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Identity, Territory and Land Conflict in Brazil


  • LaShandra Sullivan

  • I wish to thank my friends and colleagues at the University of Chicago and Reed College for their critical comments, insights and wisdom in the preparation of this article, as well as anonymous referees for helpful comments.


In the last century, national and international movements in capital and ideas have contributed to the radical transformation of the Brazilian countryside. In Mato Grosso do Sul, Guarani have been displaced onto reservations (through often extra-legal means) due to deforestation for cattle ranches and agricultural plantations. Guarani land activists link displacement to problems like starvation and high crime rates. Today, protest occupations of plantations result in sometimes violent counter-mobilization by plantation owners. This article investigates the production of ethnic boundaries between self-identified ‘Indians’ and ‘non-Indians’, which become articulated as territorial. It interrogates how these boundaries are both produced by and contribute to the economic development policies driving the land grab in Brazil.