Indigenous Peoples and Social Movements in Latin America

ISA Cusco Study Center

Course Description

Language of instruction
Contact hours
45 Contact Hours distributed during the semester in 30 sessions of 90 minutes each.
Course description and objectives
A relevant number of countries in Latin America can fit the category of multinational or plurinational democracy. Diversity in ethno-cultural terms is a core element in these contexts, which is mainly organized around national minorities and indigenous peoples. This course analyses the different organizational patterns and diverse demands displayed by these groups, actively displayed through social movements, protests and demands for autonomy, as well as how governments decide to deal with them through constitutional arrangements and specific policies. A geographically broad approach of indigenous Latin American populations will be utilized, including a comparison of social movements, their successes and failures.

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

a.    Understand the diversity as a fundamental characteristic of Latin American societies.
b.    Consider how ethno-cultural diversity shapes political reality and influence specific manifestations.
c.    Identify and analyse different academic databases with a critical view.
d.    Read and understand academic articles on diversity and find their links with socio-political impacts.
e.    Write an essay using reliable sources and employing the structure of academic works in political science.

Course pre-requisites
There are no pre-requisites for this course.
Close, David. 2009. Latin American Politics: An Introduction. Canada: University of Toronto Press.
Tarrow, Sidney. 2011. Power in Movement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Course calendar *Sample*

Unit 1: Introduction

1.1. Introduction to the course

Review Syllabus. Unit-by-Unit Description. Semester Planning and Deadlines.

1.2. Latin America

Main characteristics of Latin American Culture: Geography and Livelihood.

Week 2

2. Indigenous Peoples

2.1. Identifying Indigenous Peoples

Main Criteria. Issues Identifying Indigenous Peoples.

READING: Jeff Conrntasel. 2003. Who is Indigenous? "Peoplehood" and Ethnonatuinalist Approaches to Rearticulating Indigenous Identity. University of Victoria. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics. Vol. 09. No. 1. Spring. pp 75-100.

2.2. Indigenous Livelihood and Vulnerabilies

Factors of Vulnerability and Resilience. Main economic, social and environmental issues.

Week 3

3. Ethnocultural Diversity in Latin America

3.1. Approaches to Asses Diversity in Latin America

Concept of Diversity. Classification of Ethnic Groups. Ethnicity and Nationality.

READING: Fearon, J. D. 2003. Ethnic Structure and Cultural Diversity by Country. Journal of Economic Growth 8: 195–222.

Week 5

3.2. Fractionalization

Concept and Factors. Polarization.

READING: Alesina, A. et al. 2003. Fractionalization. Journal of Economic Growth 8(2): 155-194.

Week 4

4. Collective Action and Political Participation

4.1. Collective Action and Decentralization

Concept of Collectivity and Action. Theories of Community Participation.

READING:  Tarrow, S. 1993. Cycles of Collective Action: Between Moments of Madness and the Repertoire of Contention. Social Science History 17(2): 281-307.

READING: Booth, J. A. 1979. Political Participation in Latin America: Levels, Structure, Context, Concentration and Rationality. Latin American Research Review 14(3): 29-60.

Week 5

4.2. Political Opportunities for Indigenous Peoples

Ethnic Political Parties and Institutions. Organizational Maturity. Electoral Volatility.

READING: Birnir, J. K., and Lee Van Cott, D. 2007. Party System Fragmentation and the Dynamic Effect of Ethnic Heterogeneity on Latin American Legislatures. Latin American Research Review 42(1): 99-125.

READING: Su, Y. P. 2014. Explaining Electoral Volatility in Latin America: Evidence at the Party Level. Latin American Politics and Society 56(2): 49-69.

Week 6

4.3. Repression and Protests

Participation and Violence. State and Protest. Unwanted Policies and Political Threats.

READING: Meyer, D.S. 2004. Protest and Political Opportunities. Annual Review of Sociology 30: 125-145.

Week 7

5. Social Movements and Transnational Mobilization

5.1. Social Movements

Theories of Social Mobilization. Types of Participation in Public Life. Social Activism.

READING: Cederman, L.E., Wimmer, A. and Min, B. 2010. Why do ethnic groups rebel? New data and analysis. World Politics 62(1): 87-119.

FIELD TRIP: Emancipation in Latin America – The Rebellion of Tupac Amaru II.

Week 8

READING: Martinez-Torres, M.E., and Rosset, P. M. 2010.  La Vía Campesina: the birth and evolution of a transnational social movement. The Journal of Peasant Studies 37(1): 149-175.

READING: Laclau, E. and Mouffe, E.H. 1985. New Social Movement and the Plurality of the Social. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, London, Verso Books. 27-42.

Week 9

READING: Madrid, R.L. 2005. Indigenous Parties and Democracy in Latin America.. Latin American Politics and Society 47(4): 161-179.

READING: Van Cott, D.L., 2003. Institutional Change and Ethnic Parties in South America. Latin American Politics and Society 45(2): 1-39.

Week 10

READING: Evers, T. 1983. Identity: The Hidden Side of the New Social Movements in Latin America.

5.2. Social Movements in Latin America

Mapuches in Chile

The Mapuche in Neoliberal Multicultural Chile

Week 11

Ecuador and its Revolution

The Indian Movement and Political Inclusion in Ecuador.

Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia

Plurinationalism in Bolivia. Insights from the Bolivian MAS.

Week 12

EZLN in México

Social Change and the Zapatistas.

The Quechua Movement in Peru

Another Incomplete Revolution. Populism and Demagogy.

GUEST LECTURE: Peruvian Indigenous Political Party

Week 13

6. Non-Conventional Social Movements

6.1. Guerrillas in Latin America

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency. Rural and Urban Guerrillas.

6.2. The Feminist Movement

Indigenous Feminism in Latin America. Gender and Inequality.

Week 14

6.3. The Environmental Movement

Climate Change Activism. Failures and Triumphs of Environmental Policy in Latin America.

6.4. The Human Rights Movement

Human Rights Activism in Latin America.

6.5. Wild Card

Any other Social Movement as Final Presentation

Week 15

VII. The Future

Final Debate: Indigenous People in Latin America as a Major Political Force

Final Exam

Evaluation Criteria

30% - Ongoing evaluation (reading sessions and discussions)
20% - Participation in Class (homework, reports, oral participation, discussion, and attitude in class)
20% - Final Debate
30% - Final Paper

Required readings and texts
All the materials will be provided by the professor to the students. The proposed handbook would be of help for the class but it is not mandatory for the course.

  • Course Name

    Indigenous Peoples and Social Movements in Latin America

  • Sessions Available

  • Host University

    ISA Cusco Study Center

  • Location

    Cusco, Peru

  • Area of Study

    Indigenous Studies, Latin American Studies, Political Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units

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