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Inculcating Populist Nationalism? Education and Ideological Change in Venezuela

Fri, May 25, 10:45am to 12:15pm, TBA

Abstract

Hugo Chávez in Venezuela is often seen as the embodiment of the recent surge in populism around the world. Much has also been written on his savvy use of mass media to disseminate his political doctrine. But how effective was Chávez’ attempt to establish its populist (re)interpretation of national identity and history? Has the Chavista ideological emphasis on the common people as “true” nationals and Venezuelan history as a struggle between the exploited masses and a privileged elite indeed obtained hegemonic status? To answer this question the chapter puts the analytical spotlight on the educational reform under Chávez. Scholars have long identified mass schooling as the key institution for socializing citizens and fostering particular ideological orientations, and many states have attempted to alter the nationalist content of schooling with these ends in mind. Venezuela constitutes an ideal case for identifying the specific conditions under which new populist visions of nationhood do and do not gain broader resonance. Using evidence derived from textbook analysis and semi-structured interviews with educational officials and teachers in Caracas, we show that intrastate tensions between the central government and teachers, heightened by a well-established cultural machinery and by teachers’ increasing exclusion from the Chavista political coalition, explain the limited success in government efforts to inculcate the new populist nationalism through the school curriculum.

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