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Dissolving the sugar fields: Land reform and resistance identities in the Philippines

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The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme (CARP) was introduced in the Philippines in 1988 to facilitate a more equitable distribution of land and heighten agrarian efficiencies. The programme has faced considerable obstacles on the island of Negros, where sugar barons have tried to manipulate the new land laws to retain ownership of their large estates. This paper outlines the response of peasant communities on Negros who, with national scale nongovernmental organizations, have coalesced a social movement in a vision of fair and equitable land reform. Building on recent work by social movement theorists, we focus upon the production of the collective identity that binds geographically isolated communities into a coherent and recognized grouping. Particular attention is given to the promulgation of oppositional histories and narratives through farmer association networks which provide peasants with the means to nurture alternative environmental imaginaries and inspire resistance actions. While the strengths of such identities in resisting more powerful development actors are evident, questions are raised about the longevity of such identities, their role post-land reform and their potential to contribute to more fundamental postdevelopment challenges to imposed development norms and processes.

Keywords: Philippines; collective identity; environmental imaginary; land reform; resistance; social movements

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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