Politics of Latin America

Course Material 2024/25

This paper examines the politics of Latin America, past and present. Since the conquest of the Americas in the fifteenth century, the region has been uniquely embedded in the global economy and society. The paper traces Latin America's political development, focusing on state-society relations, inequality, political institutions and participation, and international relations. What explains the prevalence of political instability in the region? How do the joint legacies of colonialism and authoritarian rule influence democracy today, and how do social movements participate in it? Why does this region stand out as 'the world's most violent'? Why do its police kill so much, and what might that have to do with organised crime? What role does Latin America play in shaping international institutions and the human rights regime? How has the region conceptualised and implemented development projects, and with what results? Moreover, what do its economies and  political regimes reveal about the enduring forces of colonialism, racialisation, and capitalism?

Lectures on this paper consider these and other questions across theory, empirics, and engagement with the everyday life of citizens. Drawing on a wide range of scholarship from politics, political economy, and ethnographic and interpretivist approaches, this paper raises crucial questions about political life and society in this distinctive and vibrant region.