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The Political Ecology of Education cover

David Meek

Available now!
November 2020
PB 978-1-949199-76-5
eBook 978-1-949199-77-2

Radical Natures Series

The Political Ecology of Education

Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement and the Politics of Knowledge


Agrarian social movements are at a crossroads. Although these movements have made significant strides in advancing the concept of food sovereignty, the reality is that many of their members remain engaged in environmentally degrading forms of agriculture, and the lands they farm are increasingly unproductive. Whether movement farmers will be able to remain living on the land, and dedicated to alternative agricultural practices, is a pressing question.

The Political Ecology of Education examines the opportunities for and constraints on advancing food sovereignty in the 17 de Abril settlement, a community born out of a massacre of landless Brazilian workers in 1996. Based on immersive fieldwork over the course of seven years, David Meek makes the provocative argument that critical forms of food systems education are integral to agrarian social movements’ survival. While the need for critical approaches is especially immediate in the Amazon, Meek’s study speaks to the burgeoning attention to food systems education at various educational levels worldwide, from primary to postgraduate programs. His book calls us to rethink the politics of the possible within these pedagogies.



Part I: Conceptions of the World

1. It Wasn’t Supposed to Be This Way

2. The Struggle on the Land

3. Space Wasn’t Easy

4. To Stay, or to Leave?


Part II: Terrain of Ideologies

5. Communities of Praxis

6. Fences around Knowledge

7. Learning through Movement

8. Revisiting Territory




David Meek is an environmental anthropologist, critical geographer, and food systems education scholar with area specializations in Brazil and India. He is assistant professor of global studies at the University of Oregon.


The Political Ecology of Education is a revelation. By focusing our attention on the role of critical food systems pedagogy in enacting food sovereignty in the most important social movement in the world, David Meek’s book offers a new and vital contribution to political ecology and agrarian studies.”
Bradley Wilson, West Virginia University

“This extraordinary book is about nothing less than survival: the survival of workers, communities, and the landscapes that they call home in the Brazilian Amazon. Meek weaves together beautifully written ethnography with a brilliant analysis of agricultural political ecologies. This is a must-read for all of us who care about rural communities and sustainable futures.”
Paige West, Columbia University