Citizenship and Social Movements in Latin America

10 ECTS Credits – Spring Term

Compulsory for students undertaking the Latin America pathway; optional for other students.


This module examines the role of citizenship practices and grassroots activism in raising the standard of human rights in Latin America. It discusses the theoretical and historical explanations for the rise of various forms of collective action and contentious politics, and analyses their effectiveness in reporting human rights violations and advancing basic human rights throughout the region.

The first part of this module looks closely at what are generally considered class- or ideology-related social movements and civil society organisations such as trade unions and peasant organisations as well as student movements and youth-led activism. The second part of the module examines the so-called ‘new social movements’, which are considered to be largely identity-based. Topics covered in this part range from women’s movements and indigenous organisations, to demands from victims of past atrocities, and struggles over environmental issues.

The module will take a diachronic approach, considering both historical and recent developments in social mobilisation in order to challenge the traditional analytical distinction between old and new social movements, while also considering struggles related to globalisation and neoliberalism. Sessions will be thematic, each approaching a different aspect of mobilisation, using examples from various Latin American and Caribbean countries to provide students with a deeper understanding of the diversity of social movements and civil society organisations across the region. External speakers involved in social movements or NGOs will be invited to some sessions to provide students with first-hand experiences of some of the issued covered in the module.

Aims and Objectives

The objectives of the module are to:

  • Introduce students to analytical approaches to social mobilisation and how such approaches can inform the work of human rights practitioners;
  • Give students an overview and understanding of social movements and civil society organisations in Latin America, including their origins and development as well as their successes and failures in advancing human rights;
  • Offer insights into the work of human rights practitioners on/in Latin America and its relation to social mobilisation efforts.


Weekly Lectures 

Students are also welcome to discuss their projects and ideas for their assessments in weekly office hours.


A 3,000 word essay = 50% of the total grade

A 2,000 word research assessment = 30% of the total grade

Presentation of the research assessment = 10% of the total grade

Seminar participation = 10% of the total grade