This essay explores my experience of losing an authoritative speaking position – that is, ‘falling on my face’ in a research encounter with the Brazilian Landless Worker’s Movement (O Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra, or MST). My specific movements through this locale invoke Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s concept of ‘unlearning one’s privilege as a loss’; and Sara Ahmed’s theory of ‘stranger fetishism’. In writing my brief loss, I also; of course, recover my speaking position, meaning that I can always efface the loss by re-writing it as a source of ethnographic authority. This essay is written in two voices in order to reflect this paradox: one which describes the encounter, and one that critically ruminates upon it. I note, for example, that the MST as a variegated conglomerate of people takes the form of particular ‘Others’ when they are represented in the scholarship and polemic of ‘first world’ activists in the so called ‘global justice movement’. ‘Falling on my face in the street’ of these Others locates particular processes of fetishization within the global justice movement and the relationships across power and difference that are contained herein; processes that impact on the idea of a ‘global’ solidarity against systemic ‘global’ oppressions.
Brazil; ethnography; research; global justice movement