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Sustaining Activism: A Brazilian Women’s Movement and a Father-Daughter Collaboration


In 1986, a group of young Brazilian women started a movement to secure economic rights for rural women and transform women’s roles in their homes and communities. Together with activists across the country, they built a new democracy in the wake of a military dictatorship. In Sustaining Activism, Jeffrey W. Rubin and Emma Sokoloff-Rubin tell the behind-the-scenes story of this remarkable movement. As a father-daughter team, they describe the challenges of ethnographic research and the way their collaboration gave them a unique window into a fiery struggle for equality.

Starting in 2002, Jeff Rubin and Emma Sokoloff-Rubin traveled together to southern Brazil, where they interviewed activists over the course of ten years. Their vivid descriptions of women’s lives reveal the hard work of sustaining a social movement in the years after initial victories, when the political way forward was no longer clear and the goal of remaking gender roles proved more difficult than activists had ever imagined. Highlighting the tensions within the movement about how best to effect change, Sustaining Activism ultimately shows that democracies need social movements in order to improve people’s lives and create a more just society.



Jeff Rubin is Associate Professor of History and Research Associate at the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs at Boston University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University. He is the author of Decentering the Regime: Ethnicity, Radicalism, and Democracy in Juchitán, Mexico and co-author of Sustaining Activism.

Emma Sokoloff-Rubin's work on Latin America has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic Online, Guernica Daily, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, Reuters, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Yale Globalist. She graduated magna cum laude from Yale in 2011 and was awarded Yale’s John Hersey Prize in Journalism and a Howland Fellowship in Research and Public Serivce. "

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