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A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2015 Population Association of America Annual Meeting in San Diego and the 2015 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, where I received invaluable feedback from Sara Curran and Matt Hall, respectively.
This paper examines how structure and agency interact to shape forced migration outcomes. Specifically, I ask how structural factors such as compensation policies as well as social, financial, and human capital may either foster or constrain migration aspirations and capabilities. I use longitudinal, semi-structured interview data to study forced migration among farmers displaced by the Belo Monte Dam in the Brazilian Amazon. Results from baseline interviews indicate that nearly all community members aspired to purchase rural land in the region and maintain livelihoods as cacao farmers or cattle ranchers. Constraints limiting the ability to attain aspirations included strict requirements on land titles for properties, delays in receiving compensation, rising land prices, and the lack of power to negotiate for better compensation. Despite these constraints, most migrants succeeded in attaining aspirations, as they were able to mobilize resources such as social networks, financial capital, skills, and knowledge. These findings highlight the importance of considering the relationship between structure and agency within forced migration research. I conclude by discussing how the findings may inform resettlement policies for future cases of development- or environment-induced forced migration.
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- Structure and agency in development-induced forced migration: the case of Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam
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