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The Politics of a Strange Right:Consultation, Mining, and Indigenous Mobilization in Latin America

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Abstract

In the past few decades, indigenous political mobilization has emerged as a major phenomenon in Latin American politics, both shaping and shaped by the broader social, economic, and cultural trends in the region. This mobilization has taken many forms and drawn on various resources, but one critical variable worth noting is the role that law, particularly international law, has played in indigenous politics. The main international law on indigenous rights, Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, has come to have a major influence on the way that indigenous communities and their advocates act on, and even perceive, their political goals and grievances. In particular, the right, guaranteed by the convention, to “consultation” in the event of a proposed development project affecting indigenous lands has assumed a singular significance for indigenous organizing that was completely unexpected at the time ILO 169 was drafted. This chapter examines the role of this unusual right, using case studies from Perú and Guatemala. I argue that the trajectory of the right to consultation has important implications for our understanding of law and social movements, and of indigenous mobilization in Latin America today. Borrowing from James Scott’s phrase (Scott, 1985), I argue that the right to consultation should convince us that international law, traditionally seen as mostly ineffective and the province of transnational elites, should in fact be seen as a “weapon of the weak.” Just like any other weapon, however, this one, too, can sometimes be used against the person who first tries to wield it, and I conclude my analysis with a reflection on how the right to consultation may backfire against its most committed advocates.

Keywords

  • Civil Society
  • Indigenous People
  • Indigenous Community
  • Community Consultation
  • Tribal People

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© 2014 George Andreopoulos and Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat

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Fulmer, A.M. (2014). The Politics of a Strange Right:Consultation, Mining, and Indigenous Mobilization in Latin America. In: Andreopoulos, G., Arat, Z.F.K. (eds) The Uses and Misuses of Human Rights. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137408341_3

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