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Key Issues and Texts: Power and Protest

Seminar 1: The Rise of Social Movements in Latin America (Grace Livingstone)

This session considers the rise of social movements and discusses what constitutes a social movement. It provides an introduction to social movement theory.   It considers the relationship between social movements and the state, exploring the concepts of autonomy, co-option and participation.  It looks at the impact of military repression and neoliberal restructuring on the Latin American Left and class-based organizations. It looks at the emergence of grass-roots urban and rural social movements in the 1980s and 1990s and considers how far these represented a new form of organizing.  It considers social movements based on class, gender, race, culture and community.

Key issues

  • Horizontalidad
  • New social movements
  • Autonomy
  • Participation

Key texts

  • Charles Tilly and Lesley Wood, Social Movements 1768-2012 (London: Routledge, 2016), Chapter 1 ‘Social Movements as Politics’.(Moodle)
  • David Snow, ‘Framing Processes, Ideology, and Discursive Fields’ in David A. Snow, Sara A. Soule and Hanspeter Kriesi (eds.),  The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004),  pp.380-413.
  • Ana Dinerstein, The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: The Art of Organising Hope, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), Chapter 1, pp. 1-27 (Moodle)
  • R. Aída Hernández Castillo, ‘Indigeneity as a Field of Power: Multiculturalism and Indigenous Identities in Political Struggles’ in Margaret Wetherell & Chandra Talpade Mohanty (eds), The Sage Handbook of Identities (SAGE: London, 2010) (Moodle)

Please read about a Latin American social movement of your choice and be ready to talk about it for two minutes.



Seminar 2: Social Protest in Twentieth Century Latin America (Grace Livingstone)

This session looks at social movements in historical context.  It discusses forms of social protest and social mobilisation in the twentieth century.  It considers populism, the Cuban Revolution, guerrilla movements, resistance to military dictatorships and human rights organisations.  It considers the history of state co-option and repression of labour and social movements.   It assesses why guerrilla movements failed and looks at  Che Guevara’s theory of foquismo.   It shows how the practices and politics of contemporary social movements are in constant dialogue with the experiences of the past.

Key words  

  • Populism
  • State co-option
  • guerrilla movements
  • foquismo
  • military regimes

Key texts

  • Che Guevara  ‘The Essence of Guerrilla Struggle (1960)’ and Guerrilla Warfare: A Method (1963) in David Deutschmann (ed.), Che Guevara Reader, (Melbourne: Ocean Press, 2003), pp. 64-84.  (Moodle)
  • Robert H. Dix, ‘Why Revolutions Succeed and Fail, Polity, Vol. 16, No.3 (Spring, 1984), pp. 423-446 
  • Marysa Navarro, ‘The Personal is Political: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo’ in Susan Eckstein (ed.), Power and Popular Protest: Latin American Social Movements,  (Berkley: University of California Press, 1989), pp.241-259 (Moodle)



Seminar 3: Social Movements and the new left governments: popular participation, neo-extractivism and indigenous protest (Grace Livingstone)

This session looks at the relationship between social movements and governments of both the left and right.  It considers the  left-wing and centre-left governments of Venezuela, Argentina, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil in the 2000s and studies examples of ‘popular participation’, exploring  the concepts of  autonomy and co-option. We consider the political-economic strategy of the new ‘Pink tide’ governments, their reliance on the extractive industries and the export of primary products, which at times led to conflict with indigenous and rural social movements.   We then look at the response of social movements to the new right wing governments that have taken power in Brazil, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere, and discusses the ways social activism changes when movements lack allies within institutions of power.  We consider whether social movements based on gender, race and culture have different relationships with left and rightwing governments.

Key issues

  • Neo-populism
  • Participation
  • Neo-extractivism
  • Indigeneity
  • The new right

Key texts

  • Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden,. & Marc Becker (eds.), Rethinking Latin American Social Movements, (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), Introduction, pp.1-19 (Moodle)
  • Marcy Rein & Clifton Ross, (eds), Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements, (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2013) 
  • Anthony Bebbington and Jeffrey Bury, ‘New Geographies of Extractive Industries in Latin America’ in Anthony Bebbington and Jeffrey Bury (eds.), Subterranean Struggles: New Dynamics of Mining, Oil and Gas in Latin America, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013), pp 27-67 (Moodle)
  • Eduardo Gudynas, ‘The New Extractivism of the 21st Century: Ten Urgent Theses about Extractivism in Relation to Current South American Progressivism’ Americas Program Report, January 21, 2010 (Moodle)



Seminar 4: Transnational Activism (Grace Livingstone)

This session considers transnational activism and cross border solidarity.   Should Latin American social movements seek international allies in order to achieve their aims?   Can nationally-based protest movements use the international institutions to further their cause?  How can activists in the global North support movements in the South?   What are the power imbalances when well-funded NGOs and activist groups in the global North forge alliances with movements in the global South?  How do international interventions affect political and social outcomes in Latin America?   We consider theories of transnational activism and examine advocacy networks and coalition building.  We consider the rise of multilateral rights institutions and international NGOS.  In an era of globalisation and new technology, we consider the potential and pitfalls of transnational activism.

Key Issues

  • Transnational activism
  • Cross-border solidarity
  • International human rights institutions
  • International NGOs
  • North-South power imbalances

Key texts

  • Keck, Margaret and Sikkink, Kathryn, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, (New York: Cornell University Press, 1998), Chapter 1, pp.1-38 
  • Lucero, José Antonio, ‘Seeing Like an International NGO: Encountering Development and Indigenous Politics in the Andes’  in Eduardo Silva, ed. Transnational Activism and National Movements in Latin America. Bridging the Divide (Routledge, 2013). (Moodle)
  • Chandra Talpade Mohanty , ‘”Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles’, Signs, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Winter 2003), pp. 499-53 (Moodle)



Seminar 5: Climate Crisis and Environmental Protest in Latin America (Rodrigo Arteaga Rojas) 

In the global North, social movements responding to climate crisis and environmental conflict have gathered momentum in recent years.  These are epitomized by the youth climate strikes led by Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, ZAD, among others, However, debates and tensions within these movements have revealed the difficulties of incorporating “environmental justice” and non-Western experiences of resistance from the global South into the imaginaries and discourses of the international climate movement.

This session examines the long tradition of socio-environmental protest in Latin America from an historical and intersectional perspective. By mobilizing concepts from decolonial ecology, eco-feminist and postdevelopment theory, we consider the specific political trajectories and praxis that have shaped Latin American social movements.  We examine their distinctive responses to the extraction of natural resources and threats to biodiversity and territory. We will put these experiences into comparative perspective and place them in dialogue with the international climate movement. In what ways have these "peripheral" protest trajectories been mobilized, or not, through the revival of the climate crisis in recent years and in a digital world? What lessons can Latin American environmental movements teach us in terms of bridging the divide between technocratic sustainability and utopian radicalism?

Key issues

  • eco-territorial turn
  • decolonial ecology
  • ecofeminism
  • postdevelopment

Key Texts



Seminar 6: Media and Social Movements (Rodrigo Arteaga Rojas

This session examines how the interplay between different media configurations, journalistic practices and protest tactics have improved or limited the capacity of social movements for political action. Our discussion will focus on grassroots appropriation of local and public media, with a focus on Mexico, in particular what was known as the Commune of Oaxaca and the storming of radio and TV stations. A special interest will be placed on power relations between social movements, the media and the state. What happens when legacy media is literally occupied, reappropriated and transformed by protesters into movement media? Can movement tactics influence media coverage and framing? Can new media create durable politization, leadership and representation by itself, can it alter media and journalistic conventions? What is the interplay between movement (online) media and movement places/spaces?

In trying to answer these questions, we will aim to go beyond the dichotomies of ‘censorship’ vs ‘freedom of expression’, ‘heroes’ vs ‘hacks’, or ‘journalism’ vs ‘activism’. Instead we will explore to what extent these media strategies play key roles in logistical coordination, symbolic power and participation, as well as in forming collective identities and alliances within social movements.

Seminar preparation: The seminar will rely heavily on the collective discussion of two key readings, which are therefore mandatory.

NB: Teaching will take the form of open-discussion seminars during which students are asked to give short presentations. A good reading knowledge of Spanish (usually degree-level) is required for Estrada’s text.

Key issues

  • Protest systems
  • Symbolic power
  • Movement media
  • Movement places/spaces
  • Mediation and mediatization

Key texts 

  • Estrada-Saavedra, M, 2012. “Vox populi. La difusión mediática de la Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca”. In Marco Estrada, coord. Protesta social. Tres estudios sobre movimientos sociales en clave de la teoría de los sistemas sociales de Niklas Luhmann, Mexico: El Colegio de México. (Moodle)
  • Donatella della Porta, Elena Pavan. 2018, “The nexus between media, communication and social movements: Looking back and the way forward from” in The Routledge Companion To Media And Activism, Routledge.