With the rise of the Pink Tide during the last decade and due to the current unrest in a post-Hugo Chavez Venezuela, the question of populism has become ever more prominent for Latin American academics. On March 7th, CLACS invited nine guest scholars to share their recent research surrounding the issue of populism in Latin America. Coming from diverse academic background, these experts delved into a wide range of issues, ranging from “popular” politics to popular music. The goal was to produce an engaging medium for academic discourse on current Latin American issues and certainly by the end of the day many attendees felt that their understanding of current Latin American issues had expanded.
The morning presentations did not hesitate to jump straight into the substance of Latin American populism by discussing popular politics, parties and leaders. This series of lectures helped viewers get a better understanding of who and what is the popular in Latin America. A memorable quote from Raul Madrid of UT Austin was that “leaders shape the popular by bringing out and aligning grievances among the majority.”
Dr. Francisco Panizza, a Senior Lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science, argues that Latin America’s political elite have used Populism to appeal to historically under-served and excluded communities. In his presentation at New York University on October 12, Panizza asserted that the term Populism has been over-used, has both positive and negative connotations, and has even become an insult in some circles.
Panizza defined Populism as the creation of a unified and unifying identity, incorporating a previously oppressed or marginalized group of people into a participatory democracy. He went on to detail four dimensions of Populism that leaders may employ as part of a political strategy, including the rhetorical, the representational, the normative and the political. Panizza describes the rhetorical and representational dimensions as what we most often see in contemporary Populist Latin American leaders, where modes of speech, dress and behaviors give the impression of the Populist leader as a demagogical figure. The normative and political dimensions are used to appeal to dissatisfied citizens who have experienced a fundamental inequity in society and are seeking a way to participate in democracy.
Ernesto Semán, a PhD candidate in History at NYU, delivered a presentation to high school students about Peronism in Argentina.
In Fall 2009 and Spring 2010, CLACS participated in a year-long collaboration with several high schools in the New York area. Through these partnerships, CLACS placed NYU graduate students into classrooms where they offered lectures on social justice, language arts, history and economics. Several of the guest lecturers then used their presentations as the basis for curricular materials, which have been placed on the CLACS website for teachers around the country to download and use in their classrooms.
Topics for these lectures varied greatly. For example, History PhD candidate Franny Sullivan presented on US-Cuba relations prior to 1959. She developed teaching materials that help provide historical background for the growing anti-American sentiment in Cuba that made the 1959 revolution possible. Another PhD candidate in History, Jen Adair, gave a lecture titled “State Violence and the Emergence of the Modern Human Rights Movement in Argentina.” She also created a unit, available on the CLACS website, which looks at the coalescence of a human rights movement in relation to Argentina’s Dirty War. Daniel Cohen, a PhD candidate in Sociology at NYU, discussed aspects of the Drug War from the Bolivian perspective. Cohen’s curricular materials interrogate some of the implications of the U.S. coca eradication policy and its effects on this country.
All curricular materials produced by our K-12 program can be found on the CLACS website and are available for free download and use. We also maintain a constantly growing collection of resources for educators. To receive announcements about our K-12 initiatives, please join our K-12 email list via the CLACS website.