Travel Report: Tobi Timm, São Paulo, Brazil

August 16, 2012

Tobi Timm, a Master's student in the School of International Studies, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award to further his research in Brazil. His report:

With the money I received from the GIRTA I was able to fund the research for my MA project. I travelled to São Paulo, Brazil and spent my time interviewing members of an organic farming community.

Through my research I hoped to better understand the lives of workers on organic farms, and I questioned whether the material needs of workers were being met. Upon completion of my research I concluded that the aspirations of workers on the farm were in conflict with the hopes of the managers of the farm, the result being that the material needs of the workers was not being provided by the structure of the organization.

In short, those individuals who were in a position of privilege and had instigated the organic farming movement in the community gave emphasis to living frugal lives, and saw the accumulation of wealth as an impediment to achieving a wholesome community. In contrast, the workers on the farm had struggled throughout their lives to accumulate what little wealth they had, and hoped that their labour on an organic farm might improve the material conditions of their existence.

I attempted to trace back the roots of this ideological conflict to a broader set of philosophical assumptions about the importance that we place on material objects in our lives.

I am very grateful in receiving the GIRTA, and am appreciative to the staff and faculty in the School for International Studies. My supervisor was Jeff Checkel, and I am thankful for the encouragement I received from him and from others within the department throughout my research.

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