1980s during the military regime to becoming disoriented under
the democratic regime. Throughout Brazilian history, a characteristic that
persists in today’s movements is their subordination to state acts and polit-
ical interventions. This is the reason why so many boundaries between state
and civil society are not clear. For a long time the state was, above all, the
promoter of economic development. After the “lost decade” of the 1980s the
state forfeited that position but, in many ways, still acts as an organizer of
social demands. This occurs because of inertia or omission, or when the state
acts as an interlocutor with which demands are negotiated or as a center of
elaboration and implementation of policies. In this manner, collective strug-
gles appear mainly as reactions to state intervention. The experiences at the
municipal level show that changes of municipal government – to either the
so-called “popular democratic” or the “conservative” factions – generally
coincide with extinguishing mobilization, ending certain alliances between
groups in civil society and the state in favor of some new policies, or even
interrupting policies that had already been implemented (see for instance
Stromquist’s account of the demise of the MOVA literacy program in São
Paulo, 1997). Such subordination is part of a larger phenomenon that reflects
the links between social forces and the state. This interdependence provokes
“a colonizing of the state by interest groups”. In this way the state breaks
down the opposing social forces which, caught by the need to develop short-
term political strategies, lose their capacity to engage in autonomous action.
In spite of their uneven trajectory and performance, the historic movements
that have emerged over the past 15 years can be considered responsible, not
exclusively but in great measure, for the affirmation of social rights and for
recognizing the necessity for corresponding social policies of a universal kind.
This is the mood that prevails at present, although it is not certain for how
long. The affirmation of these rights and these policies has been integrated
into public opinion and has been incorporated into the spirit of current legis-
lation, embedded in the Constitution of 1998. For example, ideas that “health
is everyone’s right” or that eight years of basic education is a universal right
no longer suffer the rejection they did no more than 40 years ago. In the
same manner, the principles of consulting the population and of popular par-
ticipation in defining public policy have already been sanctioned and are
beginning to be enacted by some (but few) municipal governments. Agrarian
reform is no longer one of the taboos and has become a state policy with a
favorable consensus, with the only remaining issues being those of form and
extent, no longer those of necessity and urgency. In general, the state has come
to act in a more explicit, distributive manner, which it had not done in the
past – but it is still necessary to overcome its timidity. In addition to this,
several policies relative to women, to the Afro-Brazilian and indigenous
populations, to those who suffer some kind of handicap, are beginning to be
Formal education and social movements
The educational action of the movements as regards the school system has
two aspects. One of these is the movements’ determination to exercise their
influence on school education. This involves an effort both to integrate their
practice into the formal educational program and to have their educational
practices recognized (Haddad 1992). It is less a matter of teaching methods
or of different pedagogical concepts and much more one of content and focus
on certain themes. For example, the Regional Commission for Those Affected
by Dams (Comissão Regional de Atingidos por Barragens, CRAB) produced,
with the help of an NGO, a primer on environmental education and orga-
nized related courses for municipal schoolteachers within the area in which
the movement worked. Another example is the work of the groups of the Afro-
Brazilian movement that denounce racist content in school textbooks. Yet
another is the use of instruction material (books and videos) by several move-
ments, such as those that condemn prejudices against sexual preferences (Gay
Group of Bahia, for instance) or promote sex education (Aids Prevention
The second aspect concerns the movements’ provision, with their own
means, of services which are not being provided by the state, as demonstrated
in the offering of literacy classes for youth and adults (Brazil has a total of
19 million absolute illiterates aged 15 years and older, which represents about
one half of the illiterates on the continent). There are also the so-called com-
munity schools and child care centers that attend predominantly to very young
children and are used mainly to provide the children with a safe place to stay
while the parents work, although they also prepare the children for regular
education. This type of educational action is ambiguous. It takes place where
a population is not provided for by state services, although it can frequently
count on some state financial aid. When a group takes on the role of substi-
tuting for deficient state education, it nearly always faces problems beyond
the already difficult conditions faced by public school education in the pro-
vision of materials, technical advice and teacher salaries. Contrary to the
aspirations of most organizers (Pontual 1996), the movements do not organize
educational activities from which adequate pedagogical practices are created.
Nor do they initiate mobilizations to incorporate these educational activities
into public education policies as minimal conditions for achieving satisfac-
tory and continuous service. It can be affirmed that the struggle to oblige the
state to assure educational rights for all constitutes the greatest challenge to
social movements working on educational issues in Brazil today.
Translated by Anne Marie Speyer and Nelly Stromquist
1. Among the various theoretical lines of analysis of social movements, one which
seems to be of great usefulness is that developed by Alain Touraine in the field of
sociology of action.
2. One interpretation among many of this type can be found in Ghon 1992.
3. These inner city slums are called cortiços. They are collective habitations, usually
big and very old houses where each room is rented to one or more families. In
some cortiços there are as many as 30 families living.
4. Settlements are rural areas with new dwellers who are in the process of becoming
owners and are awaiting legal regulation.
5. Movimento Negro is the name given by the Afro-Brazilian participants of this
6. Prefeitura refers to the executive body of a municipal government and is translated
here as municipality.
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Elie Ghanem has a master’s degree in education from the University of São Paulo.
He is a member of the advisory board of Ação Educativa – Pesquisa, Assessoria,
Informação, an educational NGO based in São Paulo. His research and practical inter-
ests revolve around the work of popular educators in urban areas.
Contact address: Mr. Elie Ghanem, Ação Educativa, Av. Higienopolis, 983, s. 32,
01238-001 São Paulo, Brazil. E-mail: email@example.com