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Key Issues and Texts: Development and Policy

Seminar 1: Urban Informality, Peripheries and Inequalities in Latin America (Dolores Señorans)

Latin America is today the most urbanised area of the world with 80% of its population living in cities. For decades much of this rapid urbanisation has been fuelled by residents who have constructed their own houses and often entire neighbourhoods. Villas, asentamientos, favelas, comunas, cantegriles, barrios, are some of the many popular ways of naming these urban areas that have long caught the attention of social scientists. This session will focus on the informal city and the urban peripheries in Latin America through an anthropological lens. Firstly, we discuss how urban segregation shapes the everyday experiences of residents considering inequalities in the access to urban infrastructure and public services, violence and environmental suffering. Secondly, we consider the changing nature of state planning – ranging from forced displacement and slum eradication to pacification and securitization – delving into the imaginaries that underpin it, and its consequences. Thirdly, we explore how residents have organised to struggle for citizenship and “the right to the city”. Finally, we reflect on the politics of representation of these spaces as sites of deprivation and their populations as the “urban poor”, and consider the potential contributions that anthropological studies from the south can make to urban theory.

Key issues

  • Urban segregation
  • Peripheral urbanisation
  • Securitization
  • The Right to the City

Additional material

Documentary “Ciudad del boom ciudad del bang” (2013).

Key texts

Bibliography
 

Seminar 2: Popular Economies: Life, Labour and Collective Politics (Dolores Señorans)

This session will address urban popular economies in Latin America in the context of contemporary academic and political debates on the precarisation of life and labour. Through the analysis of ethnographic studies, the session explores two main issues. Firstly, we will examine popular ways of making a living focusing on their linkages to social relationships and obligations, public policies, market dynamics and politics. When looked at with an anthropological lens, wageless lives are neither lacking nor detached from capital accumulation. Secondly, we will discuss what kinds of collective politics are emerging from these experiences. While it is often asserted that the precarisation of labour is part of capitalist strategies to fragment, disorganise and limit the possibilities for collective action, current political experimentations show that such a goal is never complete and that workers have developed innovative organisations to claim for their rights. More broadly, the anthropological exploration of popular economies in Latin America will lead to the interrogation of assumed distinctions such as formal/informal, market/non-market, urban poor/working class.

Key issues

  • Urban popular economies
  • Marginality, informal economy, surplus populations
  • Precarity in everyday life
  • Emerging forms of collective politics

Additional material

Documentary “Un gigante de cartón” (2020). [Students should watch it before the seminar]

Key texts

Bibliography
 

Seminar 3: Economic growth, industrialisation and industrial policy (Jennifer Castañeda-Navarrete)

This session examines the economic growth and industrialisation nexus. It discusses the evolution of industrial policy in Latin America and the schools of economic thought that have influenced it. The session critically reviews the outcomes of industrial policy in the region and how they compare with those achieved by recently industrialised countries in other regions. It evaluates emerging impacts of the global transition towards a low carbon economy and the role of manufacturing in the post-COVID-19 recovery.

Key issues

  • Neostructuralism
  • Industrialisation
  • Export-orientated growth
  • Global value chains
  • Extractivism
  • ‘Green’ transitions

Key texts

Bibliography

Seminar 4: Poverty, inequality, and social policy (Jennifer Castañeda-Navarrete)

Latin America is a region of contrasts where extreme wealth coexists with extreme poverty. This session discusses why Latin America remains one of the most unequal regions in the world and how social policy has tackled poverty and inequality since the 1990s. The session examines the evolution and outcomes of social policy in the region, questioning the underlying dominant normative approaches to development and the role of the state. Recent developments of social policy are discussed, including its financialisation and digitalisation, the mainstreaming of alternative development discourses, and the role of social policy in a transformative post-COVID-19 recovery.

Key issues

  • Poverty and inequality trends
  • Causes of inequality
  • Financialisation of social policy
  • Good living / Sumak Kawsay / Buen Vivir
  • Transformative post-COVID-19 recovery

Key texts

Bibliography

Seminar 5: International Aid and Development in Latin America (Felipe Krause)

This session examines the contemporary politics of aid in Latin America from two distinct but intimately related angles. First, we assess the economic and political interests of three major players: the U.S., China and Brazil. What are the evolving interests of the U.S. as a donor in the region? Has China effectively displaced the U.S. and other traditional development actors such as the EU? How can we understand the rise and decline of Brazilian “South-South Development Cooperation”? Second, we take the perspective of local populations and ask what key “development aid” goals have been reached, if any. Conceiving international assistance as a contested set of transnational flows – of ideas, people and capital – our aim is to understand how it intertwines geopolitical rivalries with everyday lives in the region.

Key issues

  • The international politics of development assistance
  • South-South Development Cooperation
  • Aid and human development
  • Civil society organisations

Key texts

Bibliography
 

Seminar 6: (Anti-) Drug Policy and Drug Trafficking Organisations (Felipe Krause)

This session examines the nature of the War on Drugs and its consequences for Latin America and asks whether there are realistic alternatives on the horizon. To do so, we consider the history of the War on Drugs as both a U.S.-led crusade but also as a home-grown effort, linked to racial and gender inequalities, neoliberal economic policies and the very consolidation of the nation-state. We also address the evolution of drug cartels and their violent interaction with the state since the 1970s, interrogating the underlying logics of this history. Finally, we look at recent attempts at drug policy reform and assess their political viability. Examples are taken from the two most prevalent illegal drugs in Latin America: cocaine and cannabis.

Key issues

  • The logic of the War on Drugs
  • Drug trafficking organisations
  • Drug policy reform

Key texts

Bibliography