2017 February Reviews

MEDELLIN-480x320.jpg MEDELLIN-1240x550.jpg
MEDELLIN, Colombia

Kristen Block. 2017. Slavery and inter-imperial leprosy discourse in the Atlantic WorldAtlantic Studies (published online 08 Feb 2017): 1-20.

Historians of medicine tend to caution against retrospectively diagnosing disease and illness, and Kristen Block makes it easy to see why. In this article Block examines seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European discourses on leprosy in Caribbean slave societies, and shows how leprosy was often equated with venereal diseases (such as syphilis) and other ailments typically associated with people of African descent (such as yaws). If one was to take the medical reports, correspondence, and scientific articles analyzed by Block at face value, they would be left with an inaccurate account of disease amongst slaves and colonial officials alike. Block instead uses these sources to trace evolving ideas about sickness and disease, illustrating a racializing trend as European understandings of leprosy “moved from the explicit engagement with sin [common in medieval society] to a sublimated narrative of pollution.” In the context of Caribbean slavery leprosy became a racialized threat, and such ideas persisted and shaped medical understanding well into the twentieth century. 

Abstract: In medieval Europe, leprosy had been widespread, but concern faded with the disease during the early modern period, until it reappeared in force in the Americas connected to Africans and the slave trade. In the Spanish Americas, lazarettos were built as early as the sixteenth century for lepers of all races, but by the eighteenth century, leprosy became an issue of note for doctors and government officials in plantation-rich French, British, and Dutch Caribbean islands. Medical treatises and academic periodicals discussing leprosy identified it as primarily an African disease, and often defined it in relation to syphilis and yaws – two other ulcerative maladies with distasteful moral connotations and physical symptoms. By the 1760s, the growing international community of European physicians and scientists began to cross-reference observations made by just a few medical practitioners and travelers in the American colonies, and to translate one another’s racially coded interpretations of the disease – thereby tightening the (erroneous) conflations of leprosy with sexually transmitted and/or ‘African’ diseases like yaws. Using private correspondence, manuscript colonial reports, and published international scientific treatises, this article traces evolving ideas about leprosy’s potential contagiousness from the sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries, all of which served to connect the disease to moral and sexual corruption.

 KEYWORDS: Caribbean, leprosy, slavery, yaws, venereal disease, racialization, colonialism, Africans, interracial sex, elephantiasis

 DOI: 10.1080/14788810.2017.1283474

Kevin A. Young. 2017. From Open Door to Nationalization: Oil and Development Visions in Bolivia, 1952–1969Hispanic American Historical Review 97, 1 (2017): 95-129.

Hydrocarbon nationalism, argues Kevin Young, was a hegemonic political framework in Bolivia from the 1930s on. All politicians were compelled, he writes, to portray themselves as defenders of the country’s national resources. This article explores the politics of oil nationalism following the 1952 Bolivian Revolution. As “a battleground for competing visions of economic development, socioeconomic rights, and revolution,” hydrocarbon policy throughout the 1950s and 1960s was a major point of contention between differing political factions and between Bolivians and foreign powers, argues Young. He traces the different approaches to hydrocarbon nationalism, some more radical and some more conservative, ultimately arguing that such nationalism “exercised a powerful sway over the country’s long-term trajectory.”

Abstract: After the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, oil assumed an increasingly important role in Bolivia's economy and popular consciousness. Oil nationalists were deeply divided, however. While the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) regime sought economic modernization, labor and the Left also demanded major redistribution. These divisions influenced the multiple changes in hydrocarbon policy after 1952. An aversion to radicalization contributed to MNR leaders' 1955 decision to promote private investment in accordance with US wishes. Soon thereafter, a growing nationalist coalition challenged this open-door policy, culminating with the 1969 nationalization of Gulf Oil's properties by the military regime of Alfredo Ovando Candía. Ironically, though, the nationalization was driven partly by the same conservative logic that had animated the MNR's liberalization, in that Ovando favored nationalization as an alternative to redistribution. While tracing the rise and impact of Bolivian hydrocarbon nationalism, this case study also highlights common conflicts within resource nationalist coalitions and how those conflicts can influence policy decisions.

KEYWORDS: Bolivia, Oil, Nationalism, Cold War, Bolivian Revolution, Hydrocarbons

DOI: 10.1215/00182168-3727400

Juan Carlos Martínez. 2017. The State in Waiting: State-ness Disputes in Indigenous TerritoriesThe Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (First published 13 February 2017): 1-23.

Does the Mexican state guarantee the rights of indigenous communities? Not according to Juan Carlos Martínez. Instead, premised on his legal and ethnographic work in support of communities in Oaxaca opposed to the Cerro de Oro hydroelectric plant, Martínez argues that indigenous communities “make their rights effective in practice” outside of government institutions. Facing an “emptiness of state,” which private corporations use to further their own interests, Martínez argues that these communities built a form of “state-ness” through other means such as the soft law of international organizations. Ultimately, because of certain transformations in the political economy of the state, this article suggests that the defence of the rights of indigenous communities must be “as globalized as the economic processes themselves.”

Abstract: This article analyzes the limits of the Mexican government´s ability to guarantee the rights of indigenous communities and the steps taken by those communities to try to ensure that their rights are guaranteed in practice. This analysis contributes to anthropological literature on the state, and shows that state formation and state functions may take place outside of governmental institutions. The case of the Cerro de Oro hydroelectric plant project in Oaxaca, Mexico, reveals how rights are ignored by state officials and subordinated to powerful economic interests in a new phase of capitalist expansion. The main hypothesis here is that the neoliberal state generates a situation of tense contradictions by simultaneously trying to guarantee the economic interests of transnational enterprises and the rights of indigenous people. Within this contradiction, the Mexican government abandons the exercise of sovereignty, generating disputes among private enterprises and local communities as they attempt to assume the functions of state, or state-ness.

KEYWORDS: globalization, human rights, indigenous people, law, Mexico, social anthropology

DOI: 10.1111/jlca.12251

Niina Markkula, Pedro Zitko, Sebastián Peña, Paula Margozzini, & Pedro Retamal, 2017. Prevalence, Trends, Correlates and Treatment of Depression in Chile in 2003 to 2010. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

With 2016 reports indicating Chile’s depression rates as some of the highest in the region, researchers have begun examining factors that influence mental health in Chile. In particular, women were at particularly high risk for depressive disorders, which the researchers attribute to the simultaneous maintenance of traditional gender roles and expectations that women enter the workforce. Who else is at risk? How are they treated? Markkula et al. (2017) provide preliminary answers based on cross-sectional data.

Abstract: There is a need for recent, nationally representative data on the prevalence of mental disorders in Latin America. We aim to assess the prevalence of depression in Chile and possible changes over time. In the Chilean National Health Surveys in 2003 (n = 5469) and 2010 (n = 7212), two nationally representative cross-sectional population surveys, the Composite International Diagnostic Interview, Short Form (CIDI-SF) was applied to establish diagnosis of major depressive episode (MDE) using DSM-IV criteria. Sociodemographic correlates of MDE and time trends were analyzed. The prevalence of MDE was 20.5% (95% CI 18.3–22.7) in 2003 and 18.4% (95% CI 16.5–20.2) in 2010. In 2003, women and persons residing in urban areas had increased risk of depression, whereas in 2010 the risk factors were female sex, younger age and lower education. There were up to 15-fold differences in prevalence between regions. No significant changes in prevalence occurred over the observation period. 21.2% (95% CI 16.6–25.8) of those depressed were currently receiving antidepressant treatment, with large regional variations in access to treatment. Depressive disorders are a pressing public health concern in Chile, and particularly women, persons with low education, and the poorer regions of the country are affected. Prompt actions are needed to address the burden of depression with sufficient resources for treatment and prevention.

Keywords: Depressive disorders, Epidemiology, Population survey, Risk factors

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00127-017-1346-4

Eliana de Souza Ávila, 2017. Decolonizing Queer Time: A Critique of Anachronism in Latin@ Writings. Ilha do Desterro, Vol. 70, Issue 1.

Scholars have begun to embrace “@” to create gender-neutral neologismos (e.g., the collective “chic@s,” rather than “chicos/chicas”) [even while activists and other groups in the US have begun to turn to Latinx]. For Eliana de Souza Ávila, Latin@ writings have the capacity to challenge “straight time and its radicalizing implications” (Ávila, 2017). So what, exactly, is a temporal borderland, and how might it alter the temporally-unidimensional narratives in migrant literature that create a false dichotomy between traditional versus progressive? Read Ávila’s article for a compelling argument as to why Latin@ texts may challenge static notions of loaded issues such as gender, sexuality, and colonialism, through a dynamic perspective of time.   

Abstract: While the term Latin@ is untraceable to any coherent referent in terms of geographical or epistemic origin, still it denotes a very stable referent when it comes to geographical destination - the USA being the central migratory destiny shaped by and shaping identity shifts and epistemic positions variously associated with Latin America. As much as this narrative determinacy is the effect of global power asymmetries, it also tends to naturalize them by couching migration in evolutionist terms that anachronize struggles against displacement, deterritorialization, and dispossession. The field of Latin@ literature and criticism therefore becomes an effective locus from which the ongoing historical conflicts elided by those narratives can be creatively recalled and reconfigured. This article reflects on the temporal borderlands as a critical paradigm for reconfiguring narratives of straight temporality within Latin@ texts.

Keywords: Latin@ Studies, Anachronism, Racialization, Temporal Borderlands, Decolonization

DOI: 10.5007/2175-8026.2017v70n1p39 

Luisa Sotomayor. 2017. Dealing with Dangerous Spaces: The Construction of Urban Policy in MedellínLatin American Perspectives. Vol 44 Issue 2.

Latin America is one of the most urbanized regions in the world, according to UN data. At the same time, its urban centers reflect deeply rooted social segregation and inequality. It is not uncommon to see luxurious gated communities bordering crime-ridden shantytowns. This article is part of a series dedicated to urban planning and its social implications in Latin America. It specifically focuses on Medellín, a Colombian city that has experienced a variety of government approaches to the problem of governance in marginalized spaces such as the Comuna 13 neighborhood. After being branded as a drug-trafficking and crime center during the 1980-1990s, Medellín of the 2000s has been praised for dramatic improvements in urban planning and is touted as a progressive “model for best practices in good governance and social urbanism.” This article provides a much-needed critical view of the city’s well-meaning urban reforms by highlighting the historical context, filled with exclusion and violence, in which the Comuna 13 was built.

Abstract: In Latin America, cities with security challenges are increasingly invoking urban planning policy to rebuild governance in neighborhoods perceived as unruly. While the state’s “arrival” in marginalized areas is long overdue, it is also embedded in complex histories of violence and socio-spatial marginalization. Medellín’s Comuna 13 has historically been materially and discursively constructed as a space of relegation. Interview and focus group data show how policy cycles for Comuna 13 evolved from discretionary programs (1978–2002) to securitization and (para)militarization (2000–2003) and then social urbanism, a program of participatory urban upgrading (2004–2011). The latter, a reformist approach, aims to provide better services, foster participation, and reduce socio-spatial segregation. Underlying these positive aims, however, two contradictions remain concealed: deep-seated inequality resulting from decades of normalized exclusion and the perpetuation of a regime of hypersecuritization and (para)policing that recreates itself under new governance and spatial arrangements.

Keywords: Urban policy, Urban violence, Security planning, Social urbanism, Urban planning, Medellín

DOI: 10.1177/0094582X16682758

Heike Döring, Rodrigo Salles Pereira dos Santos & Eva Pocher. 2017. New Developmentalism in Brazil? The Need for Sectoral AnalysisReview of International Political Economy. Published online: 18 Jan.

The role of the state in the economy has been one of the oldest debates in the field of Political Economy. Scholars have divided on the question of what is the most suitable relationship between the business and the state that would lead to development in a given country. The following article contributes to this debate looking at business-state relations in Brazil with the focus on the strategic sectors, especially on the steel industry. Specifically, the authors analyze how the new developmentalism, an approach to development where the state regulates selected strategic economic sectors, while at the same time integrating them into the global production and financial networks. In theory, this approach should bring social benefits to the population, in the form of socio-environmental inclusion and equality. In practice, however, the policies of new developmentalism have not eliminated socio-environmental conflicts in all analyzed sectors. In particular, steel sector workers did not benefit from the sector’s inclusion in international markets.

Abstract: This article provides an analysis of the uneven practices and outcomes of new developmentalism in Brazil. New developmentalism has been described as a hybrid approach to development. It combines liberal practices of privatization and export orientation with state intervention to achieve social inclusion and economic development. Academic and policy literatures have repeatedly debated the conditions under which development takes place and have particularly focused on the role of the state. So far, discussions have predominantly concentrated on economic developments. We focus on the trajectories of new developmentalism in three strategic sectors in the Brazilian economy: oil, mining and steel, with particular emphasis on the steel industry. We contribute to the debate by paying equal attention to economic and social outcomes in these three sectors. We conclude that new developmentalism is sectorally specific. In the extractive sectors, export competitiveness translates into high wages. In steel, in contrast, new developmentalism brings economic benefits to some but social benefits to few. Thus, it is a paradigm of development but it is not wholly developmental.

Keywords: developmental state, Latin America, steel industry, globalization, national champions

DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2016.1273841

Nicolás Somma, Matías Bargsted & Eduardo Valenzuela. 2017. Mapping Religious Change in Latin AmericaLatin American Politics & Society. Vol. 59 Issue 1.

As a legacy of Spanish colonization history, Latin America was predominantly Catholic for four centuries. Since the 1950s on, however, the Pentecostal religions began spreading over the region provoking the adoption of some progressive reforms on the part of the Catholic Church. At the same time, according to recent surveys, Latin America is becoming increasingly secular (irreligious). The article by Nicolás Somma et al. helps us to make sense of a shifting religious landscape of the region. The authors explore the interaction of two major tendencies – religious competition and secularization – by utilizing quantitative data and refined research methods. Complex statistical techniques allow them to uncover patterns of variation in religious change across different countries as well as to identify the source of the change. The resulting empirical study is innovative and comprehensive, spanning 17 Latin American countries in the last two decades. However, its main scholarly contribution consists not in providing answers but rather in posing multiple questions for future research. This article lays foundation for future more-detailed study of religious change in particular countries of the region.

Abstract: Using Latinobarometer survey data, we study the evolution of religious identities among the adult populations of 17 Latin American countries between 1996 and 2013. We find several interesting patterns. First, the current religious landscape is highly dynamic and is becoming increasingly pluralist among a majority of countries. Changes derive not only from the growth of Evangelicals, as commonly assumed, but also from the sharp rise in irreligious individuals. Second, religious change cannot be convincingly explained by important theories such as secularization, religious economies, and anomie. However, the predictions derived from anomie theory seem more useful for understanding Evangelical growth. Finally, our cohort analysis indicates that aggregate religious change largely results from individual-level change across time—religious conversion and apostasy—rather than from generational replacement. Still, there are interesting variations across countries in that respect.

Robert Samet. 2017. The Denouncers: Populism and the Press in VenezuelaJournal of Latin American Studies. Vol. 49 Issue 1.

Robert Samet’s article provides a fresh insight into a journalistic practice known as denuncias, or public accusation, which has spread through Latin America in the second half of the twentieth century, but has been largely understudied in scholarly literature. Samet’s article explores the practice of denuncias in Venezuela, placing it in the historical context, within the purely Latin American tradition of reporting as a tool to voice people’s discontent with ruling elites. Focusing on the evolution of denuncias during the second half of the twentieth century, the article reveals how the denuncias in Venezuela became instrumental in the fight against government’s wrongdoings that ranged from state oppression to corruption. Even before the Hugo Chavez’ rise to power (1999-2013), journalistic denouncements of corruption created a common ground for popular and middle-class sectors, thus bridging the gap between leftist and neoliberal ideologies and created conditions for them to unite into a powerful political bloc. From this perspective, the emergence of a charismatic leader, such as Hugo Chavez, in the Venezuelan political arena is a result of the popular movements of the late 1980s and early 1990s fomented by the denouncers-journalists. Thus, in studying the formation of popular movements, Samet places journalists and other media workers in the center, arguing that the press can play crucial role in the populist mobilization.

Abstract: Despite recent attention to the relationship between the media and populist mobilisation in Latin America, there is a misfit between the everyday practices of journalists and the theoretical tools that we have for making sense of these practices. The objective of this article is to help reorient research on populism and the press in Latin America so that it better reflects the grounded practices and autochthonous norms of the region. To that end, I turn to the case of Venezuela, and a practice that has been largely escaped attention from scholars – the use of denuncias.

Vanessa de M. Higgins Joyce, Magdalena Saldaña, Amy Schmitz Weiss, & Rosental C. Alves, 2017. "Ethical perspectives in Latin America’s journalism community: A comparative analysis of acceptance of controversial practice for investigative reporting." International Communication Gazette.

Does cultural variation moderate perceptions of ethical practices among Latin American journalists? In a recent article in International Communication Gazette, Joyce and colleagues (2017) present data from surveys conducted across Latin America regarding the acquisition of information in investigative journalism. Read their thoughts on why Central America, Caribbean, and Andean respondents held the strongest positions in opposition to controversial ethical practices (and prepare for a primer on the philosophy of deontological vs. utilitarian approaches to ethical-decision making).

Abstract. Latin Americans are living in an unprecedented era of democracy while experiencing a spike in investigative journalism production. Investigative journalism holds its own conundrums of ethical decision-making related to techniques used and consequences of its content. This study analyzes ethical interpretations in the region’s investigative journalism community through a comparative analysis based on a survey conducted with journalists, journalism educators, and students from 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Our findings highlight the prevalence of a deontological perspective to ethics, with the majority of the respondents rejecting the use of soft-lies as investigative techniques. The study found, however, variability in ethical perspective within Latin America and Caribbean’s geo-cultural regions, with Central America and the Caribbean region leading in opposition and Brazil and the Southern Cone indicating more lenience toward controversial practices. When it comes to source-related controversial techniques, the journalism community in the region overwhelmingly rejects such practices.

Whitney L. Duncan, 2017. "Psicoeducación in the land of magical thoughts." American Ethnologist.

Part psychiatric fieldwork, part theoretical conceptualization of mental healthcare, Duncan’s recent article in American Ethnologist illuminates the conflict between cultural values and modern notions of mental healthcare in Mexico. What, exactly, is psy-globalization, and how is it impacting the nature of psychiatric care in Oaxaca? Read Duncan’s article for more on the factors that influence the growing tension between traditional Oaxacan beliefs and the principles of modern medicine for the mind.

Abstract. At a time of uncertainty and change in Oaxaca, Mexico, mental-health practice dovetails with political-economic projects to reflect and produce tensions around “culture.” Promoting mental health is linked to goals for economic development, and notions of culture and modernity are co-constructed in ways that cast culture as a barrier to mental health. “Psychological modernization” efforts therefore seek to flatten cultural difference in the interests of national advancement. Not only do psy-services in Oaxaca provide means of self-understanding and technologies for self-cultivation in the context of modernity, but they also actively seek to produce the psychological conditions for modernity. Yet many professionals attribute Mexico's mental-health problems to the very processes of modernization, development, and globalization that their projects seek to facilitate.

Sallie Hughes & Mireya Márquez-Ramírez. 2017. Examining the Practices That Mexican Journalists Employ to Reduce Risk in a Context of ViolenceInternational Journal of Communication 11 (2017): 499-521.

Between the turn of the millennium and March 2016, ninety-two journalists were murdered in Mexico. Eight of those cases were in 2015, a year in which there were a record 339 violent attacks on journalists. As Sallie Hughes (a MIA Faculty Lead) and Mireya Márquez-Ramírez illustrate, such antipress violence affects journalistic practice in Mexico in concerning ways. In this article they examine the extent to which journalists employ self-censorship, follow company censorship policies, or curtail their reporting in various ways in order to mitigate the risk of violence. Finding that precautionary measures are widespread, they suggest that antipress violence has been undermining democratic accountability in Mexico. For Hughes and Márquez-Ramírez, these findings also suggest the need for journalism studies to pay greater attention to violence in insecure democracies.

Abstract: Research on journalists working in contexts of risk has examined either war correspondents on temporary assignments or the psychological effects of covering traumatic events, usually after the events have ended. Although these studies are important, they fail to account for the growing importance of ongoing violence in insecure democracies and its possible consequences for national journalistic practice. We address these issues by examining journalists’ risk-reduction practices in Mexico, including self-censorship, following company censorship policies, curtailing street reporting, and concealing sensitive information. Using logistic regressions, we tested occupational, organizational, normative, and contextual conditions as predictors of engagement in these practices. Findings reveal the pervasiveness of risk-reduction practices in Mexico and the complexity of conditions prompting their use, including conditions related to antipress violence, dangerous newsbeats, and the economic insecurity of media firms but also voicing greater support for assertive professional norms. The research sets a baseline for future comparative research that includes greater attention to subnational conditions, dangerous newsbeats, and how violence and uneven state capacity may undermine the economic conditions of media firms.

David Barkin. 2016. Violence, Inequality, and DevelopmentJournal of Australian Political Economy 78 (2016): 115-131.

Latin American development strategies have, over the past few decades, shifted in emphasis from industrialization to extractivism. This “reprimarisation,” as David Barkin terms the process, has been an important driver of inequality – and thus violence - within the region. In this article, Barkin traces how the expansion of extractive industries has disrupted social relations and led to an unequal concentration of wealth throughout Latin America. This, Barkin argues, has in turn led to the proliferation of violence as the backers of such development programs respond to local protest with repressive means. The article concludes with an examination of how radical analysis and theory is helping communities seek alternatives to the prevailing development strategies.

 Abstract: Inequality is the watchword associated with development these days. Throughout the Global South the burgeoning literature on growing inequality is testimony to the profound social impacts that ‘development’ is having on people’s lives and their environments. A great deal of the material on inequality comes from the North, in part stimulated by Piketty’s book (2014) and on-going work by Milanovic (2015). In general, however, the literature and its critics do not take into account the structural conditions of the global economy that increased inequality among and within countries (Barkin 2015). Present development strategies are not only exacerbating inequality but also directly provoking violence in our countries. Rather than repeat the well-documented processes for the advance of inequality (e.g., Stilwell 1993; Stilwell and Jordan 2007; Obeng-Odoom 2014), in this short article I examine the relationship between growth promotion policies and the intensification of violence within countries in Latin America. The focus is on extractive industries because these are at the centre of development policy in the region. The conflicts are aggravated by a series of complementary approaches being implemented in line with international commitments to achieve the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ agreed upon within the United Nations framework and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accord with the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 culminating in the Paris meeting of 2015.

Paul C Mocombe. 2017. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; and the Vodou Ethic and the Spirit of CommunismSociology 51:1 (February 2017): 76-90.

Haiti is often derisively represented as the poorest country in the hemisphere even though such a depiction elides a more complicated story. For instance, a large part of why there is such poverty is that Haiti is one of the most unequal countries in the Americas, and much wealth is concentrated in the hands of the elite at the expense of the wider populace. In this article Paul Mocombe offers a theoretical model for understanding the origins of such inequality and for understanding Haiti “as an apartheid state.” Mocombe juxtaposes two “social class language games” (a framework which captures the mode of production, language, ideology, etc. of a social system) against each other, the first being “the Vodou Ethic and the spirit of communism,” and the second being “the Catholic/Protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism.” Mocombe explains the makeup of these diametrically opposed “social class language games,” and ultimately describes how economic policies and the laws of the state have been used to undermine “the Vodou Ethic and the spirit of communism.”

 Abstract: This work explores and highlights how the African religion of Vodou and its ethic (i.e. syncretism, materialism, holism, communalism) gave rise to the Haitian spirit of communism in the provinces, mountains and urban slums of Haiti, which would be juxtaposed against the Catholic/Protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism of the white, mulatto and petit-bourgeois classes (i.e. the Affranchis of the island). This latter worldview, I go on to argue, exercised by the free bourgeois blacks and mulatto elites on the island undermined the revolutionary and independence movement of Haiti, and made it an apartheid state.