Current research students
Sacnicté Bonilla Hernández
New Peasantries in 21st century Mexico: the defence and adaptation of rural life by campesino youth
During my life I have been related to rural life in different ways. Now, I have committed myself to do a research which aims to provide a wider understanding about rural life of young campesinos in Mexico. My main goal is to engage rural young people into a reflective process to analyze their decisions. They will then reflect on why have they decided to remain living in the countryside, which is their role in preserving traditional knowledge of food production and in Mexicans’ food sovereignty. The ambition of this study is to highlight the key features of the modern campesina life of those young women and men who have chosen small food production as their way of life. I will also address the interaction between rural youth decisions and grassroots groups, civil organizations, peasant movements and social policies that are focused on rural youth.
María De Vecchi Gerli
Enforced disappearances in Mexico: State and relatives discourse and its relation to impunity
Enforced disappearances in Mexico are, nowadays, a public problem
that needs to be studied. According to official sources, there are more than
26,000 people disappeared in the country. This research aims to analyse the
discourses and the struggles of the relatives of the disappeared during the last
presidential period (2006-2012) linking it with those of the disappeared in the
1970s. Through an analysis of public policies launched by the State, I will also
try to understand why enforced disappearances have not been solved but rather
have increased in a worrying proportion in Mexico. For this, I will use three
theoretical frameworks: i) theories of memory and of dealing with the past, ii)
discourse analysis and iii) Transitional Justice literature.
The Southern Policy of Ulysses S. Grant
My thesis is a revisionist history of the Southern policy of Ulysses S. Grant. Focussing almost entirely on the Grant Papers, my intention it to account for policy choices, and define Grant's Southern policy, primarily through an interpretation and analysis of his own words. My thesis analyses issues along racial and political lines so as to account for key policy choices made by Grant. Each chapter focuses on a specific stage in his public career linking personal beliefs or political aims to specific actions. By following a chronological order my thesis identifies a certain evolution within the policy but also emphasises a continuation of Civil War era ideals.
Michael J Espinoza
The Winning Combination: Conservatives and Socialism in Post-Cold War America
My PhD thesis focuses on conservative Republican criticism of Democrats in post-Cold War America. From the conservative perspective, Democrats support policies that favour government over the free-market. Conservative rhetoric uses key words to further bolster their assertions. This rhetoric accuses Democrats of supporting core ideals which are liberal, socialist and un-American in their tendencies. The intent of conservatives is to portray their party as the party that will defend true and authentic American values against the liberal values of big government Democrats. In each chapter I analyse how Republican conservatism now embodies a movement that is much more flexible and extremist in its language, and as a result makes modern day Democrats (and even Republicans of previous eras) out to be supporters of socialism.
Indigenous Political Participation and Institutional Continuity and Change in
My PhD thesis is a comparative study of indigenous political participation in Peru. It aims to demonstrate the pattern of indigenous political participation at the sub-national level, taking the Andean departments of Huancavelica and Puno and the Amazonian department of Loreto as case studies. It then attempts to explain this pattern using a tri-dimensional analysis that looks at state-indigenous relationships, intermediary-indigenous relationships and local community relationships in the three regions. Peru is chosen as a ‘deviant case’ due to its less evident ethnically based political participation compared to the recent political history in neighbouring countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia.
‘double movement’ in the Andes: agrarian reform & indigenous development in
highland Ecuador, 1964-2006
My research investigates the evolution of agrarian reform and land commodification in Highland Ecuador and explores the socioeconomic consequences of these processes for the indigenous peoples of the region. Drawing on Karl Polanyi’s concept of the “double movement”, I argue the orientation and application of state and market based agrarian reform provided few opportunities for indigenous peoples to secure productive plots of land and embedded existing inequalities in the agrarian structure. My analysis calls into question studies which posit structural adjustment and neoliberalism as the principal factors behind the upsurge of indigenous mobilisation in Ecuador during the 1990s and 2000s.
Ethnic voting in the Andes
My research focuses on the role of ethnicity, race and racism in contemporary Andean politics. Specifically, I am interested in how ethnic identity and racial attitudes may influence voters’ electoral decision-making – the ways in which voters construct, and evaluate, socio-political profiles of electoral candidates, their parties and political projects during electoral campaigns – and how such (stereotypic) profiles, or images, impact on voters’ electoral preferences. It is hoped that the combination of ‘macro-level’ cross-country comparative analysis (largely based on existing survey data) with a more ‘micro-level’ investigation of how voters gather and process political information (drawing on data from a computer-based ‘election simulation’ and a series of focus groups and interviews), will provide important insights into how (and perhaps why) race and ethnicity are drawn into, and may shape, electoral politics in the region today.
A brief moment in the sun: Francis Cardozo and Reconstruction in South Carolina
My research will focus on the life and career of Francis Cardozo, the
first African American to be elected to state-wide office in the US, an
honest man and an effective political leader during the Reconstruction,
who was imprisoned following a show trial after the white supremacists
returned to power, and whose story has been largely neglected since
then. His life is fascinating for itself; it is also a symbol of the
history of Reconstruction, its background before the Civil War, its
failures and successes and its aftermath.
A Debt to Democracy? Media Regulation
and Reform in Argentina and the Southern Cone
My research investigates recent controversial changes to media regulation in Argentina, and I am interested in what such reforms may tell us about the current relationship between the state, media and the consolidation of democracy in the region. I will be undertaking fieldwork in the 2012-2013 academic year, basing myself in Buenos Aires, where I plan to interview government officials, academics, and those working in the media to better understand the political environment in which regulatory reform is taking place, and the potential implications of this reform for democracy in Argentina.
The Shape of the State to Come: Transnationality and the Social Imaginary of the Welfare State in Argentina, 1930-1952
My research focuses on the social imagery of the welfare-state in Argentina between 1930 and 1952. I am particularly interested in the productive space between the knowledge production in the social sciences of the time, and the political realm across the whole political spectrum in issues of welfare and the regulation of the social. Additionally, I will focus on the transnationality of the discourse about the formation of a modern welfare state in Argentina. Both the diffusion of ideas about modern social policy from different, nationally organized societies, the translations of concepts and debates about the relevance for the Argentine reality, as well as the mobility of social actors in the Atlantic world are of interest.
The failure to sell the U.S: Public diplomacy from 2000-2013
My research will analyse the effectiveness of the U.S. public diplomacy strategy in the 21st century. It will focus on whether the goals of U.S. public diplomacy are coherent, consistent and clear. It will subsequently identify, whether these goals are being attained and the major failings of U.S. public diplomacy.
Carmen G. Sepulveda Zelaya
The Legal and
Political Battles Behind the Distribution of Emergency Contraception in Chile
under Ricardo Lagos (2000-2005) and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010)
My research focuses on the legal and political battles behind the distribution of emergency contraception in Chile -- under the Concertación governments of Ricardo Lagos (2000-2005) and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010). I am interested in the role of institutions and actors in the policy process, particularly feminists, lawyers, and doctors, as well as judges and courts within a context of increasing judicialisation of women’s reproductive rights. I believe my research contributes to current debates on feminist political science and sociology of law. My thematic interests include: feminism, women’s movements, sexual and reproductive rights, gender and health, abortion, public health, democratisation, judicialisation processes.
South-South Cooperation in Latin America: The changing face of aid
My research looks at the role of emerging donors in Latin America and the impact they're having on aid delivery in the region. For decades, the donor countries making up the Development Assistance Committee have dominated the provision of aid to the Global South and been able to exert certain amounts of control on individual countries as a result. However, the South is now being offered an alternative system of aid, loans and assistance from countries that not long ago were aid recipients but due to their rapidly expanding economies have now undertaken the role of donors. These new donors are known for providing unconditional aid, promoting a sense of partnership rather than superiority, and respecting national sovereignty. In regards to Latin America, three major players have emerged - China, Brazil and Venezuela. Each of these nations has different motives and goals behind their aid agenda but together they are providing a significant challenge to traditional donors trying to retain influence in the region.
US Foreign Policy Towards Afghanistan: Identity and Geostrategy
addresses the question how America’s perception of its interests and identity
have shaped its involvement in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion of 1979
and especially in the post 9/11 milieu. A standard approach to understanding
the current conflict is that the US is following its interests in order to
reduce the terrorist threat and attempting to gain a long-term foothold in an
important geo-political area. Elements that also need to be examined fully are
the importance that identity and ideals contribute to how and why Washington
constructs and implements its foreign policy. The US perceives itself as an
exceptional nation and this identity has been a regular feature in the
political rhetoric and discourse of American foreign policy from the origins of
the republic to the present time. The study therefore will attempt to give a
cohesive understanding of US strategy towards Afghanistan by emphasising the
dialectical relationship between material and ideational factors in how and why
the United States operates. In order to fully substantiate the work, I will be
addressing US foreign policy through the two key prisms of the Cold War and
Effects of Higher Education on Gender Equality for Indigenous Women in Mexico
My research work draws upon the effects that Higher Education has upon Mexican indigenous women's roles within society. Higher education for indigenous women constitutes in itself a shift in the social arrangements within their communities, but as the process of education takes place, this shift might extend further and even reshape indigenous gender dynamics. It is important to understand how the acquisition of specific knowledge and the development of agency, critical consciousness and freedoms, encourage indigenous women to challenge existing structures of power and non-egalitarian social arrangements that surround them. My fieldwork will be with universities in the south of Mexico, like the ISIA in Oaxaca and the UNICH in Chiapas. I also expect that my research will explain the limitation of human capital theory to deal satisfactorily with issues of culture, gender and identity while making a case for the importance of embracing frameworks that take an account of various non-economic and social benefits of education, particularly when it comes to social minorities.
Research students who have completed their studies at UCL-Institute of the Americas
The Inequality of Security in Rio de Janeiro
elaborates a new concept called the “Inequality of Security” which shows how
security is a societal good and human right that is inequitably distributed
among Rio de Janeiro’s different social classes and geographic areas. The most
important variable to consider for the Inequality of Security concept are the
security providers – namely armed forces, police, UPPs, private security
companies, drug trafficking factions and militias. Organised in a complex
security network, these state and non-state actors deploy violence in multiple
forms for their economic and political ends, forcing us to reconsider notions of citizenship and the rule of law.
Diasporic Argentinean and Chilean identities in
Britain: The traces of dictatorship in second-generation postmemory
looks at second-generation Chileans and Argentineans living in the UK,
and their postmemories contained within their personal life
narratives in relation to the last military dictatorships in those
countries. It argues that within these individual memories formed in a
familial terrain, we can also trace the contours of a much more collective
memory that reflects a different and alternative memory landscape to that found
in the Southern Cone. My research interests are in intergenerational memory,
diasporic identities, exile, gender, oral history, and migration.
Youth Political Disaffection: Analyzing its historical trends
and its associated factors
This research aims to explain current high levels of political disaffection among Chilean youth. Since the return to democracy in 1990 Chile has experienced good levels of both economic development and political stability. However, with the pass of years the youth have increased their levels of hostility towards formal political institutions. Moreover, in recent times these feelings of disaffection have begun to be expressed through strong social movements. This dissertation intends to understand this problematic situation through both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the relationship between youth and the Chilean political system taking into account current popular mobilizations.
The Making of a Patronage Democracy: The Nature and Implications of Rampant Political Clientelism in Post-Independence Belize
Belize as an illustrative and critical national case study, the
thesis revisits the modern politics and democratisation experiences of the
Commonwealth Caribbean through the analytic lens of entrenched political
clientelism. It explores the origins of political clientelism in Belize since
adult suffrage and the emergence of political parties in the 1950s, tracks and
explains its rapid expansion and persistence in the post-independence (1981)
period, and critically assesses the implications presented for democratic
governance in Belize and other small states of the Commonwealth Caribbean. The research project is
being conducted with the support of a United Kingdom Commonwealth Scholarship.