This article explores the need to recognise and compensate the plurality of environmental justice claims, while paying close attention to the outcomes of the most marginalised groups – cultural and ecological – in political decision-making to avoid vestiges of hegemony. The early history of the Movimiento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (MST) serves as a case study in which environmental justice claims clash with indigenous rights claims. In recent decades, the MST has refused settling Amazonian indigenous territories, consistent with the organisation’s Via Campesina platform, which focuses on redistributing the 50% of national territory controlled privately by Brazil’s richest 4%. Yet, in the 1970s and early 1980s, Brazil’s military government pitted landless peasants and indigenous people’s struggles against each other, circumventing land reform potentially disruptive to the country’s de facto colonial fazenda land system. This tactic pressured competing groups – landless peasants and indigenous people – to fight against each other, concluding predictably: the most powerful factions ended up getting their way, conceding less in negotiations than their less-advantageously positioned, marginalised counterparts. When marginalised groups gain concessions in environmental justice struggles, often the goods comprising those concessions come at a cost to marginalised groups with even less political visibility. Hegemonic structures of power remain non-negotiable in the process of alleviating other injustices in perceived zero-sum politics. Such systemic displacement and dispersion of violence in systems built on violence suggests hegemony affects not just to other marginalised groups, but to nonhumans too.

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Keywords MST, Brazil, land rights, hegemony, indigenous commons
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Journal Local Environment : The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability
Hendlin, Y.H. (2018). Environmental justice as a (potentially) hegemonic concept. Local Environment : The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. doi:10.1080/13549839.2018.1488823