Renata Motta is Adjunct Professor in Sociology at the Institute for Latin American Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin and Associated Researcher at desiguALdades.net. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the Freie Universität Berlin. Her teaching and research interests include political sociology, political economy, environmental sociology, social inequalities and gender. She has authored articles in these areas for Journal of Agrarian Change, Social Movement Studies, Sociology Compass, Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais. Her newest publication is the book "Social Mobilization, Global Capitalism and Struggles over Food: A Comparative Study of Social Movements" (Routledge, 2016).
Since 07/2018: Junior Professor (Assistant Professor) in Sociology, Institute for Latin American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
2015-2018: Adjunct Professor in Sociology (Postdoc Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin), Institute for Latin American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
30214 Hauptseminar Machtwechsel und Umverteilungskonflikte in Brasilien (mit Sergio Costa)
33603 Kolloquium Forschungskolloquium Soziologie
33862 Hauptseminar Del ecofeminismo hacia las políticas del cuerpo: debates teóricos y estudios de caso (mit Martha Zapata Galindo)
30208 Hauptseminar Global Sociologies Environment, Gender and Southern Theory
33950 E-Learning Wissenschaftspraxis I (mit Barbara Fritz, Robert Lüdtke, Antonio Carbone)
On maternity leave
Global and Regional Transformations: Theories, Trends, Interdependencies (mit Sergio Costa)
Soziale Ungleichheiten und die Weltregionen: Theorien und Diagnosen ( mit Sergio Costa/Barbara Fritz)
Neue Perspektiven auf soziale Bewegungen in Lateinamerika (mit Marius Haberland)
Current Project: Bridging Environments: United by Food?
Support by: Margherita-von-Brentano-Zentrum, FU Berlin
Under which conditions does ‘bridging’ occur between the countryside and the urban centers in conflicts over socio-environmental inequalities related to food production relations? What prevents it from happening? There is a significant gap in the literature in political sociology on processes of ‘bridging’ and ‘brokerage’ across sites where problems arise and are addressed, from the local to global scales. When these processes are addressed in the literature, an intersectional analysis is missing. Often, women are attributed a leading role in grassroots mobilization whereas global agents and brokers are mostly associated with dominant masculinities. I address three aspects of the research problem. The first is the different categories of actors along lines of social class, gender and ethnicity who participate in interconnected struggles. The second is the multiple scales in which linkages between rural and urban sites take place, in the context of global food chains, ranging from processes at the local level, to those that reach the national political agenda and cross national borders. The third is the influence of different themes that make bridging either possible or unlikely to happen, including how the different materialities of nature intersect with social mobilizations.
Following from the theoretical understanding that bridging conflicts depends on concrete actions from social actors while being challenged by disconnections that exclude places and actors from global chains, I will conduct extended case studies of successful wide coalition-builiding, namely, Wir haben es satt (Germany) and Marcha das Margaridas (Brazil).
Brazil and Argentina are the second and the third largest producers respectively of genetically modified (GM) crops. The ten-year lag between the conversion of the majority of soy fields to GM soy in Argentina (1999) and Brazil (2009) relates to differences in social mobilization. By examining explanations for these different paths, the research addresses the conditions in which challengers from social movements changed the official pro-GMO policy and the conditions that prevented it happening. This situates the research in a wider problematic of the conditions for social participation in the trajectory of agrarian change. The research enquires not only into the role of national political contexts but also contextualizes these in relation to global agrarian capitalism. The theoretical framework establishes a dialogue between political economy and political sociology, mediated by a focus on social movements’ theory. It includes structural and actor-centred explanations, material and cultural dimensions, and a dialogue between social movement research and peasant studies. The analytical factors were placed in relation to one another in order to explain paths of social disputes over GMOs, classified in two ideal types of outcomes: a situation of hegemony or of controversy.
The study draws on methods of macro-analytical qualitative comparisons, adopting a research design of “most similar, different outcomes” while adding a time dimension to explain changes in the trajectories. The main data consists of 28 in-depth interviews with key activists during the years 2012 and 2013. The core of the empirical work is the reconstruction of almost two decades of social mobilization over GM crops. Based on that, the research provides key explanations for each outcome by identifying three main analytical factors: organizational bases and networks, contentious meanings, and structure of political opportunities. These are articulated in an explanatory model: early social mobilization – with mobilizing structures and contentious meanings – is a necessary condition to participate in the shaping of policy; but it is not sufficient as it depends on a third condition, namely, a favourable structure of political opportunities. The latter is influenced, in turn, by the national political economy and the structural location of these countries in global commodity chains (GCCs). Activists in producer nodes face harder challenges as commodities are important sources of private and state revenues. The agrarian poor bear the global socio-environmental burden of GCCs, resulting in their social mobilization if mobilizing structures and meanings are given. Finally, the perception that the locus of decision-making lies in national politics facilitates mobilization, while the perception that politics is manly determined by global market dynamics is demobilizing.
The thesis argues that the transformation of Argentina and Brazil into top world producers of GM crops cannot be explained by biotechnology performance but by political struggles, in which social movements and the rural poor were silenced, ignored, or demobilized by a network of actors in favour of GMOs. The argument highlights the relevance of studying political struggles over GMOs at least for two reasons, one empirical and one theoretical. Firstly, unravelling the complex history of the domination of GMOs in two countries that are propagated as breadbaskets of the world is informative to the wider global debate on agrarian futures and food security. Secondly, the issue of GMOs is also illustrative of contemporary challenges of how social mobilization and rights claims can counter systemic imperatives of global capitalism and political interests.
Jelin, E.,Costa, S. & Motta, R. (2017). Global Entangled Inequalities: Concepts and Evidence from Latin America. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Peer Reviewed Articles
Motta, R. (2016). Global Capitalism and the National State in the Struggles over GM Crops in Brazil. Journal of Agrarian Change, 16(4), 720-27.
Castro, F. de, & Motta, R. (2015). Environmental Politics under Dilma: Changing Relations between the Civil Society and the State. LASA Forum, XLVI(3), 25-27.
Motta, R. (2015). Transnational Discursive Opportunities and Social Movement Risk Frames Opposing GMOs. Social Movement Studies, 14(5), 576–595.
Motta, R. (2014). Risco e modernidade uma nova teoria social? Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais, 29(86), 15–27.
Motta, R. (2014). Social Disputes over GMOs: An Overview. Sociology Compass, 8(12), 1360–1376.
Motta, R., & Alasino, N. (2013). Medios y política en la Argentina: las disputas interpretativas sobre la soja transgénica y el glifosato. Question, 1(38), 323–335.
Motta, R. (2009). Sociologia de risco: globalizando a modernidade reflexiva. Sociologias, (22), 384–396.
Motta, R. (2009). Ciências Sociais na América Latina: Privilégio Epistémológico, Estilo Original. Revista Debates, 3(1), 9–26.
Motta, R. (2008). Biopolítica e neoliberalismo: a vigilância sanitária no limite da utilidade para o comércio internacional. Revista de Direito Sanitário, 9(2), 9–30.
Motta, R. (2017) Socio-Environmental Inequalities and GM crops: Class, Gender and Knowledge. Co-edition of book with Elizabeth Jelin and Sérgio Costa. Global Entangled Inequalities: Concepts and Evidence from Latin America. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Motta, R. (forthcoming). La movilización de mujeres en las luchas contra los cultivos transgénicos en Argentina y Brasil. In M. Braig, M. Zapatha & M. Rauchecker. Género y Sustentabilidad.
Motta, R. (forthcoming). A criação de uma controvérsia sobre os transgênicos no Brasil. In A. Mueller & F. Soares. Modernidade sem Fronteiras: Desenvolvimento e Desigualdades Entrelaçadas.
Motta, R. (2016). Peasant movements in Argentina and Brazil. In K. Dietz & B. Engels (Eds.) Contested extractivism, society and the state: Struggles over mining and land. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Motta, R., & Arancibia, F. (2016). Health experts challenging the safety of pesticides in Argentina and Brazil. In M. Chamberlain (Ed.), Medicine, Discourse and Power. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 179-206.
Góngora-Mera, M., & Motta, R. C. (2014). El derecho internacional y la mercantilización biohegemónica de la naturaleza: la diseminación normativa de la propiedad intelectual sobre semillas en Colombia y Argentina. In B. Göbel, M. Góngora-Mera, & A. Ulloa (Eds.), Desigualdades socioambientales en América Latina. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colómbia, pp. 395–433.
Motta, R. (2013). Risky Politics: A Sociological Analysis of the WTO Panel on Biotechnological Products. In M. B. A. van Asselt, E. Versluis, & E. Vos (Eds.), Balancing between Trade and Risk: Integrating legal and social science perspectives. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 59–80.
Motta, R. (2013). Ganancias, abortos y cáncer: riesgos y desigualdades en torno a la soja transgénica en Argentina. In L. Vecslir (Ed.), Entre la incertidumbre y el riesgo. Reflexiones sobre la modernidad radicalizada en la América Latina (ebook). Bahia Blanca: EdiUNS.
Motta, R., & Sobral, F. (2009). O risco dos OGMs: um conflito entre os campos político, científico e econômico. In A. M. Fernandes & S. Raninscheski (Eds.), Américas Compartilhadas. São Paulo: Francis, pp. 197–219.
Motta, R., Poth, C. and Rauchecker, M. (2016). The Construction and (De)legitimation of Knowledge: The Biotechnological Agrarian Model in Argentina. desiguALdades.net Working Paper Series 96. Berlin: desiguALdades.net International Research Network on Interdependent Inequalitie in Latin America.
Motta, R. (2013). The public debate about agrobiotechnology in Latin American countries: a comparative study of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. ECLAC Production Development Series 193. Santiago de Chile: ECLAC.
Work in progress
Article: Capitalismo Global y Estado Nacional en las Luchas acerca de los Cultivos Transgénicos en Brasil. Estudios Críticos del Desarrollo. Accepted.
Article with Florencia Arancibia. The conflict over pesticide regulation in Argentina. Science as Culture. Revise and resubmit.
2016. Gleiches Übel, unterschiedliche Wege: Wie gentechnisch veränderte Soja in Argentinien und Brasilien Fuß fasste. Zeitschrift der Informationsstelle Lateinamerika (ila), 398, 4-6.
2012. "GM soy producers and crop sprayer face criminal charges", GM Watch, August 20. Available at: http://gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2012/14133-verdict-expected-on-gm-soy-producers-charged-over-pesticide-spraying