3. Methodology and Research Tools
This is an exploratory study carried out primarily in the city of Marabá in the state of Pará in northern Brazil. Marabá was chosen for several reasons. About 500km (310 miles) south of Pará’s capital Belém at the mouth of the Amazon River, it is located in the heart of the Amazon region where so many land conflicts have taken place in the past. As a result, it is the location of one of the main CPT offices in Pará. The CPT leaders there work closely with members and leaders of local rural workers’ unions and other groups based in the developing rural zone. Their office also served as a library resource for books and documents on the CPT and its history, which would not have been available in Belém (the SIT base from which the research project was planned). Furthermore, I had previous contact with the CPT leaders there and with Marabá in general by way of a group SIT visit to the city in October 2007. Marabá thus provided an ideal combination of reasonable accessibility from Belém, relevant organizations and individuals, and presence in a historically significant region. Part of the study also took place in Rondón do Pará, a small city northeast of Marabá and the location of a Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais (STR, or rural workers’ union) that the CPT works most closely with. In Rondón, I attended a weekend-long meeting between the CPT and the STR.
The primary research tool used in this study was semi-structured interviewing. The Appendix includes a list of the basic interview questions used, which supplemented regularly by questions shaped by the specifics of the interview. The study also used observation (at the meeting of the CPT and the STR in Rondón do Pará) and secondary-source research into the history of the CPT, of the Catholic Church in Brazil, and of liberation theology in general. Semi-structured interviews were chosen with the assumption that only by talking to people who have been involved in this changing fight would it be clear what purposes and ideologies were in mind when key actors used different methods for action in the past and today. Although much of the factual information about CPT history, for example, was available and was researched in relevant books and secondary sources, part of the goal of this research process was to get the perspective of those directly involved with the activism in the south of Pará, and to understand which elements of the text and theory really are meaningful in the field. Interviews were consequently the preferred tool for research. All interviews were conducted in Portuguese. The secondary-source research helped flesh out the information gathered in the interviewing process, and contextualized the specifics of the Marabá region into the histories of relevant institutions and ideologies. This research included a mix of Portuguese and English sources; most sources in Portuguese were those related directly to the CPT and its history. Observations at the meeting between the CPT and the STR helped shape an understanding of the relationship and interactions between people’s organizations and the CPT.
The interviewing subjects were the 4 primary staff of the CPT in Marabá (three male and one female), the president of the STR in Rondón (female), one of the primary staff members of the MST in Marabá
(female), a progressive priest and nun, both working in Marabá, and a former priest who left the Church many