Week Thirteen: Towards an Uncertain Future

This week, I would like to focus on the topic of populism in Latin America. I choose this topic because I genuinely believe that populism is a very real threat to the democratic development of the region, and it shows no signs of subsiding. Indeed, Latin America remains consistent in its tendency towards populism, and whilst many elements of the region pertain to both continuity and change, populism is most definitely a continuity that Latin American politics is likely to see for a long time to come. More so than other regions, Latin America’s fixation on populist political leaders tends to come in widespread waves – at many instances in the 20th Century, it was suggested that populism had fallen out of favour and that it was unlikely the trend would ever return to Latin America. These projections all proved to be inaccurate.

“The Return of Populism, Latin American Style” – Javier Corrales, New York Times

This article discusses the ebbs and flows of populism in Latin America throughout the 20th Century, and notes that it is a political tool of mobilisation that may be utilised by either the right or left wing; the steadfast elements are (1) populist leaders mobilise excluded and disenfranchised groups and (2) they pose a threat to democratic institutions as populist leaders tend to invoke anti-establishment rhetoric. Many of the current populist leaders or contenders in Latin America today have honed in on a particular, pressing, and recurrent issue in their country that needs to be addressed. In the case of Iván Duque in Colombia, he has chosen security against guerrillas. In Mexico, Obrador has pinpointed on corruption and wealth distribution. Why is it that populism is so hard to shake in Latin America in particular? I personally would chalk it up to the region’s political tradition of caudillismo and the seemingly unfaltering social, political, and economic inequality, which creates a constantly disenfranchised peoples. However, Corrales also attributes populism’s continuity to external forces, particularly that of the United States. Given Trump’s inflammatory right-wing rhetoric towards Mexico, it is feared that left wing populism may take hold in the country.

“The 40 Year Itch: Populism and Polarisation Threaten Latin America – The Economist 

Whereas the previous article focuses on the conditions in which populism arises in Latin America, this article takes a very bleak approach to explore the autocratic tendencies of Latin American populist leaders in particular. According to Maxwell Cameron, Latin America is seeing the rise of ‘competitive authoritarianism’, wherein, despite using competitive, democratic means to come to power, populist leaders are expanding their presidential powers in a manner characteristic of authoritarian regime. This tends to be done by expanding their powers under constitution, and many populist presidents such as Maduro and Chavez have, upon being democratically elected, embarked on projects of constitutional rewriting. Whilst there is indeed a focus on such principles as the rule of law, security, ending corruption, and more equal wealth distribution, it remains that such a development of these democratic principles without the establishment of strong, liberal democratic institutions to protect them may be putting the cart before the horse.

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Week Twelve: Speaking Truth to Power

Hello! I am so ashamed I literally forgot all about this blog post on Monday because of the research assessment, but here it is!

I think this week’s topic is one of the most important for our present day understanding of Latin America and the way that we may reconcile the past with the present. I thought it was really useful that Dawson utilised other forms of media such as videos, because it added a real human dimension to the loss felt by survivors and those left behind that had lost loved ones to the regime. It is one thing to read about their experiences, but another to listen to and witness the real and visceral grief. Whilst it may be in the past, these events still continue to have a huge impact on the consciousness of the people of Latin America today, and society is still attempting to reconcile the deep wounds of this time. This week is also relevant to our video project topic (The Terror), as our group has decided to focus on the stories of survivors rather than the acts and intentions of the perpetrators. (Unfortunately, I was not able to access a large amount of these videos due to copyright on YouTube.)

A large part of many of these mobilisations is the demand for accountability and justice. There is no greater betrayal on behalf of the sovereign than the arbitrary detention, disappearing, and murder of innocents. The state-sanctioned enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings reflect a perversion of sovereign power, and this has almost completely razed the premise of trust between the government and its people. Even today, it is clear that Latin America is still attempting to repair this trust in these institutions.

What I also found interesting is the different dimensions of mobilisation in Dawson’s chapter. We have previously looked at military and political mobilisations of people as a whole, but the mobilisation of women is another element to resistance that we have not yet discussed in depth. These mobilisations definitely have an emotive appeal to them, which is significant in appealing to the sympathies of outsiders to gain traction and leverage over those accountable.

Whilst this was a very depressing chapter (as most of the course’s themes have been), I also found it very empowering. I think there is nothing more important than allowing survivors a platform to recount their stories so that we may seek justice for past wrongdoings, as well as learn from the past to ensure that such atrocities never occur again.

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Research Assignment: The Terror

For the video project, our group has discussed adding a ‘human’ element to what occurred in Latin America between the 1960s-1980s, rather than simply relate what happened on a macro level and risk losing a real sense of grief over what happened and what still continues to affect Latin American countries today as a result of the scars of this period. In order to do this, we will be focussing on the case studies of Guatemala and El Salvador, lest we take on a task too large and over-generalise the waves of terror experienced in Latin America. I will be discussing the case of Guatemala in particular. The two texts detailed below were chosen specifically for the personal accounts used in order to construct a holistic image of what happened on the ground.


The Guatemalan Civil War was extremely long and bloody in nature, spanning 36 years from 1960 to 1996. The main parties to the conflict were the Guatemalan Government and various leftist guerrilla groups mainly consisting of the rural peasantry of both indigenous and mestizo peoples. According to Nelson, the most horrific period in popular memory is that of 1978 to 1983, wherein the Government adopted a scorched earth policy and significantly escalated extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and the massacre of tens of thousands of people.

According to the Guatemalan Supreme Court, it is estimated that more than 100,000 civilians were killed, 35,000 widows and 200,000 orphans were created, and more than 440 villages were completely razed to the ground. According to Afflito and Jesilow, these are conservative estimations.

As Nelson and Afflito and Jesilow discuss in their respective books, this reign of terror had vast human impacts that continue to plague the country even today, more than 20 years after the conflict was ‘ended’ – indeed, Nelson describes the difficulty of defining ‘post-war’ in the Guatemalan context specifically; the war experienced multiple escalations and de-escalations, however, as mentioned above, the period of the 80s was referred to as La Volencia, a period of extreme violence that could, at any time, erupt again.

Diane M. Nelson. 2009. Reckoning: The Ends Of War In Guatemala. 1st ed. Durham: Duke University Press.

“Do you know how to make moronga [blood sausage], Diana? Well, you take a mess of blood and boil it and boil it and boil it until it hardens into sausage. That’s what’s happened to Guatemalans. All the suffering, the blood spilled in the violence and then the boiling and boiling of the decades of war, the counterinsurgency, we have a hard time thinking new thoughts because our brains have become hard like moronga.” – Guatemalan Ladino

I will be focusing on a particular chapter in Nelson’s book titled Horror’s Special Effects. In this chapter, Nelson details how we may preserve the experiences and memories of survivors in a way that is ethical and respectful, yet also does justice to the true horror of what really occurred. It is of significant interest as Nelson discusses the way in which the experiences of the Guatemalan people throughout the Civil War has affected their present psyches, responses to violence, and identity

In an anecdote, Nelson relays the disgust of a particular anthropologist whilst watching a horror movie in a hostel with various young Guatemalans from the mountains. “How can you watch this?!”, she blurted out, to which one of the young Guatemalan men replied, “This is what happened in our country. We have to watch this so we don’t forget.”

Trauma and recollections of horror survive in Guatemala in the banality of everyday. It reflects the perseverance of the human spirit in such awful times, and the difficulties of learning to live with and come to terms with civil instability, wherein the very foundations of human society are shaken and human bonds broken. In Guatemala, children were forcibly conscripted into the army and made to experience the horrors of war, neighbours were coerced to turn on neighbours, women were made to feed those who violated them and murdered their kinfolk. Nelson makes the assertion that the popularity of horror films in this country may stem from their “unexpected metaphors and shared experiences.”

I think that this book is significant due to its attempt to contextualise the trauma of the Civil War in modern day Guatemala. It is one thing to listen to the recounts of survivors, but another to truly understand how these experiences have been incorporated into the social fabric of the country today. From an outsider’s perspective, especially for those of us that cannot even begin to grasp the terrors of civil war, this book is an invaluable first step in empathising with the Guatemalan people and understanding the true human costs of the war.

Frank M. Afflito and Paul Jesilow. 2019. The Quiet Revolutionaries: Seeking Justice In Guatemala. 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press.

This book by Afflito and Jesilow also examines Guatemalan experiences in the Civil Wars, however, it deals more with the attitudes that the people have towards democracy and its institutions, including the judiciary which was largely complacent, if not an accessory, to the enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings that characterised the reign of terror in Guatemala. Throughout the Civil War, the rule of law was crippled, and the country is still experiencing mistrust in these institutions today. However, even more significant than the construction of the legal system is the way that the Civil War altered individual perceptions of the term ‘justice’, which Afflito and Jesilow argue is a subjective concept shaped by an individual’s world view. Indeed, how may one perceive justice in a society where there exists widespread state-sanctioned terrorism? Many who fell victim to these atrocities were innocent – how does one reconcile with a system that widely operates to persecute the innocent?

Rather than focus on those that committed these atrocities and the practices of the regime, Afflito and Jesilow hope to preserve the stories and legacies of those who were murdered or disappeared, as well as those left behind; the survivors of these traumas who lost loved ones to regime, and how these people came to terms with the realities of systemic violence. They refer to these individuals as “the quiet revolutionaries.” It is argued that, in losing loved ones to the system, these quiet revolutionaries turned from believing in the justice of God to radical workers who sought justice on their own accord. This transformative process was both a necessary response to the turbulence of the time, but also a demonstration of the human will to resist and revolt in the face of what one deems ‘injustice’.

I think that this book will be particularly useful not just in framing and contextualising the experiences of survivors, but also in demonstrating the ways in which the Civil War has left its mark even today in Guatemala. The rule of law and other democratic institutions are heralded as central to the operation of a healthy liberal democracy, and the lack of faith in these institutions is also definitely a barrier to the consolidation of democracy in Guatemala, as well as all over Latin America where many genocides were state-sanctioned.



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Week Eleven: The Terror

A concept that Dawson discussed in the reading this week that stuck me was the “voyeuristic quality” of the testimonio, and the way in which third party readers on the outside looking in may assign Manichean dialogues in an attempt to understand the events that transpired in Latin America throughout the 1960s-1980s. Indeed, in retrospectively attempting to explain such violence and bloodshed, it is easier for the human mind to assign labels of ‘good’ and ‘evil’; how else are we to come to terms with such cruelty and the breaking of human bonds? These retellings run the risk of being revisionist in nature, as was the case of Llosa’s essay, but they also reveal the deep complexities of the divisions in Latin America. Earlier in this course, we discussed the myriad of voices that create a ‘holistic’ history (or rather, account of what happened) – and this is really exemplified in these documents. Where there exist acts of violence and oppression, there exists guilt, blame, and attempts of justification, which really just leads to an even more complicated and distorted narrative. Civil wars even further complicate things, as these atrocities must be brought home and justified to the people as necessary for ‘the greater good’.

Whilst I found this chapter particularly confusing as Dawson often jumped contexts to illustrate a wider idea, I did appreciate the sustained discussion on Peru, which was also greatly aided by Maxwell Cameron’s video. In Peru, there has definitely been an attempt at hiding the injustices that parties were complicit in. Whilst Fujimori may have been perceived as a sort of messiah in his quelling of the Shining Path, it is comforting to know that the country would not be complacent regarding the atrocities he had a hand in – but this also presents as the duality of governance in Latin America. In many contexts, such as Fujimori in Peru and Pinochet in Chile (and so, so many more), stability often came at the expense of the rule of law and sound judicial practices. This of course only acts to further erode democratic processes and institutions within a country – therefore, on top of coming to terms with these conflicts and attempting to ensure that justice is delivered, the country faces the daunting process of restoring faith in the democratic institutions necessary for the operation of a healthy liberal democracy. I am particularly interested in is how these conflicts are reconciled on a case by case basis. Indeed, in at least the Peruvian context, the Civil War has left a deep stain on the country’s ability to function as a democracy; a fear of dissent due to the perception that such dissent could lead to political instability and renewed violence is another legacy left behind that must be reconciled.



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Week Ten (A): A Decade of Revolution in Cuba

For this week’s blog post, I am choosing to focus on Che Guevara’s letter to the magazine Marcha – I think that it is very important (and interesting) to closely analyse the works of enduring figures that have had far-reaching and deeply profound impacts on the course of history.

An essential foundation of any revolution is a collective consciousness – Guevara discusses the construction of a revolutionary national consciousness, and where the individual stands in this new system. Upon my first read of the letter, I thought to myself that Guevara has a dangerous way of speaking – he talks of ‘original sin’ and emphatically suggests that the current generation, tainted as they are from their upbringing and socialisation in a system past, must ensure that their own generation and future generations are not perverted by these old institutions.

Retrospectively, the idea of propaganda is seen as negative, and perhaps this is why I read this argument of his with such caution. In a modern world that champions democracy and freedom, history tends to look unfavourably upon instances of indoctrination, as it seriously inhibits the individual’s ability to think independently and voice their own opinions and interests. However, that is why it is so useful to have primary sources such as these, where Guevara discusses indoctrination unabashedly in such detail. At the moment of writing, propaganda and indoctrination are not manipulative tools to steer a populace towards an agenda, they are a necessity to purge a populace of the exact underpinnings of a system that was overturned because it was undesirable. Guevara’s letter almost reads as a ‘how-to’ guide for other revolutionaries to utilise in understanding the necessary coordination process of revolution and conversion to communism.

The letter also contemplates the delicate balance between socialist and capitalist, and authoritarian and democratic. In his mind, socialism is good because of the collective goods and freedom from inequality that it offers (debatable whether this is a fact). However, he seems to understand that authoritarianism may be characterised as an evil due to the restriction on personal and economic freedoms. He seems to attempt to reconcile this by suggesting that “we socialists are more free because we are more fulfilled; we are more fulfilled because we are more free,” and that “the individual … has greater inner wealth and many more responsibilities.” However, I think that here there exists a fundamental error, especially when Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is considered. It is not possible to skip lower levels of needs and supplant esteem and self-actualisation in their place – it would render the whole process unsustainable. If lower, more basic needs are not met, it is not possible for the individual to remain complacent.

The final thought I had when completing this week’s readings was the state of revolution, and how this is retrospectively analysed by historians and political scientists. Guevara notes that “what is hard to understand for anyone who has not lived the revolutionary experience is that close dialectical unity which exists between the individual and the mass, in which both are interrelated, and the mass, as a whole composed of individuals, is in turn interrelated with the leaders”. I do believe that attempting to understand the masses was a way in which communist governments attempt to remain legitimate (whether genuinely or not is another question), however, in a revolutionary movement there does exist a connection between a leader and the masses that is unlike any relation that we in the Western world would ever have been privy to, especially where there is “the struggle for liberation against an external oppressor.” This kind of legitimacy, as Dawson notes, is perhaps why the people may be so forgiving towards the blunders of their leaders, even when these blunders cause great suffering for the people.

Guevara has an intense fixation on revolution in this letter, and in particular, the essence of a revolutionary spirit. Perhaps one of the reasons that some insist that the revolution in Cuba is still ongoing is because they understand that inspiring revolutionary spirit in a populace becomes dangerous once the government grows complacent and is no longer ‘revolutionary’.  In class, we discussed what was entailed by the term ‘revolution’ – and a resounding idea was that revolution indicates something novel – whether this be a process or a quick turn.

“Socialism is young and makes mistakes.” This is such a foreign concept to someone from and socialised in a Western country – we have established institutions, standard operating procedures, stability. It is easy to retrospectively look upon periods of revolution with disdain for the decisions made in them, but can we, in a ‘stable’ society, even fathom the social, political, and economic turbulence of such biblical proportions? Retrospectively studying revolution suddenly becomes an incredibly complicated task.


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Week Ten: Power to the People

This week, I was able to see the effect that technology had to move the people into the forefront of the political game. As it has been noted multiple times thus far in this course, one of the things that made Latin American so hard to govern, even back to the earliest colonial days, was the difficulty in maintaining communication across its vastness. It was because of this that there became centres of concentrated powers in the form of caudillos, which ultimately led to the significant fragmentation of society.

However, with the advancement of technology came increased channels of communication, allowing leaders like Vargas, Cárdenas, and the Peróns into the homes (and often the hearts) of the people. The ability of radio to create a national consciousness was unprecedented. It is interesting to see how opportunistic leaders learned to use and dominate the medium in order to have their voice heard the loudest – and how in alienating their opponents from airspace, they were able to create a one-sided narrative that the people could follow and rally behind. In my mind, this parallels the Nazi’s use of the Volksempfänger to spread their propaganda outside the borders of the Reich – contributing to the personality cult of Hitler.

This brings me to my next point about populism and its dangers. I was surprised that Dawson skirted around any definitive way to identify a populist leader (or even define populism) as to me, this term is almost synonymous with Latin American politics. Its roots run deep in Latin American political traditions, and its various historical and current rises indicate that, for some reason or another, populist leaders have a vast and intense appeal to the people. Populism can be a great danger to liberal democracies as, among other things, the highly personalistic leadership styles of ‘true’ populists such as Perón and Chavez allow for a personality cult to grip the nation, further distancing people from democracy and leaving them vulnerable to imagined/curated narratives. Populists also tend to be anti-establishment, and in a lot of cases (e.g. Chavez) this has led to a rejection or weakening of democratic institutions such as the judiciary. Further, populism can be characterised as a type of groupthink, which is never a good thing (à la Bay of Pigs). I could sit here for hours and list out all the dangers of populism, however, I will save the effort and instead conclude that just as caudillismo can be seen as a long-standing legacy that has razed the democratic foundations of Latin America, I would argue that so too can populism.

Populism is not limited to Latin America, however. The world seems to have taken a populist turn, with the election of populist leaders such as Trump in the US, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India, Duterte in the Philippines, Netanyahu in Israel, Ergodan in Turkey, and many more. It is intriguing and a little daunting to think about the implications of these populist leaders in status quo nations for the current of international politics.





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Week Eight: Signs of Crisis in a Guilded Age

The resonating theme for this week’s reading to me was ‘conflict’ – and it seems this has been the case for a great deal of the last few weeks’ readings. Conflict between Latin America and the encroaching imperialism of the United States, between followers of Zapata, Villa, Madero, and Diaz, and ultimately between different socio-economic classes of Latin America as a whole. This all paints an image of a deeply divided society at war with itself, whose power dynamics have been further distorted and complicated by the process of modernisation. In the West, it is easy for us to think of modernisation as beneficial. As we discussed in last week’s class, it brings about increased efficiency, technological advances, and (ideally) democratic changes in the current. However, I had never considered how high the human cost of such a progression often ends up being – industrialisation and the struggle for worker’s rights (Dawson makes note of the unremarkable nature of violent conflict erupting between workers and bosses in this period) and the “loss of rights, land, and autonomy.”

Dawson suggests that “it would be misleading to represent this as a period of perpetually looming crisis”, but it is hard to see it as anything but given the constant narrative of conflict, revolution, and instability. But perhaps it is because of this that I found Darío’s poem so refreshing – to talk of such a society by referencing its rich history and in such patriotic and emotive language was a nice break from the aforementioned narrative; “… our America lives. And dreams. And loves. / And it is the daughter of the Sun.”

Another thing I found particularly interesting in the reading was the distinction drawn between rural and city-dwelling rebels. Dawson argues that rural rebels did not belong in the cities, and that their concerns lay mostly with things local in nature such as regaining land that had been acquisitioned in the modernisation pushed by Diaz. And because of this, once they had occupied the cities and shown that they were a force to be reckoned with, they had no great reason to stay and occupy Mexico City. It got me thinking that perhaps this is another legacy of caudillismo. It is interesting to compare this to other agrarian revolts in history that had entirely different outcomes (for example in the Soviet Union).

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Week Seven: The Export Boom as Modernity

What I found particularly interesting this week was this concept of ‘modernity’, and how it is defined and used not only in the context of Latin America, but also in general. ‘Modernity’ evokes images of progress. However, what is progress exactly? The very idea that there exists a heightened form of society to which we can attach the term ‘modern’ is, to me, contestable. I think it is very important to note that modernity is a posited concept with a constructed meaning, and further to decouple the concepts of ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’. Are such things as progress even quantifiable? And what value is attached to having ‘progressed’? If progress is conceptualised as moving towards something on a linear timeline,  then when can a society be said to ‘regress’?

Modernisation theory tends towards Western economic ideals and policies, and as raised by critical economists such as Prebisch, this can therefore leave such factors as colonialism and exploitation out of the picture. But there also exists a normative element to modernisation that Dawson touched upon. In a western conception, modernisation is a process that is often accompanied by democratisation – a dual transition. However, it is interesting to see that Latin America exists as an outlier to this process (obviously due to its vastly differing social, historical, economic, and political foundations) yet difficult to explain why this remains the case.

Aside from this observation, I was interested to engage with Díaz’s discourse about limits on Presidential terms. My fixation on this part of the interview is most likely due to the fact that I am also currently undertaking a course on the politics of Latin America (POLI 332 – I highly recommend it!), and Latin America has a long and persistent authoritarian legacy. This legacy has led to a decay of a number of democratic processes, especially with regard to the reworking of constitutions in order to expand powers of the President. Therefore, I found Díaz’s insistence that a third term of presidency for Roosevelt was not something to be feared as a sort of confirmation of the authoritarian tendency (at least in Latin America) to pervert such democratic rules. Of course, it was only after the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution that a limit on the number of terms that a President may hold office was of any constitutional significance, but it was still very interesting to contrast the attitudes towards breaking democratic traditions – which Latin American Presidents seem to do with much gusto and very radically.







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Week Six: Citizenship and Rights

I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s content as I am personally very interested in the nitty-gritty of rights discourse! Where do they come from? Do they even really exist? Are they simply western constructions? What about the tension between culture and rights? Is the international human rights agenda simply a form of neo-imperialism?

Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with all Hobbesian philosophy, I think that the social contract is a great way to conceptualise rights discourse. According to Hobbes, the creation of the social contract demands for a transfer of rights between the sovereign and the subject; in return for protection against the state of nature, the subject relinquishes a significant level of autonomy  to the sovereign. However, who is to be considered a subject is also the prerogative of the sovereign – citizenship (and the rights that come with it) may only be afforded to those selected by the sovereign. In this way, it is very often that the elite comprising a majority of governments exclude non-status quo groups such as slaves, ethnic minorities, and women from various rights such as freedom and franchise.

What really struck me as interesting in the readings was the role of religion in dictating which rights were afforded to who, how they could exercise these rights, and how far these rights extended. Christianity (Catholicism in particular) had a significant hand in the way that women were seen in society, and was used to justify their place – Pelliza de Sagasta references the words of Maria del Pilar Sinués de Marco; “No, no, God made man the natural head of the family. Work! He said to Adam. Love, He said to women in general through Eve. Console man!… Follow him wherever he goes!” Women were to be on a pedestal, “the absolute queens of the hearts of men“, and this is where their ‘strength’ lay; their true ‘natural’ place.

Similarly, colonialism and Christianity have long come hand-in-hand. Latin America is only one instance of the paternalistic tradition of Catholic missionaries, sent by their sovereigns or driven by their own convictions to ‘save’ the souls of the natives from their own ignorance and sin – such was ‘the white man’s burden.’ In this way, religion again dictated the way in which people in a certain society were to be seen – again, ‘other-ed’ by the status quo and as a result, alienated from the rights and freedoms enjoyed by those seen as legal subjects.

A missing piece in my understanding this week is the intersection between religion and slavery. How did Catholic slave-owners and contributors to the slave trade/ those that complied with it justify the practice? I myself am not too knowledgeable about this intersection, and whilst I feel that Nina Rodrigues’ document ‘The Fetishist Animism of the Bahian Blacks‘ may hold some answers, I found that document ridiculously hard to decipher.

Religion is and always has been a large part of Latin American society and culture, and whilst I am by no means suggesting that religion is the root cause of a lot of divisions in this society, I am interested to see how such things may be used to justify the distinctions between different groups. Where is the place of religion and culture in rights discourse? Returning to my earlier question, how can we navigate the occasional tensions that arise between culture and rights?






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Week Five: Caudillos Versus the Nation State

What I found particularly interesting this week was Jon’s discussion of the social contract, and how, in the face of such a fragmented and almost lawless society (especially in the countryside and remote outposts), such a concept that we take for granted in the Western world may be rendered obsolete and unfavourable in comparison to other modes of protection, such as caudillos.

According to Hobbes in Leviathan, the state of man nature is so fearsome and undesirable, that man will accept significant burdens on his freedom in the form of a sovereign in order to escape this state of nature; nature is a “warre… of every man against every man.” It is the very existence of a higher authority that keeps this war at bay. The perversion of this social contract by Rosas and his Mazorcas had ultimately led to a recreation of and reversion to this state of nature. After reading Echeverría’s short story, I could not help but draw similarities between The Slaughterhouse and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, both works drawing upon the central idea in Hobbes’ Leviathan that, in the absence of authority (i.e. in anarchy), savagery, cruelty, and chaos underpin social behaviour. Both authors also use vivid and visceral imagery to depict the depths of mankind in the state of nature, as well as the dangers of mob mentality (through Echeverría’s use of disembodied voices to create cacophony and chaos) and the almost irreversible impacts it can have on order and the rule of law.

These ideas echo a documentary that I watched a few years ago when undertaking a class called The Sociology of Third World Development. The documentary primarily dealt with the issue of ongoing and inextinguishable gang violence in Brazil, and when asked for the rationale for joining such violent organisations, many incarcerated gang members cited disenfranchisement and the feeling of living outside the protection of the law as the most attractive pull-factor of these gangs. (I cannot recall the name at this point in time, but when I do I will post it in the comments! It is a very interesting watch!) Additionally, disenfranchisement has always been (and still is) a significant concern for much of Latin America, and serves as potent kindling for populist movements and the election of populist candidates to positions of power. Perhaps it can be argued that these patterns of political mobilisation are well-established in Latin American consciousness – and just as the population have been conditioned by tradition to push back against feelings of disenfranchisement, so too have leaders learnt to read such trends and exploit them for political power.

But more than this tradition, what is it about Latin America that makes it so hard to govern? Surely it cannot simply be the result of a patchwork of identities. Why is it so that this cycle of disenfranchisement leading to momentum for populist movements seems to persist so vehemently in the region? And why on such a widespread scale?



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