Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Bridging the Divide: Transnational Activism and National Movements

April 11th, 2011 - April 12th, 2011

Monday: LBC Conference Room 209
Tuesday: Greenleaf Conference Room, 100a Jones Hall

Sponsored by the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research and Tulane University.


The Political Science Department and Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University is pleased to announce a workshop led by Lydian Professor Eduardo Silva entitled:


Monday, April 11, 2011
9:00 a.m – 3:30 p.m.
LBC Conference Room 209


Tuesday, April 12, 2011
9:00 a.m – 11:00 p.m.
Greenleaf Conference Room, 100a Jones Hall

The workshop, open to the public, addresses a significant literature gap on transnational and national movements that resist neoliberal globalization. Eight scholars from Brazil, Mexico, Italy and the U.S. will examine how growing involvement in transnational networks influences the organizational development, strategies, tactics, power resources, and effectiveness of participating national movements with respect to their domestic political and policy objectives.



  • William C. Smith, Miami University
  • Kathryn Hochstetler, University of Waterloo

Monday, April 11, 2011
9:00 – 9:30 Welcome and Introduction
LBC Conference Room 209

9:30 – 10:50 Neoliberal Globalization, Labor, and Transnational Movements

  • Marisa von Bülow, Political Science, University of Brasilia, Brazil
    The Problem of Coherence: the Dilemmas of Activism across the National and Transnational Scales
    Abstract: The most common forms of transnational trade campaigns that we have seen flourish since the 1990s typically gathered a broad spectrum of civil society actors around a simple frame, usually coalescing against an international negotiation, or in protest of a specific initiative. Increasingly, though, civil society actors that engage in such campaigns have had to face the challenge to formulate alternative proposals. This challenge relates to the key issue of effectiveness of transnational collective action, going beyond “just saying no” to building new possibilities. Based on the experience of transnational networks of trade challengers in the Americas, this article argues that civil society actors face a basic problem when responding to these pressures: the problem of coherence across scales. They waver between proposals that lead to more global governance, and others that aim at strengthening national capabilities and domestic public policies. The cases of labor unions and environmental NGOs that have challenged free trade agreements in the Americas in the past twenty years shows that this problem is felt across the North-South divide, as well as across issue areas. It is also felt both by domestic actors that engage in transnational initiatives and by more globalized actors.
  • Rose Spalding, Political Science, DePaul University
    Transnational Activism and National Action: El Salvador’s Anti-Mining Movement
    Abstract: Using the case of the anti-mining movement in El Salvador, this paper analyzes the ways in which national level networks adapt and deploy resources mobilized through transnational alliances in order to build a domestic resistance movement. It explores strategies and frames through which local community groups, environmental rights organizations, epistemic allies, and the Catholic Church leadership, each with their own set of interlinked transnational alliances, stitched together a reform coalition that fueled national policy change. Using analysis that extends beyond upward and downward scale shifts to include horizontal shifts in ideas and repertoires, this work highlights the kinds of resources that local organizations extract from transnational allies. It identifies different types of international nongovernmental organizations, including one variation (the domesticating INGO) that is particularly well adapted for national level collaboration. Arguing for the utility of a politically embedded campaign analysis, this study explores the intersection between social movements and formal politics, giving special attention to critical junctures when electoral calculations foster elite realignment and national policy change.

11:00 – 12:30 Material and Cultural Consequences of Transnational Activism

  • José Antonio Lucero, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington
    Seeing Like a NGO: Encountering Development and Indigenous Politics in the Andes
    Abstract: Drawing inspiration from the critical literature on “post-development,” this paper explores the global and local nature of Indigenous politics through a comparative political and ethnographic analysis of “development encounters” between Indigenous peoples and their international supporters. Building on field research in Bolivia and Peru, this paper examines the role of US and European non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Indigenous politics, and of Indigenous organizations in NGO politics. Examining international cooperation (cooperación internacional) as a “contact zone,” I argue that network and structural theories of transnational politics should be complemented by cultural analyses of the very notions of development and indigeneity. Though progressive NGOs enable transnational networks of solidarity and activism, their “ways of seeing” often (re)produce tensions between and among Indigenous communities and their transnational advocates.
  • Kimberly Nolan García, Division of International Studies, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica, México
    Transnational Tensions: Network Dynamics and Local Labor Rights Movements
    Abstract: This paper evaluates the impact of participation in transnational movements on local efforts to promote democratic unionization in the garment export sector in Puebla, Mexico. It explores the difficulties of recreating the successful cases of transnational advocacy when local level actors take over leadership and strategy development roles. The paper compares levels of transnational support for workers’ efforts to register an independent union in three assembly plants to emphasize that access to network resources conditioned the ability of local actors to meet movement goals once the network was led by local labor rights groups. In the first factory, Kukdong, deep transnational support, the provision of material resources, and the inclusion of key groups in the network ultimately led state officials to recognize the incipient worker’s organization as an independent union. However, once local advocates attempted to recreate this success at the local level in two additional factories —first at Matamoros Garment, and finally at Tarrant Ajalpan—the absence of key network participants meant that the relative lack of material resources, organizing expertise, and network contacts disadvantaged the local labor rights groups, ultimately leading to the collapse of these two unionization campaigns. As such, the chapter uses the lessons from the Puebla cases to emphasize how network dynamics, and specifically, how access to organizational resources once networks move to the local level, can condition when transnational advocacy ends in cases of failure.

2:00 – 3:30 Strategizing across National and Transnational Scales

  • Hannah Wittman, Sociology, Simon Fraser University
    Feeding the Nation while Cooling the Planet? La Vía Campesina, Agrarian Citizenship and Food Sovereignty in Brazil
    Abstract: This paper charts the re-emergence and transformation of a multi-layered ‘agrarian citizenship’ as a product of domestic and transnational mobilization around contemporary agro-ecological change. The cosmopolitan nature of agrarian citizenship is based not only on relations of agricultural rights and obligations vis-à-vis states, but also involves practices of strategic alliance-building, identity formation and “horizontal integration” between a wide range of local, global and national peasant movements. This form of agrarian resistance and citizenship is exemplified by the international peasant movement La Vía Campesina’s call for food sovereignty. The food sovereignty model, founded on practices of agrarian citizenship and ecologically sustainable local food production, is analyzed for its potential to challenge the dominant model of large-scale, capitalist, and export based agriculture in the Brazilian context.
  • Federico Rossi, Social and Political Studies, European University Institute, Italy
    Juggling Multiple Agendas in the Struggle Against Neoliberalism: The Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina, 2002-2010
    Abstract: This paper analyzes the virtually ‘parallel agendas’ that the Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina (CTA) developed at the national, continental and international levels for almost a decade. The CTA played a key role in the resistance to neoliberal reforms on the national level. While carrying out these activities, it also participated in the main continental campaign against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). However, these were largely parallel agendas in which the CTA’s transnational activism did not significantly influence its domestic strategic plans. The paper will show how although the CTA was actively participating in the continental campaigns against neoliberal globalization, its participation in these campaigns was the result of a nationally-focused agenda. Moreover, since the 1990s, the only CTA program of action at the international relations has been on the Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR), and has not suffered from any significant changes as a result of the CTA participation in the campaigns against the FTAA. The goal of this paper is therefore to study and analyze the reasons for the CTA application of three contemporary parallel agendas of action in an attempt to answer the problem of the influence of transnational activism on national contentious actors during their resistance to neoliberalism.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
9:30 – 11:00 Roundtable Discussion
Greenleaf Conference Room


As seating is limited, please RSVP by Friday, April 8, 2011 by emailing or calling 504.862.3141




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