Labor Commodification in the Sugarcane Plantations of Alagoas, Northeast Brazil


Brazil, sugarcane cutters, labor commodification, labor reform, precarity


Since the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018, Brazil's ruling classes - who have always disputed labor regulations and protections with the complicity of state authorities - reorganized themselves around an authoritarian project of power. This project is widely backed by agribusiness and industrialists, given Bolsonaro’s promises to boost market freedoms by reducing social and labor rights. In this article I focus on the case of the sugarcane plantations of Alagoas, Northeast Brazil, where I have been carrying out fieldwork since 2012 to explore a couple of questions around labor precarity and job formalization using oral history interviews, documents, and labor process observations. Between May and August 2019, I returned to the field to undertake exploratory fieldwork about the consequences of the labor reform in terms of the working conditions and rights of the sugarcane cutters. 

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