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Panel Cluster on Social Movements, Unions, and Youth Resistance: Youth Political Identities and Activism in Latin America’s Shifting Political Landscape

Tue, March 27, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 4th Floor, Doña Adelita

Group Submission Type: Panel Session


Often, policies of development for the global south frame youth either as ‘at risk’ or speak of a ‘youth bulge’ that represents a threat to stability and growth (Carpenter & Mojab, 2017; Kassimir & Flanagan, 2010; Lopes Cardozo et al., 2015). In contrast, research on youth political agency has underlined the varied panorama of youth expressions and identities that, while not necessarily conforming to the goals of dominant political and economic institutions, challenge simplistic views of youth as apathetic or disconnected from the public sphere (Bermudez, 2012; Oliart & Feixa, 2012). In particular, youth played an important role in mobilizations taking place in many countries in Latin America at the beginning of the twentieth-first century (Balardini, 2005; Cubides, 2015; Oliart & Feixa, 2012), from the high school and university student movements in Chile and Colombia to school occupations in Brazil and Argentina. However, more recently, the political landscape, both in the region and at the global level has shifted, closing and opening new avenues for youth political action. Recognizing the political domain as a site of hegemonic disputes, creations, and contestations (Tarlau, 2017; Torfing, 1999), and youth meanings, voices, and practices as forces of political creation (Gaztambide-Fernández & Arráiz Matute, 2015; Tuck & Yang, 2011), this panel presents contrasting ways in which youth in different contexts in Latin America aim to occupy the space of the political, not only as they respond to contextual conditions and regional/global political dynamics, but also comparing how their own cultural trajectories, and particular use of political tools for action takes significance for different youth constituencies.

The first paper compares the political practices of youth in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who are seeking upward mobility through both protest and study. The paper focuses on how youth’s relationship to time brings about radically different outcomes in young lives and constructs the boundaries of political action. The second paper moves to Colombia, exploring youth’s daily experiences with conflicts and reflections on issues related to the peace process. Although young involvement in peacebuilding has been identified as crucial for the success of post-conflict processes, their concerns are often disregarded. This paper challenges an essentialist conception of black underprivileged youth in the Pacific as a troublesome criminal body of post-conflict violence. The third paper returns to Brazil, exploring how gendered social norms, race, class, and education trajectories shape the ways in which young feminist activists receive, produce, and exchange knowledge. Finally, the fourth paper is on the achievements, challenges, and struggles of the Chilean student movement. Through a series of interviews with student leaders that participated at different stages of the 2006-2016 grassroots student organizations, the paper explores students’ organizing strategies and the way in which these strategies tensioned the status quo, forcing a re-accommodation of the education landscape. Together, these papers will offer an overview of different components of youth activism, resistance, and agency in contemporary Latin America.


Balardini, S. (2005). ¿Qué hay de nuevo viejo?: una mirada sobre los cambios en la participación política juvenil. Nueva Sociedad, (200), 96–107.
Bermudez, A. (2012). Youth civic engagement: decline or transformation? A critical review. Journal of Moral Education, 41(4), 529–542.
Carpenter, S., & Shahrzad, M. (Eds.). (2017). Youth as/in Crisis. Young People, Public Policy, and the Politics of Learning. Rotterdam; Boston; Taipei: SensePublishers. Retrieved from
Cubides, J. (2015). Lo instituido y lo instituyente en los procesos de subjetivación política juvenil en Colombia, Chile y México. In Jóvenes, juventudes, participación y políticas. Asociados, organizados y en movimiento. Bogotá, D.C.: OBJUN-Secretaria Distrital de Integración Social.
Gaztambide-Fernández, R. A., & Arráiz Matute, A. (2015). Creation as participation/participation as creation: Cultural production, participatory politics, and the intersecting lines of identification and activism. Curriculum Inquiry, 45(1), 1–9.
Kassimir, R., & Flanagan, C. (2010). Youth civic engagement in the developing world: Challenges and opportunities. Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth, 91–113.
Lopes Cardozo, M. T. A., Higgins, S., Maber, E., Brandt, C. O., Kusmallah, N., & Le Mat, M. L. J. (2015). Literature review: Youth agency, Peacebuilding and Education. Research Consortium Education and Peacebuilding, University of Amsterdam. Retrieved from
Oliart, P., & Feixa, C. (2012). Introduction: Youth Studies in Latin America--On Social Actors, Public Policies and New Citizenships. Young, 20(4), 329–344.
Tarlau, R. (2017). Gramsci as Theory, Pedagogy, and Strategy: Educational Lessons from the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement. In N. Pizzolato & J. D. Holst (Eds.), Antonio Gramsci: A Pedagogy to Change the World (pp. 107–126). Cham: Springer International Publishing.
Torfing, J. (1999). New theories of discourse : Laclau, Mouffe, and Zizek. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.
Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2011). Youth resistance revisited: new theories of youth negotiations of educational injustices. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 24(5), 521–530.

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