Revolutionary and reactionary urbanisms: La Paz, El Alto and Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Mike Geddes, University of Warwick

Date and time: Wednesday 29 May 2019, 2.00-4.00pm

Venue: Hugh Aston Building, Room HU3.96, DeMontfort University

Abstract

Urban identities in Bolivia have historically reflected, but also significantly shaped, the country’s complex and conflicted history.

La Paz, a culturally primarily indigenous city situated in a great bowl-like valley high in the Andean region of Bolivia, was founded by the Spanish conquistadors and was historically a site of colonialist domination. In the late 20th and early 21st century, La Paz was the locus of struggle between conservative governments and oppositional forces. But it took a new urbanism to tip the balance towards the opposition and the eventual accession to government of the MAS government led by Evo Morales. This was El Alto, a new city on the lip of the bowl in which La Paz lies, populated by large scale peasant migration from the surrounding Andes. From El Alto, massive demonstrations poured down into La Paz, and were instrumental in forcing the defeat of the neoliberal regime in a revolutionary moment installing the first indigenous/socialist president and government of Bolivia.

The stability of the Morales government remained threatened however by the presence in the lowland east of the country of opposition forces based in large scale agriculture and centred on the city of Santa Cruz. The largest city in the country, culturally Spanish and the focus of economic and industrial dynamism in contrast to the poverty of the Andean region, Santa Cruz epitomised the continuing strength of the forces of reaction in Bolivia.

The paper will explore the contribution of these contrasting urbanisms to ongoing processes of change.

 

Professor Mike Geddes

 

Background

My academic background is in history and geography (BA Southampton) and urban and regional studies (PhD Sussex).  From 1989 to 2008 I was Senior Research Fellow, Reader and Professorial Fellow in the Local Government Centre, Warwick Business School.  My research spanned a range of issues in local politics and public policy, with particular interests in theories of the state and cross-national comparative analysis of patterns of local governance under neoliberalism.

 

Current research

My interest in cross-national comparative analysis led to my current research focus on aspects of contemporary politics and policy in Latin America, especially those countries with more progressive political regimes.  Specific research topics include radical initiatives in local politics and governance; political and policy programmes which claim to challenge the hegemony of neoliberalism; and projects to ‘refound’ the neo-colonialist and neoliberal state.  I am particularly interested in contemporary politics and policy in Bolivia.

 

Selected publications

Geddes M N (2019  Forthcoming)  Co-editor.  Latin American Marxisms  Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Geddes M N (2019 forthcoming)  Megaprojects:  Capital, states and civil society in Latin America. In Latin American Marxisms  Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Geddes M N (2016) What happens when community organising moves into government?  Recent experience in Latin America, in Shaw M and Mayo M (Eds) Class, Inequality and Community Development, Bristol: Policy Press.

Geddes M N (2014) The old is dying but the new is struggling to be born:  Hegemonic contestation in Bolivia.  Critical Policy Studies.8, 2, 165-182.

Geddes M N (2014) Neoliberalism and local governance: radical developments in Latin America.  Urban Studies.  Online 7 January, DOI: 10.1177/0042098013516811.

Geddes M N and Sullivan H (2011) Localities, leadership and neoliberalisation: Conflicting discourses , competing practices.  Critical Policy Studies, Vol 5 No 4, 391-493.

Geddes M N (2011) Neoliberalism and local governance: Global contrasts and research priorities.  Policy and Politics, 39, 3, 439 – 447.

Guarneros-Meza V and Geddes M (Eds) (2010) Symposium on local governance and participation under neoliberalism.  International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34, 1, 115-173.

Geddes M N (2010) Building and contesting neoliberalism at the local level: Reflections on the symposium and on recent experience on Bolivia.  International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34, 1, 163-173.

Geddes M N (2008) Marxist theories of urban politics, in Davies J and Imbroscio D (Eds) Theories of urban politics. London: Sage.

Fuller C and Geddes M N  (2008) Local governance under neoliberalism: Local state restructuring and scalar transformation Antipode 40, 2, 252-282.

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