Latin American Studies Andean Social Movements (Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru)
Fabricio Pereira da Silva
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 August 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0285


There is a considerable literature on social movements in the Andean space and specifically for each Andean country. Some notable works capture articulations across national state borders, as well as comparing social movements of different motivations. However, most of the literature focuses on national cases, particularly Bolivian and Ecuadorian ones. This bibliography is limited to the Andean states themselves (Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru), although some of the literature suggested may eventually contribute scholarship on Chilean, Colombian, or other countries with some presence in the Andean space. The emphasis of specialized literature dialogues has been on the transformations in the field of identities in the last decades, from a classist emphasis to a more plural approach. Until the 1970s, the debate was centered on the study of peasant and worker movements (especially mining). In the last decades the predominant debates have been about Indigenous movements, cocaleros [coca growers], ayllus [family clans in a given territory], Indigenous thoughts and concepts, and other related discussions—especially in Bolivia. From an interest in movements of a classist character and anchored in the world of labor, the literature has opened up to dobles, triples or even múltiples miradas [double, triple, multiple looks], and thus to approaches that consider intersectionality with issues of gender and ethnicity among others. There is also a growing body of literature with supranational approaches—analyzing social movement networks beyond colonial and republican state borders—in an effective “Pan-Andean” approach focusing on articulations of movements (specially Aymara and Quechua), circulation of ideas and repertoires, and cross-border interactions.

Theoretical and Methodological Approaches

This section includes some important Latin American contemporary works that deal with problems of theory and methodology in the study of social movements, with a focus on Latin American and global peripherical (or from the South) developments. These works critically propose the elaboration of original contributions to the discussion, from scholars focused on the study of contemporary Andean and Latin American social movements. Domingues 2008 proposes a general interpretation of modernity from a global peripheric perspective, where social movements play a central role. Bringel and Pleyers 2017 suggests new approaches to the study of social organizations, with a particular attention to relations between local and supranational perspectives—trying to overcome the hegemonic national perspective of the literature. Escobar 2018 and Rivera Cusicanqui 2020 present views particularly situated in postcolonial and decolonial theories that are theoretical approaches unavoidable today in the debates in the field. Svampa 2021 develops what is the probably most influential work in the area today, particularly the formulations about “neoextractivism.” The classical Bolivian author Zavaleta Mercado 2018 is a key theorist for understanding the social fragmentation of the region, an historical starting point for every reflection about social relations in the Andes.

  • Bringel, Breno, and Geoffrey Pleyers, eds. Protestas e indignación global: Los movimientos sociales en el nuevo orden mundial. Buenos Aires, Argentina: CLACSO-FAPERJ, 2017.

    This book, organized by two of the most influential scholars in the debates about contemporary social movements (specially in Latin America), summarizes the institutional and theoretical efforts that the sociologists Breno Bringel and Geoffrey Pleyers have developed in the openMovements platform that is part of the independent publishing initiative openDemocracy. Bringel and Pleyers have contributed important works about social movements (theoretically and empirically oriented), especially transnational ones.

  • Domingues, José Maurício. Latin America and Contemporary Modernity: A Sociological Interpretation. New York: Routledge, 2008.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203932391

    In this book, the sociologist José Maurício Domingues places Latin America within what he calls the “third phase of global modernity” and organizes a general theoretical approach to contemporary Latin America. Domingues sees modernity as configured by general episodic “modernizing moves” which, when relying on strong identity and organization as well as clearly defined projects, may assume the aspect of “modernizing offensives.” In this way the author gives central attention to the action of social movements.

  • Escobar, Arturo. The Making of Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy. New York: Routledge, 2018.

    This book is an important reference in English from one of the most influential scholars of decolonial theory. Escobar, a Colombian anthropologist, offers a far-reaching contribution to the study of contemporary social movements, and analyzes cases from Peru, Ecuador, and many other Latin American countries.

  • Rivera Cusicanqui, Silvia. Ch’ixinakax Utxiwa: On Practices and Discourses of Deconlonization. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2020.

    The Bolivian/Aymara scholar and activist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui is a distinguished Latin American historian and sociologist, world-renowned for her work in postcolonial and subaltern studies. She argues that we must acknowledge how colonial structures of domination continue to affect Indigenous identities and cultures. Even in contexts where diversity and the value of Indigenous cultures have been officially recognized (as recently in Bolivia), what she calls “internal colonialism” operates as a structure that still shapes mental categories and social practices.

  • Svampa, Maristella. “Social Movements in Times of Extractivism: The Ecoterritorial Turn in Latin America.” In Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies. Edited by A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Kristina Dietz, Bettina Engels, and Ben M. McKay, 285–295. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021.

    One of the most important social scientists from contemporary Latin America, Maristella Svampa asserts that recent struggles against “neoextractivism” in Latin America have given rise to an “ecoterritorial turn” in social mobilizations. Svampa proposes that this turn was possible with the convergence of Indigenous, environmental, and peasant movements, and the assumption of an autonomous environmentalist discourse. The book analyzes new movement networks and assembly spaces at all territorial levels, particularly important issues in the discussion of contemporary Andean movements.

  • Zavaleta Mercado, René. Towards a History of the National-Popular in Bolivia, 1879–1980. London: Seagull Books, 2018.

    This classic work by Bolivian heterodox Marxist René Zavaleta Mercado is fundamental to understanding the development of the national-popular perspectives and politics in Bolivia and the region, culminating in the revolutionary process of 1952–1964. In his analyses, Zavaleta develops the concept of sociedad abigarrada [motley society] to understand the modern social relations in Bolivia.

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