Research Theme 2

Citizenship, States and Social Movements in Latin America

Since the beginning of the new millennium many signs have pointed to a crisis of the neo-liberal development model in Latin America. Many left-wing and nationalist governments have come into office, often on the wave of widespread social and political protest and popular movements. Compared to Africa and Asia, Latin America has a strong tradition of involving social and popular movements in the political process. This was evident, for example, in Latin American struggles against dictatorships and unjust rule. Today, as most countries are on a democratic path, social movements often appear to be engaged in conflicts arising around issues of neo-liberal and post-neoliberal modernization.

The developments of the last decades furthermore suggest that Latin American social movements are increasingly co-operating across borders, within the region as well as with movements in Europe and the United States. In many parts of Latin America, there seems to be a focus on new versions of citizenship and identity which no longer prioritise individual commitment to integration into society and the market. Instead, or in addition to individualism, in many cases there is a growing concern with empowerment, recognition and rights. The emergence of new social actors and demands also questions the role of the nation-state as the only relevant entity related to issues of citizenship. Transnational networks and diasporas remind us that citizenship and identity cannot be defined according to membership in one nation-state. Questions of rights and entitlements must consequently be studied in a global and post-national context.

This research theme gives rise to the following questions: How can we characterize the new nationalist governments that have come into office in many Latin American countries? What is the role of civil society, social movements and local NGOs in the processes of democratization in Latin America? What types of citizenship, rights and entitlements emerge as part of contemporary processes of change?

See also Project Group 1 and Project Group 2