Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Social Work


Anthropology, Cultural.


Phillips, Lynne,




This thesis examines the everyday lives of poor women in urban Brazil. The fundamental question for this thesis is whether or not their activities can be considered political and to what extent these women can be considered influential political actors who challenge existing social relations. The analysis, which puts women's voices at the centre of the research is done within the theoretical framework of new social movement theory and women's movement literature. Because these theories prove to be valuable for only certain aspects of this project, Conger Lind's theory on the politicization of basic needs is utilized in an attempt to better understand the activities of poor women. In order to facilitate the analysis, poor women are sub-categorized into two groups named "no-income women" and "working women". What becomes apparent is that no-income women have refused to accept the middle class view of their lives and have politically negotiated a space to permit a construction of reality based on their own experiences. No-income women are found to be political actors, however, not influential ones. The analysis found that neighbouring working women often participate in borrowing and lending in order to find a temporary solution to their economic problems. However, given the external constraints on these women (gaining access to food, water and shelter, husbands forbidding their participation in groups and police take-overs of meeting spaces), the environment within Brazil is not very conducive to the successful development of viable neighbourhood associations or women's groups. These working women can therefore be seen as potentially more influential as political actors than no-income women, but it should be noted that it is still extremely difficult for these women to transform their identities into strategies that will constitute significant political power. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1996 .S68. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 34-06, page: 2189. Adviser: Lynne Phillips. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1996.