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Intersectional Engagement and Justice in Latin America

Thu, August 29, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Hilton, Shaw


How does a national context, along with a person’s socio-economic class, gender and race, affect how they perceive and engage with the police, courts and other legal institutions? In this paper, we present findings from 16 focus groups conducted in Chile and Colombia in 2017. Building on existing literature which has explored how class and gender influence perceptions of and engagement with judicial institutions (Brinks and Botero 2014; Maranlou 2014), we articulate a theory of intersectional engagement in which people who experience multiple forms of exclusion (based on race, class, gender) are increasingly likely to diversify the routes through which they pursue justice, including organizing letter-writing and meetings within their community; engaging with non-state armed actors (Colombia); and vigilantism. We argue that groups that are more likely to face discrimination when their rights are violated have lower levels of trust in formal judicial institutions, and that this distrust increases for people with identities with multiple layers of exclusion. Finding multiple alternative methods to engage with the justice system, therefore, is an adaptive strategy used to seek resolution. We also present striking findings about the influence of national context, providing evidence that Colombian participants manifested a much stronger rights consciousness than their Chilean counterparts. In addition, we find that Colombians described a wider array of options for resolving conflicts, responding to victimization, and claiming rights than did Chileans. We thus emphasize both the compounding effects of intersectional inequalities on access to justice across countries, while also identifying context-specific factors that amplify or mitigate the disadvantages perceived and experienced by subaltern actors. Some of these differences suggest room for innovation and improvement by policy makers.