- Voices of Latin America: Social Movements and the New Activism ed. by Tom Gatehouse
Voices of latin america: social move-ments and the New Activism, a collection of essays edited by Tom Gatehouse, head of the "Voices Team" at the Latin America Bureau (LAB), situates social movements in political, economic, and social context in Latin America. Many of the movements supported pink-tide governments, while also holding those governments accountable for their so-called progressive politics. This collection of essays was published just prior to significant political and economic upheaval in the region. A return to the right fueled by the (re)instatement of neoliberal policies, [End Page 280] resulted in widespread, organized protest in many countries.
In Brazil, conservative Jair Bolsonaro won the presidential election in 2018 with a majority of the popular vote. In the last months of 2019 and into early 2020, student-led protests in Chile challenged neoliberal policies in that country and intensified efforts to replace the constitution imposed during the Pinochet era. At the same time, protestors in Colombia took to the streets to fight for increased governmental protection of human rights, social programs, and the environment. Meanwhile, in Bolivia, contested presidential elections in 2019 led to the ouster of Evo Morales through a political coup, and the installation of a conservative government. Finally, in Ecuador, country-wide Indigenous protests over the government's agreement with the IMF to end fuel subsidies forced the government to cancel the IMF mandate. In all cases, these were violent protests that resulted in deaths and injuries at the hands of state law enforcement.
Even as scholars and activists in this collection identified new social movements to explore progressivism and democracy in Latin America, their critical analysis illustrates that discussion of progress in the region must be tempered by rising inequality, ongoing resource extraction, gender-based violence, and a return to neoliberalism. Each chapter in the volume focuses on a distinct social movement, grounded in stories by activists situated in countries across the region. Interviews with activists and scholars underpin the analysis and discussion. As Gatehouse acknowledges in the introduction, these interviews contribute to a "book of many voices" (p. 1). Interviews, conducted between 2016 and 2018 by those involved in the project, were all translated into English. Gatehouse writes that interviews "testify to an extremely sensitive and uncertain moment in the history of Latin America" (p. 1).
The introduction outlines the current challenges facing the region, rooted in resource extraction. Specifically, concerns related to human rights violations, land ownership, and more broadly socio-ecological impacts that intersect with gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, and so on all inform movement organization. Sociologist Maristella Svampa outlines four types of movements in Latin America: eco-territorial, unions, socio-territorial urban movements, and women's movements. She argues that "environmental, popular, anti-neoliberal and anti-patriarchal narratives should all, at some point, come together" (p. 21). Without this joining of movements, the Latin American left "won't exist at all" (p. 21). Following the introduction, there are 10 chapters organized around the following issues: fighting machismo, LGBT rights, the student revolution, Indigenous peoples, the hydroelectric threat, mining, state violence, spaces of everyday resistance, the new journalism, and cultural resistance. Journalists, academics, a photographer, activists, and consultants wrote chapters, all with extensive lived experience in Latin America.
Limited by space, I will only focus on a few of the chapters in this review. Chapter 2, Fighting machismo: women on the front line by Louise Morris, examines gendered resistance. Specifically, "Latin America currently has the second-highest level of female political representation in the world" [End Page 281] (p. 26), yet ongoing violence against women still constructs women's everyday lives. The author focuses on social structures informed by patriarchy and intersectionality to make sense of how women are situated differently on the basis of race/ethnicity...