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Keywords:

  • transnational agrarian movements;
  • peasant movements;
  • global civil society;
  • rural politics;
  • class alliances;
  • global governance;
  • La Vía Campesina

This essay introduces a special issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change on transnational agrarian movements (TAMs). The contributors’ methods and subjects vary widely in geographical, temporal and political scope. The contributors to this collection share an understanding of TAMs’ complexity that grows out of an appreciation of the complicated historical origins and the delicate political balancing acts that necessarily characterize any effort to construct cross-border alliances linking highly heterogeneous organizations, social classes, ethnicities, political viewpoints and regions. This introductory essay outlines the TAMs’ deep historical roots and also explains why and how the authors in this collection see this complexity as an essential element in understanding TAMs. This complexity can be understood by looking at seven common themes: (i) representation and agendas, (ii) political strategies and forms of actions, (iii) impact, (iv) TAMs as arenas of action between different (sub)national movements, (v) class origins, (vi) ideological and political differences and (vii) the dynamics of alliance-building. By acknowledging TAMs’ contradictions, ambiguities and internal tensions, the authors also seek, from the standpoint of engaged intellectuals, to advance a transformative political project by better comprehending its origins, past successes and failures, and current and future challenges.