Mysticism in the landless rural workers movement (MST) of Brazil : secular religion or liberation theology repackaged?

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Smyth, Julia Chelise, 1979-

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This thesis focuses on the use of mysticism in the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) of Brazil in their struggle for agrarian reform and social justice. Instead of stagnating or disappearing as has befallen many agrarian movements in Brazil, the MST continues to fight for agrarian reform more than 20 years after its formation, and has spread to all states in Brazil, gaining access to land for 250,000 families along the way. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the MST's own brand of mysticism, called mística, to ascertain both its historical roots and influences and its purpose within the movement. Given the movement's relationship with the both the progressive wing of the Brazilian Catholic Church and prominent liberation theologians and the influence socialist and humanist ideals in the organizational structure and implementation of the movement's practices, mística emerges as a tool for creating a community of landless who come to the movement with distinct economic, cultural, and political histories. Mística acts as both a secular religion and a reworking of liberation theology views on mysticism in the Catholic tradition, an act of daily remembrance and inspiration for the landless, with its own symbols and liturgy.


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