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Why Did Guatemalan Refugees Mobilize?

By Rocío Acera Pozzi


Many Latin American countries during the 1980s saw themselves suffering with declining\ud economic and industrial activity in the wake of the adoption of neoliberal and free market economic policies. At the local level, declining living standards were coupled with social exclusion, exploitation, repression and violence which were allowed if not triggered by governments and favoured elites. The situation in the 1990s, while more peaceful and improving on all socio-economic and political fronts, is still plagued by many of the same problems of the 1980s, with the added difficulty of a legacy of violence. Nevertheless, despite how intimidating it may be to speak up after such a legacy of violence, and how overwhelming, time and resource consuming\ud the task of surviving is in such adverse conditions may be, much of Latin America, albeit less visibly than in previous decades, still experiencing fervent societal resistance and\ud mobilizing for social change. The question, thus, becomes: why do individuals mobilize?\ud In order to explore the reasons why people mobilize, this essay will attempt to sketch the main theoretical traditions of social movements, emphasizing the importance transformation of\ud consciousness in the potentially mobilizing individual. The process of transformation of\ud consciousness will be traced to three factors: first, the resources available to those potentially mobilizing; second, the structure of political opportunities and constraints in which people potentially mobilizing find themselves; third, the formation of collective identity and its impact\ud on processes of interpretation and attribution (explanation) of individuals' grievances. Indeed, these three factors speak to the three theoretical traditions known by the name of resource\ud mobilization theory, political process theory and collective identity theory, respectively.\ud In order to address the research question, this essay is outlined as follows. First, key\ud terms will be defined and assumptions will be stated. Second, a broad sketch of three main social movement theories, namely resource mobilization theory, political process theory and collective identity theory. The question of why individuals mobilized will be explored and illustrated with examples from the perspective of each theory. Third, collective identity theory will inform a\ud closer analysis of why specifically the displaced by the Guatemalan armed conflict mobilized

Year: 2001
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