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.