Dissertation Abstracts

Connections and Controversies in the INCRA of Marabá: The State as an Heterogeneous Actor

Author: Penna, Camila , camilapennac@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Universidade de Brasília, Brazil
Supervisor: Marcelo Carvalho Rosa
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: state , social movements , bureaucracy , public policies
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management , Institutional Ethnography


The thesis studies the federal land agency responsible for executing agrarian reform, colonization and rural development policies in Brazil, the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). The research aims to understand how the agency works and its relationship with rural social movements in the process of agrarian reform policies’ implementation. Between October 2011 and May 2012, an ethnographic observation was conducted in one of INCRA’s 30 regional offices, SR(27), located in Marabá, the southeast region of the state of Pará, in northern Brazil. Using Actor-Network Theory (Latour, 2005), the research traced the agents and the connections that form the regional office in an effort to understand how they influence the everyday work of the agency. The findings suggest that SR(27) is characterized by a great heterogeneity of positions and opinions among its workers, entangled in multiple connections that influence the form by which they execute their work. The investigation also revealed that the daily routine of the civil servants in SR(27) is characterized by the presence of three great controversies related to central issues in INCRA: the time a civil servant has worked in the organ, the political interference in the state agency, and the relationship between the office and organized rural social movements. The positions, opinions, and actions taken by civil servants in these controversial issues affect their daily work and, consequently, the way policies are implemented by SR(27). Furthermore, the ethnographic observation shows that there is an intense participation of social movements in the routine work of the regional office. In this partnership, characterized by a process of both cooperation and dependence, the roles of the state and of social movements are constantly in dispute.

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