About the Book

In 1986, a group of young Brazilian women started a movement to secure economic rights for rural women and transform women’s roles in their homes and communities. Together with activists across the country, they built a new democracy in the wake of a military dictatorship. In Sustaining Activism, Jeffrey W. Rubin and Emma Sokoloff-Rubin tell the behind-the-scenes story of this remarkable movement. As a father-daughter team, they describe the challenges of ethnographic research and the way their collaboration gave them a unique window into a fiery struggle for equality.

Starting in 2002, Rubin and Sokoloff-Rubin traveled together to southern Brazil, where they interviewed activists over the course of ten years. Their vivid descriptions of women’s lives reveal the hard work of sustaining a social movement in the years after initial victories, when the political way forward was no longer clear and the goal of remaking gender roles proved more difficult than activists had ever imagined. Highlighting the tensions within the movement about how best to effect change, Sustaining Activism ultimately shows that democracies need social movements in order to improve people’s lives and create a more just society.

“Sustaining Activism opens an intimate window onto the personal and political forces that propel grassroots women’s activism in rural southern Brazil. Just as the women of Ibiraiaras and Sananduva invited Emma and Jeff into their kitchens and meeting halls, so the unique father-daughter dialogue that unfolds in this sophisticated yet highly accessible book lets us into those women’s lives.

This singular collaborative ethnography will be a treasured resource for students, scholars, and all those wishing to ‘re-enchant’ politics.”

—Sonia E. Alvarez, Leonard J. Horwitz Professor of Latin American Politics and Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Let there be no doubt: this is not only a terrific work of social science, it is also a wonderful way for students to imagine themselves in the role of researcher, contemplate the challenges of working across generational lines and against dominant expectations about how knowledge production works. Our students were fascinated and inspired.”

– José Antonio Lucero, Joff Hanauer Honors Professor, Chair, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Washington.

“There are few studies that can teach students as much about the benefits of engaged ethnography and taking seriously the complexities of social movements than Sustaining Activism.

– María Elena García, Chair, Comparative History of Ideas Program, Associate Professor of International Studies and Comparative History of Ideas, University of Washington.

Published by Duke University Press.