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Repositioning el pueblo


Repositioning el pueblo:
Critical approaches to the popular in
Latin American history, culture, art and society
Friday April 20, 2007
Baltimore, Maryland

In recent years the elusive concept of el pueblo, or “the people,” seems to have gained new currency in Latin America. Invoking nineteenth century liberal ideals of popular sovereignty, political movements in Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador and Argentina have recast the boundaries of representative democracy to embrace demands for ethnic and racial equality, territorial rights, and new forms of participatory democracy. In other countries in the region, impassioned appeals to the unifying force of el pueblo have accompanied redistributive policies and forms of political power that recall historical patterns of populism and caudillismo.

The resurgence of el pueblo as both rhetorical form and political legacy presents a challenge to scholars working in the area. How should we think about the specificity and the appeals of the “popular” as it circulates both historically and in the current Latin American context? How have the terms of popular sovereignty changed since their original formulation in the republican constitutions of the early nineteenth century? How have artists and writers imagined and depicted el pueblo? What is the symbolic and aesthetic weight of iconographic traditions inherited from indigenismo, costumbrismo and other cultural movements that celebrated ‘the people’? Are the notions of “populist” and “neo-populist” useful for thinking about twenty-first century politics in the region? How has the neoliberal experiment recast, re-appropriated or blocked the ideals of locality, autonomy, nation and sovereignty that inform Latin American liberal traditions? How have migration, displacement, pluriculturalism and media technologies altered the meanings attached to the concept of “the people”? Finally, in a region trespassed by collective memories of military domination and dirty wars, rising economic inequalities, illegal economies, insecurity and crime, what role does violence play in this collective rethinking of the nature of the people?

For its annual spring Conference the Johns Hopkins Program in Latin American Studies invites proposals for papers that discuss the multiplicity of political, economic, social, cultural, and aesthetic forms in which the concepts of el pueblo and lo popular circulate in Latin American history and society. Please send title and brief (100-200 word) abstract indicating the applicant's academic status, affiliation and contact information, by February 24 to: PLAS@JHU.EDU.

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