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Lecture Series: Rafael Correa's Technopopulism

Event Type
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)
101 International Studies Building, 910 S. Fifth Street, Champaign
Oct 17, 2013   12:00 pm  
Carlos de La Torre, Director, International Studies Program Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Kentucky
Angelina Cotler
Originating Calendar
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)

This talk analyzes the authoritarian outcomes of Rafael Correa’s project of redemptive and technocratic modernization from above. It shows how populist appeals and technocratic reasoning are combined in Correa’s project of state building. Windfall rents have allowed his government to pursue democratization understood as an increase in social spending, but at the cost of pluralism, civil rights, the rule of law, and checks and balances. In contrast to other leftist governments, Correa has not created participatory institutions, and is in conflict with most social movements, which his administration has labeled as corporatist and special interest groups.

Carlos de la Torre earned a B.A. (with honors) in sociology from the University of Florida, Gainesville (1983), and an M.A. (1987) and Ph.D. (1993) in the same field from the New School for Social Research in New York City, supported by a scholarship from the Organization of American States, a doctoral Fellowship from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) of Ecuador, and an Alvin Johnson Dissertation Fellowship from the New School. While still a doctoral candidate he edited, with Felipe Burbano, Populism in Ecuador: An Anthology of Texts (Quito: ILDIS, 1989), and published “The Ambiguous Meanings of Latin American Populisms,” which appeared in Social Research (Summer 1992), staking out one of the areas of research for which he is best known. His dissertation, published as La Seducción Velasquista (Quito: FLACSO and Libri Mundi, 1993), which studied the rise in the 1930s and 1940s of the magnetic leader Velasco Ibarra in the unique context of Ecuadorian socioeconomics, won the New School’s Alfred Schutz Memorial Award.

On finishing his doctorate, he took up an appointment as Assistant, and later Associate, Professor of Sociology at Drew University, and served as its Director of Latin American Studies from 1995 to 2001. He then joined the sociology and anthropology faculty at Northeastern University as an Associate Professor, remaining there for three years; during most of his tenure at Northeastern he also served as the Director of the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies program. In 2003 he returned to Ecuador to direct the Ph.D. program in social science at FLACSO. Currently he is Professor and Researcher in the Political Studies Program.

It was while teaching a class on race and ethnicity at Drew that Carlos de la Torre first delved deeply into that topic, and when he first began seriously researching racism in Ecuador. Important publications on that topic, which became the second major branch in his researches, soon followed, among them Racism in Ecuador: Experiences of the Indian Middle Class (Quito: CAAP, 1996; rpt., Abya-Yala, 2002); “Everyday Forms of Racism in Contemporary Ecuador: The Experiences of Middle-Class Indians,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22, No. 1 (1999); “Racism in Education and the Construction of Citizenship in Ecuador,” Race and Class, 42, No. 2 (2000); and Afroquiteños: Ciudadanía y Racismo (CAAP, 2002). He continued his study of racism in Ecuadorian education as a Fulbright New Century Scholar in 2007-08. His latest article on that topic, written with Carmen Martínez, is “Racial Discrimination and Citizenship in Ecuador’s Educational System,” published in Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, 5, No. 1 (2009).

He returned to the subject of populism as a Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow in 2008-09 and continued on that topic as a Visiting Resource Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin in 2010. During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, he will build on this work, with a project entitled “Understanding Popular Support for Populist and Authoritarian Regimes.”

In addition to the publications already mentioned, Carlos de la Torre has contributed over twenty chapters to anthologies, written over thirty articles for refereed and popular journals, coedited four volumes, most recently The Ecuador Reader (Duke UP, 2008), with Steve Striffler; and two monographs: ¡Un Solo Toque! Populismo y Cultura Política en Ecuador (CAAP, 1996) and Populist Seduction in Latin America (Ohio UP, 2000; 2nd ed., 2010).

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