Young Middle-Class Activists in Lima, Peru: Hopes, Fears, and Civic Subjectivities.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Franka WINTER, Maynooth University, Ireland
This paper draws on a recent research project on political and civic discourses and practices among young middle-class people in Lima. It addresses their narratives of the city, hopes and fears for its future, and the civic subjectivities they constructed in response to these narratives.

Many participants identified political culture (including apathy, corruption, and a retreat into the private at the expense of the “public”) as one of the city’s most important problems. With a view to the future, many feared that “nothing might change”, especially with respect to citizens’ mindset. Accordingly, their hopes centred on the possibility of a collective civic and political awakening, which might bring about change. In particular, many drew hope and inspiration from recent youth-led protests and “capable people” in their own circles, who were involved in politics.

Faced with this situation, most saw themselves as responsible for helping to bring about change. However, the traditional political landscape did not provide attractive options for getting involved, as established parties were seen as hierarchical and discriminatory, ideologically backward, corrupt, and unable to make a change.

In response, they developed three broad strategies: while one group aimed to engage with politics through alternative “new” organizations, such as collectives and other small-scale groups, or even by founding their own party, others veered away from politics and instead hoped to make a change through private organizations, such as NGOs or social enterprises.  A third group felt they could contribute most by working in government and improving its performance.

A unifying factor in the construction of these civic subjectivities was their recourse to professionalism: all three groups drew on their privileged position as an educational elite when constructing their role in society and their ability to make a change, a subjectivity that could be described as “professional citizenship”.