Women and Social Movements in Latin America: Power from Below

Women and Social Movements in Latin America: Power from Below

Women and Social Movements in Latin America: Power from Below

Women and Social Movements in Latin America: Power from Below


Women' grassroots activism in Latin America combines a commitment to basic survival for women and their children with a challenge to women' subordination to men. Women activists insist that issues such as rape, battering, and reproductive control cannot be divorced from women' concerns about housing, food, land, and medical care. This innovative, comparative study explores six cases of women' grassroots activism in Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, and Chile. Lynn Stephen communicates the ideas, experiences, and perceptions of women who participate in collective action, while she explains the structural conditions and ideological discourses that set the context within which women act and interpret their experiences. She includes revealing interviews with activists, detailed histories of organizations and movements, and a theoretical discussion of gender, collective identity, and feminist anthropology and methods.


Most of the fieldwork this book is based on comes out of collaborative research with grassroots activists and with other researchers. Most of these people are specifically named in the acknowledgments that follow this preface.

From 1990 until 1992 I worked with the political scientist Jonathan Fox on an interdisciplinary and team-based research project concerning issues of democratization in grassroots movements. We collaborated with anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists in Mexico, Brazil, and Chile to study rural grassroots movements, focusing on political culture, the internal relationships and divisions of movements, issues of accountability between leadership and base, and the ways in which movement participants related to other movements, nongovernmental organizations, and state-based institutions. Gender was one of the pivotal categories of difference we looked at within and between movements.

During 1990 and 1991 I made two trips to Brazil and one to Chile, spending time with members of the Rural Women Workers' Movement (MMTR) in Brazil, and the Interindustry Union of Seasonal and Permanent Workers of Santa María, Chile. Data gathered during these trips included interviews, life histories, observations of meetings, and collection of organizational documents. In Brazil, movement activists participated in all aspects of the research, including selection of initial questions for investigation, gathering of data, review of the results, and putting together the final products. The results were presented in a variety of forms--brochures, photographs, videos, movement histories, and an edited book in Portuguese.

In December of 1990 I gathered data in Nayarit, Mexico, on the Women's Council of the Lázaro Cárdenas Ejidos Union (UELC). The . . .

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