Modern meetings: Participation, democracy, and language ideology in Brazil’s MST landless movement

by Gregory Duff Morton

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In the democratic cosmology of Brazil’s MST landless movement, a meeting must occur before a decision can be reached—even if the decision was set before the meeting. I examine MST speech habits in an effort to understand the meeting as a symptomatically modern method for producing authoritative discourse. I identify four properties of MST meeting speech: (1) a lexicon that highlights verbs of speech, (2) the enforcement of tight semantic linkages between utterances, (3) the equal availability of one speech act to all participants, and (4) the generation of a distinctive species of collective voicing. By virtue of these properties, the meeting becomes a crucial site for the construction of equality and participation as political values. It is these values that are ultimately in play when a speaker mobilizes other people’s words to make—or prevent—a decision.