In her essay, Karla Mundim examines Indigenous protest movements in Ecuador, focusing on the protests against construction on the Piatua River in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Mundim argues that, despite the enshrining of the prior consultation of Indigenous communities and the "rights of nature" in the country's constitution, Indigenous communities continue to protests and make themselves visible to the state to safeguard their democratic rights.
In 2021, two SSRC programs, Drugs, Security and Democracy (DSD) and Anxieties of Democracy (AOD), joined forces in order to explore the challenges currently facing democratic societies across the Americas. This collaboration resulted in the Democratic Anxieties in the Americas Research Grants, a grant competition that sought to mobilize new knowledge on two key themes: (1) political representation, political participation, and inequalities; and (2) judicial politicization and the judicialization of politics. With the support of the Open Society Foundations, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Mark and Anla Cheng Kingdon Foundation, the grants were intended to fund research projects with the potential to generate a comparative regional dialogue on the sources of and solutions to democratic anxieties in the Americas.
Twelve projects were selected by an external committee of experts. These projects explored a wide range of topics within the two key themes, from the politics of representation to the issues of corruption and independence of the judiciary, offering new insights into the challenges and opportunities facing democracies in the region and across the globe.
The result of this collective effort, this Items essay series offers the grantees a platform to introduce their topics of interest to a broader audience and showcase some of their findings. Although these essays are not meant to offer in-depth analyses, they will hopefully allow the reader greater insight into the topics that are currently animating their research agenda. While each essay should be read as a standalone document, taken together they present an important comparative snapshot of the many threats to democracy experience by different countries in the Americas at this moment in time.
This series has been curated by Cleia Noia, director of the Drugs, Security and Democracy program, and Catalina Vallejo, codirector of the Just Tech program.
Violence against Women in Politics in Brazil: An Instrument of Power and Anti-Egalitarian Obstructionby Tássia Rabelo de Pinho
Here, Tássia Rabelo de Pinho examines how violence against women in politics manifest in Brazil to the detriment of advancing women's engagement in politics at the national and local levels.
District Selection and Racial Identity: Voting Preferences in the Colombian Congress’ Black Districtby Cristina Echeverri-Pineda and Mateo Villamizar-Chaparro
Despite the creation of ethnic congressional district meant to increase minority representation, participation in Colombia’s Afro-descendant district has been historically low. Here, Cristina Echeverri-Pineda and Mateo Villamizar-Chaparro examine why Afro-Colombian participation in this district has stagnated and what it could mean for democracy in Colombia.
Nós por Nós: How Community Organizations are Reinventing Democracy in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelasby Anjuli Fahlberg, Cristiane Martins, Joiceane Eugenia Lopes, Ana Claudia Araujo, Lidiane Santos, Sophia Costa and Guilherme Baratho
In their research, Anjuli Fahlberg, Cristiane Martins, Joiceane Lopes, Ana Cláudia Araújo, Lidiane Santos, Sophia Costa, and Guilherme Baratho examine how democracy is being recreated in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, particularly Cidade de Deus, where Covid-19 was first recorded. Drawing on their research on the pandemic’s impact on local residents vis-à-vis emergent forms of autonomous governance and how these are shaped by gender and racial dynamics, they argue that civic associations’ mobilization tactics in Cidade de Deus can help us understand how democracy is being reinvented in these spaces under conditions of extreme governmental neglect.
“An Assault on Democracy”: The Effects of Voter ID Laws on Immigrant-Serving Organizationsby Hajar Yazdiha and Blanca A. Ramirez
Following the weakening of the Voting Rights Act in the United States, many Republican-controlled states enacted restrictive voting ID laws aimed at limiting franchise access to communities of color. In their research, Hajar Yazdiha and Blanca Ramirez examine how immigrant-serving organizations in five Southern states recalibrated their resources to help immigrants vote. Focusing on Alabama, they investigate five shifts these immigrant-serving organizations have made to address the impact of voter ID laws, which, the authors argue, shows how these restrictive laws can lead to new forms of organizing and resistance.
Representing Mining Realities: Journalism of the People and Digital Expressions of Democracy on Facebookby Adela Zhang
The conflict between communities in the Peruvian Andes and multinational mining companies has often been told by national media controlled by elites in the capital of Lima. However, the advent of online livestreams has allowed local communities to make their demands and reveal their circumstances to the public at large. Here, Adela Zhang examines how these popular forms of journalism present a different version of the “reality” of extractive capitalism to the one shown by the mainstream press.