New Spaces of Resistance in Latin America: Beyond the Pink Tide​

19 April 2018 - 20 April 2018

SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building

Registration for this conference is now closed.

 

Convenors

Sam Halvorsen (Queen Mary University of London)

Grace Livingstone (University of Cambridge)

Iberia Pérez (Latin America C-MAP Fellow, Museum of Modern Art)

 

Summary

This two-day conference brings together researchers across multiple disciplines interested in new spaces of resistance and protest that have opened up in Latin America in recent years. Much attention has been given to the left-wing 'Pink Tide' that swept across governments in much of the region, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela. During this time, grassroots actors continued to innovate with new forms of resistance that have existed in a complex relation with state actors: at times in cooperation but also through co-optation and repression. Most recently, with a (re)turn to conservative and neoliberal governments, new political coalitions and actors have had to mobilise quickly and improvise with new repertoires of contention, from the new media collectives in crisis-ridden Brazil to multi-sector alliances against the hike in utility fees in Argentina.

2018 marks a unique opportunity to reflect on new spaces of resistance in Latin America – those opened up during years of 'post-neoliberal' development, and those even newer spaces created in response to recent transformations in state-based politics. Bringing together leading scholars working on Latin America and resistance the conference will draw out emerging research agendas and discuss a range of questions, including:

  1. What new spaces of resistance have been opened up in Latin America and what is their broader significance?
  2. What role has art and social media played as spaces of protest?
  3. How have different tactics been shared and travelled across the region and beyond?
  4. How have social movements related to the state? What have been the benefits and costs for co-operating with progressive governments? What have state-led popular participation initiatives in Latin America achieved? What lessons can be learned?
  5. What new spaces of resistance are being created in opportunities to the recent right turn, especially in Argentina and Brazil?
  6. What broader lessons can be learned from the successes and failures of recent protests in Latin America?

Day 1 will be focused around three panels: new digital technologies and resistance; arts and resistance; and social movements, the state and the new right. It will end with a keynote presentation by Professor Maristella Svampa (UNLP/Conicet, Argentina).

Day 2 will be focused on panels addressing issues of gender, racer and resistance; and new geographies of contention. It will end with a roundtable discussion on new directions of resistance in Latin America

 

Sponsors

             

Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the University of Cambridge's Centre of Latin American Studies, and the Latin America Bureau.

 

Administrative assistance: conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk

 

Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange or book accommodation for registrants. The following websites may be of help:

Day 1 - Thursday 19 April

9.00 - 9.15

Registration

9.15 - 9.30

Welcome and Introduction

9.30 - 11.00

Panel 1: New Digital Technologies and Resistance

Chair: Iberia Pérez (Museum of Modern Art)

 

Kasia Buzanska (University of Cambridge)

'Technologies of Digital Decoloniality in the Andes'

 

Maite Conde (University of Cambridge)

'Social Media and Social Mobilization in Brazil: Mídia NINJA and the June 2013 Protests'

11.00 - 11.30

Break

11.30 - 13.00

Panel 2: Cultural Practices and Resistance

Chair: Lucy Foster (University of Cambridge)

 

Juan Miguel Kanai (University of Sheffield)

'Sustaining Spaces of Queer Resistance after the Pink Tide'

 

Erica Segre (University of Cambridge)

'Occupations: Problematizing the Spatial Poetics of Dissent in Contemporary Latin American Art'

13.00 - 14.00

Lunch

14.00 - 14.10

Tom Gatehouse (Latin America Bureau, London)

'Latin America Bureau's Voices of Latin America'

14.10 - 16.10

Panel 3: Social Movements, the State and the New Right

Chair: Grace Livingstone (University of Cambridge)

 

Ronaldo Munck (DCU/University of Liverpool)

'Social Movements in Latin America: Of Mapping, Paradigms and Social Transformation'

 

Marcela Lopez Levy (Latin America Bureau, London)

'Human rights and state power: Tracing the history of the forty years of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo against the changes in policies and actions of the state in Argentina'

 

Julia Buxton (Central European University)

'Resistance(s) in Venezuela'

16.10 - 16.30

Break

16.30 - 18.00

Keynote

Chair: Joanna Page (University of Cambridge)

 

Maristella Svampa (UNLP/CONICET Argentina)

'Latin American Debates - Political Regimes, Extractivism and Social Movements'

Day 2 - Friday 20 April

9.30 - 11.00

Panel 4: Gender, Race and Resistance

Chair: María Moreno (University of Cambridge)

 

Mo Hume (University of Glasgow)

'A River with rights? Interrogating spaces for socio-environmental resistance in Chocó, Colombia' 

 

Mónica Moreno Figueroa (University of Cambridge)

'Internalised oppression and the tensions around resistance'

11.00 - 11.30

Break

11.30 - 13.00

Panel 5: New Geographies of Contention

Chair: Sam Halvorsen (Queen Mary University of London)

 

Bernardo Mançano Fernandes (UNESP/CNPq)

'Socioterritorial movements in Matopiba and Apodi, Brazil'

 

Sarah Radcliffe (University of Cambridge)

'Going Underground: Organisational exhaustion and telluric politics in the Ecuadorian Andes'

13.00 - 14.00

Lunch

14.00 - 15.00

Roundtable: New Directions of Resistance in Latin America

Chair: Sam Halvorsen (Queen Mary University of London)

 

Julia Buxton, Fernando Calderon, Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, Ronaldo Munck, Maristella Svampa

Julia Buxton (Central European University)

'Resistance(s) in Venezuela'

For twenty years the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela has faced sustained and frequently violent domestic opposition actions intended to overthrow democratically elected government and reverse constitutional and policy initiatives. Activities including coup attempts, industrial sabotage, street protests and election boycotts have been supported by foreign actors, most specifically the US government. The paper demonstrates how this (counterproductive) resistance informed the evolution of Bolivarianism, shaping three very distinctive presidential terms for Hugo Chávez and galvanizing shifting (and ultimately unsustainable) strategies for ‘defence of the revolution’. However the key contention is that Venezuela’s conflict is not a clash between ideological Left and Right forces (neoliberalism is a minority preoccupation in Venezuela and the socialist characteristics of Chavismo are disputed). It is instead a twofold struggle; at the domestic level to capture rent from Venezuela’s oil sector for distribution to competing clientistic networks; at the international level, to keep Venezuela within the US sphere of influence during a period of geostrategic and global flux. To evidence this view, the paper discusses the frequently overlooked continuities between Chávez’s Bolivarian Fifth Republic and the Puntofijo system of the Fourth Republic (1958-1998) that preceded it, including in relation to foreign policy.

 

Kasia Buzanska (University of Cambridge)

'Technologies of Digital Decoloniality in the Andes'

This paper takes two projects involving the use of information technology for indigenous language and culture revitalisation purposes in the Andean region as a starting point to consider issues of cultural, political and economic freedom in the age of ‘digital globalisation’. It considers the new postmodern networked subject within three aspects of Quijano’s colonial matrix of power – the authoritative, epistemic and economic. Involvement in the contemporary digital age involves a high degree of self-consciousness of one’s identity and strategic movement within the global network of culture, authority, and economy. This Western-initiated, increasingly digitalised space, can facilitate what Mignolo calls ‘border’ and thus ‘decolonial’ thinking. While there still exists a power hegemony, largely limiting the extent to which individuals and states can navigate this network, modern networked subjects are characterised by an increasing freedom of thought and constantly seek to make the ‘space of flows’ move to their advantage.

 

Maite Conde (University of Cambridge)

'Social Media and Social Mobilization in Brazil: Mídia NINJA and the June 2013 Protests'

In June 2013 Brazil witnessed one of its largest protests movements in the country’s history when more than a million Brazilians took to the streets of a number of cities to protest the rising fares of public transportation. The protests precipitated a wave of discontent and demands for improvements in urban life and better public services, as well as changes in discredited democratic institutional politics. This paper discusses the role of social media in the June protests and its use in mobilizing thousands to take to the streets. It will also explore how social media platforms offered an alternative to mainstream media and became a space for connecting civil society to the political.  A key actor here was Mídia NINJA (an acronym for narrativas independentes de Jornalismo e Ação). A non-corporate, non-profit media group run by citizen journalists in over 100 Brazilian cities, Mídia NINJA used smart phones to livestream the protests and posted photos and memes produced by their own journalists, or by protestors and activists on facebook and twitter, amplifying opinions of the events taking place and producing a powerful counter-narrative to the corporate media. Analyzing this new ecology of Brazilian media this paper seeks to understand the disruptive potential of forums like Mídia NINJA in June 2013 and looks at how this networked society keyed into and helped to reconfigure Brazil’s political landscape.  

 

Mo Hume (University of Glasgow)

'A River with rights? Interrogating spaces for socio-environmental resistance in Chocó, Colombia' 

 In 2017 the Colombian constitutional court passed sentence T622, a pioneering legal mechanism which gives explicit recognition to the River Atrato as a ‘subject of rights’. This is the third river in the world to be granted such recognition. Founded in the idea of a sustainable socio-environment, this paradigm of rights, new in Colombia, has been expressed as ‘bio-cultural’ rights to ensure the river’s ‘protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration’ and also to recognise the inextricability of the river with the livelihoods and survival of the communities who live around it.

This paper – based on very recent fieldwork – offers an initial exploration of Afro Colombian communities’ struggle for rights along the Atrato River in Colombia.  While the sentence marks a legal victory in this struggle, the paper situates it in a wider exploration of socio-environmental challenges in a region which is characterised by an an ongoing ‘humanitarian crisis’. This contrasts with the rhetoric of peace in Colombia.

 

Juan Miguel Kanai (University of Sheffield)

'Sustaining Spaces of Queer Resistance after the Pink Tide'

The expansion of citizenship and social rights associated with the Pink Tide included LGBTI subjects in several Latin American countries, with salient legislative changes in Argentina, and Brazil assuming a leading pro-LGBTI role in international forums where questions of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression remained highly contentious. This presentation reflects on the implications of recent political changes on LGBTI rights in both countries, and provides ethnographically-based reflections of ongoing queer activism in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. The presentation will argue that forms of culture-based activism, such as the case of the queer tango scene, have been impacted by economic recession and exclusionary policies in Buenos Aires, yet activists are responding with new strategies, alliances and forms of solidarity. In Rio de Janeiro, where there is a surge of gender-based, transphobic and homophobic violence while policy support is eroding and multiple scales, digital platforms are useful for activists to construct narratives of policy advocacy, socio-cultural legitimation and life-asserting visibility.        

 

Marcela Lopez Levy (Latin America Bureau, London)

'Human rights and state power: Tracing the history of the forty years of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo against the changes in policies and actions of the state in Argentina'

The paper traces a timeline of the actions of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo (the three main organisations, that is, Madres, Línea Fundadora and Abuelas), those emblematic human rights organisations, vis a vis the policies and actions of the state, from the first mothers gathering in Plaza de Mayo to the present day. Drawing on their own words, we hear about the new spaces for protest they created, where housewives stood against state repression that took on an unprecedented scale and new forms of violence such as forced disappearances. Their actions and interventions over forty years in public life are set in the context of state policies and society’s changing responses to their demands (charted via the print media). As the actions of the state and society’s reactions changed over time, the Madres went from being tolerated to ongoing derision (‘las locas’), to becoming the ‘conscience’ of the country, to becoming the focus of the recent disenchantment with human rights. I reflect on the distinctive strategies of each of the three organisations and provide a closer look at the current consequences of the alignment between the state and the movement that took place under the governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández (between 2005 and 2015).

 

Bernardo Mançano Fernandes (UNESP/CNPq)

'Socioterritorial movements in Matopiba and Apodi, Brazil'

We present two case studies: one in a region of MATOPIBA that was created by the Dilma government to serve the interests of landowners and multinational corporations. We analyse how agribusiness is organised to acquire new lands from landowners. We also study the participation of pension funds, sovereign funds and private funds and their relations with national companies, multinational corporations, and landowners. In this case, we find a strong presence of rentier capitalism as well as large acquisitions of land. We find territorial enclaves of agro-extractivism along with expropriation and poverty. And another where we analyse the conflict between Del Monte Company and the Landless Workers' Movement (MST) in the dispute by part of the irrigated perimeter of the Chapada do Apodi in the state of Ceará. In the land disputes for the expansion of agro-extractivism, there was a vast protected territory: agrarian reform settlements.

 

Mónica Moreno Figueroa (University of Cambridge)

'Internalised oppression and the tensions around resistance'

In this paper I want to do two things. On the one hand, discuss the relevance of the study of internalised oppression for the social sciences, in particular for sociology, in relation to debates on resistance. On the other hand, use the challenge to decentre beauty studies as a way of exploring such complexity of the relationship between internalised oppression and resistance. Starting from a feminist intersectional perspective I consider beauty studies as a site from where to understand the experience of internalised racism. It is also a space that allows a conversation between black, mestizo and indigenous feminism in the hope that through the exploration of their specificities, major commonalities can be drawn. The focus of this conversation are the perspectives on beauty that have tried to decentre the idea that white models of beauty are the goal of all women, that is, that white beauty is iconic (Tate 2010).

 

Ronaldo Munck (DCU/University of Liverpool)

'Social Movements in Latin America: Of Mapping, Paradigms and Social Transformation'

Social movements in Latin America have always attracted lot of attention and not a little passion. Today, as the period of progressive governments that began around 2000 begins to unwind, we might turn again to social movements as potential agents of social transformation. We start with a section on Mapping which relates the various social movements to the social system of accumulation and the hegemonic political regimes. We then turn to the main existing theoretical Paradigms seeking to explain, account for and analyse the wide variety of social movements that Latin America is characterised by. The final section on Social Transformation takes up some of the learnings from the sections preceding and points towards a renewed research programme to develop both theory and practice. 

 

Sarah Radcliffe (University of Cambridge)

'Going Underground: Organisational exhaustion and telluric politics in the Ecuadorian Andes'

After the street protests, Levantamientos and long marches of the 1990s, the twenty first century saw Ecuadorian indigenous movements fractured and dissipated by cross cutting affiliations, dropping public support and increased pressures on local organising. In this context, the Correa government from 2006 discursively delegitimized indigenous agendas, selectively co-opted and criminalized their organisations, and actively extended territorial projects into indigenous areas in pursuit of petroleum, minerals and other resources. In light of this, Andean indigenous movements in the central Andes have reconfigured and reoriented their political networks, practice and frames. The paper traces the emergence of a sociospatial strategy of re-localization that seeks to build community embeddedness and a telluric politics linked to place and pachamama. The paper analyses this political dynamic in relation to decolonial disputes over territory, citizen-state relations and sovereignty.

 

Erica Segre (University of Cambridge)

'Occupations: Problematizing the Spatial Poetics of Dissent in Contemporary Latin American Art'

This comparative paper seeks to discuss the contrasting practices of two prominent socially-engaged ‘disobedient’ artists (of different generations of countercultural or activist art) who work in an interdisciplinary way often resorting to site-specific or interventionist actions, installations and experimental film projections: Cecilia Vicuña (Chile, b.1947-) and Minerva Cuevas (Mexico,b.1975-). They are both discrepant participants whose artmaking involves participatory critiques and often works that develop as long-term socialised projects. They are environmentalists and activists in relation to pro-democracy gender, indigeneity, social and economic justice, human rights.... They tend to articulate resistance through art as a communitarian and ‘sustainable’ intervention in public space that often interpellates or activates the invisible structures that make art viewing ‘productive’ and on occasion, ‘profitable’: Cuevas' pseudo-corporation and non-profit organization Mejor Vida Corps (1998-), her Del Montte-Bananeras (2003/10) and film 'Dissidence 2' (focusing on acts of resistance or disobedience, 2007-12) involve ironic misappropriations and re-enactments as well as practical and alternative premises for counter-discourse and dismantling of corporate mass media and economic colonialism. Her mordant work exploits a range of settings deliberately expanding and interrogating the territory of the public, including museums and the internet. Vicuña is well-known as a founding member of Artists for Democracy in the wake of the Pinochet coup, and as an early proponent of land art and other interventions in the radical aesthetics on the 1970s. Her coining of 'precarious' strategies of contestation, her hybrid performance poetry, Quipu-inspired installations (Quipu de lamentos (2006) Quipu menstrual (2006) Quipu rojo (2014)and Quipu Womb (2017), and her long-term support for Mapuche rights have often operated through the ideas of nexus and synergy, correlating constellations and clusters of cultural referents, artisanal materials, found objects as well as experimenting with sound, voice and music mobile ‘sculpture’.

Cuevas’ overtly political insertions/subversions resorting to ironic misappropriation of corporate systems of production and profit along with the symbolic ubiquity of brands and logos, contrasts with Vicuña's artisanal turn, redeployed detritus and quasi mystical communality. Both have a radical transatlantic dimension and have a transnational presence that is critical of neoliberalism and globalization. Both have exhibited their work at key spaces for contemporary art in the UK, including in Tate Modern. While Vicuña resorts to a poetic paradigm of re-symbolization and evocation which is inclusive, Cuevas elects to exceed the procacity of the ultra-prosaic to literally sabotage the recodifications of a rampant consumer and marketing culture  exposing the political underlay and normative behaviours in the reception of art. To what extent does this art constitute a space of uprising that is ‘new’ and to what extent does it operate through strategies of occupation and by means of occupational hazard?