Recent settlement in Brazilian Amazonia : labour mobility and environmental degradation
The context of this thesis is Brazilian Amazonia and the subject is the discussion of labour force mobility and immobility as well as environmental degradation following current occupation process of this natural resource frontier. The overall aim is to identify the forms and mechanisms of the capitalist occupation process which has taken place in Amazonia in the 1960-1990 period. I consider the issues of increasing labour force mobility and environmental degradation as a question of changes in the relationship between people-nature. These changes in Brazilian Amazonia relate to an expansion of the territorial limits of capital and are a consequence of the occupation process encouraged by the Brazilian State. The central research question of this thesis is why and how does a regional development policy for Brazilian Amazonia, designed with the aim of promoting the occupation of the empty spaces of the frontier, lead to a progressive expulsion of the previous inhabitants of those areas. In the same way, why did government programmes not ensure a settling of the new colonists (landless migrants) on the land in these frontier areas where, by definition, we would suppose there are huge expanses of land available. The argument is that the Brazilian State, taking it for granted that the Northern frontier areas should be occupied, promoted a sort of occupation in which the frontier was to be expanded following a pattern of urbanised jungle, where the urban space was the support of this process. According to this strategy, the circulation (mobility) of the labour force was seen to be more relevant than the settlement of small landless producers. In this way, migration (as a mechanism in producing the labour force) played a crucial role in creating a regional labour market in frontier areas. Moreover, this thesis will discuss the Extractive Reserve model presented by the so-called traditional inhabitants as a proposal for rainforest productive conservation and counter-mobility of the labour force in Brazilian Amazonia. The present study analyses specific spaces in the Amazonia: the Pre- Amazonia Maranhense (Eastern Amazonia), considered an earlier frontier area from the 1960s, and the Acre River Valley (Western Amazonia), that represents a newer frontier area from the 1970s and 1980s.