PALMEIRA, Moacir. “Markets and Economic Change”. in: Vibrant – Virtual Brazilian Anthropology, v. 11, n. 1. January to June 2014. Brasília, ABA. Available at http://www.vibrant.org.br/issues/v11n1/moacir-palmeira-markets-and-economic-change/
Based on field work in the Zona da Mata of the State of Pernambuco, Brazil, this article discusses the transformations of the sugar estates and mills of the region through an analysis of the local “feiras” and markets in which workers who had been expelled from the estates were able to buy the items for their subsistence. Besides signaling the growth of a rural proletariat, the expansion of rural markets (“feiras”) revealed the emergence of smallholders who had gained a degree of autonomy inside the sugar estates. The system for provisioning the regional rural population, which had previously been controlled through the sugar estate general stores (“barracões”) was thus transformed. The counterpoint between feira and barracão reveals the complexities of change in the region and demonstrated the importance of ethnography of market places for the understanding of wider processes of social transformation.
Keywords: feira, markets, sugar estates, sugar mills, barracões, rural proletariat, smallholders, social transformation