Towards new emancipatory horizons: autonomous politics in urban groups of Mexico and Chile

Valenzuela Fuentes, Katia (2017) Towards new emancipatory horizons: autonomous politics in urban groups of Mexico and Chile. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of powerful social movements and community initiatives across Latin America. These collective projects have developed a strong anti-systemic critique, refusing state-centred and top-down approaches to social change and seeking to prefigure in the present the social world in which they want to live in. At a micro scale, the political organizing around grassroots groups or colectivos has become a popular strategy for Latin American activists living in the city. Inspired by this phenomenon, this thesis analyses the politics of autonomy enacted by colectivos in Latin America. More specifically, it examines how the politics of autonomy is understood by Chilean and Mexican colectivos; the dimensions, organizational structures and strategies shaping their praxis; the main challenges encountered in the ‘doing’ of autonomous politics; and its potential for the prefiguration of a radical approach to social change.

Informed by the traditions of activist research and militant ethnography, this research has advanced a collective and politically-engaged process of knowledge production, providing a thick description of the politics of autonomy enacted by Latin American colectivos. This thesis also moves beyond Western and Eurocentric scholarship, committing to an ‘epistemology of the South’ that acknowledges the rich knowledge production developed with/alongside autonomous movements in Latin America.

The findings of this thesis reveal that Latin American autonomous activists have a twofold understanding of autonomy: a negative one, based on the refusal of the main systems of domination; and an affirmative one, based on the creation of an alternative politics able to challenge those hegemonic systems. The creative side of autonomy is put into motion through five main dimensions (horizontality, affective politics, autogestión; popular education; and political networks) that are not free from challenges and hindrances. As the colectivos understand autonomous politics both as a horizon and a struggle, they acknowledge the issues encountered in their praxis and make constant efforts to improve their collective performance. Finally, it is concluded that the politics of autonomy is not only a political statement nor a romantic utopia. It is a radical, organic and feasible approach to social change being enacted in the here and now by colectivos and larger social movements across Latin America.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Sargisson, Lucy
Khan, Gulshan
Keywords: 1) Latin America 2) Social Movements 3) Autonomous Politics 4) Horizontality 5) Prefigurative Politics 6) Autonomy
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Politics and International Relations
Item ID: 43647
Depositing User: Valenzuela Fuentes, Katia
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 06 May 2020 13:04

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