Crisis global, desigualdades y centralidad de la vida
The global crisis highlighted by the expansion of COVID-19 over the entire planet has had dramatic consequences in Latin America, testing states’ capacity to protect their citizens. The effects of the disease have laid bare the structural shortcomings of the countries in the region and the persistence of inequality, exclusion, and authoritarianism.
The consequences for the economy have been devastating too, in a region that was already experiencing problems with growth and the concentration of wealth. The pandemic has also included profound effects on the social reproduction of many people in the continent. At the same time, this crisis has also ignited deep reflections about the centrality of life and of care in economic and social development, the urgency of confronting social inequalities, the imperative to act against environmental devastation, and the powerful need to guarantee democratic process.
Additionally, COVID-19 is developing at the historical moment of greatest global connectivity. In this context, paradoxically, all countries have implemented measures restricting movement and confining the national space; the latter have led to policies of control over people and their bodies. Undoubtedly, these processes will have long-term effects in public and private life.
The purpose of the 2021 LASA congress in Vancouver is to convene people who study the societies and cultures of Latin American and the Caribbean to reflect on globalization and its impacts on the lives of its inhabitants, the institutional architecture of its states, and the cultural dynamics on the continent. The management of the crisis, and the consequences for the most vulnerable, demonstrate the need to reflect on the causes of that vulnerability in both historical and contemporary terms.
The current crisis exacerbates various tendencies that were already present in the social, cultural, economic, and political life of the region. We have experienced dramatic phenomena of human mobility that are illustrated in the exodus and mass intraregional migration and also South-North migration flows. Certain authoritarian political dynamics have also been reinforced in emergency contexts. The slow growth of economies, as well as the worsening of structural inequalities, reveal dynamics of the labor market characterized by informality and insecurity. Finally, the persistent exclusion of indigenous peoples and people of African descent, and other forms of human right violations, all show that the need to deliberate on democracy is as valid as ever in the region.
In the last year, Latin America and the Caribbean went through widespread situations of social protest in various countries. Mass movements were triggered not only around problems like poverty and social injustice but also demands related to the fight against gender violence and femicide, the legalization of abortion, enforced disappearances, the defense of natural resources and territories, movements for peace and against selective murders, and, of course, democracy. Social protest becomes a strategic site for understanding resistance and the limits of our political systems at different scales: local, national, and global.
The current crisis has created a series of ruptures that have revived the memory of various authoritarian expressions and practices in Latin America. The events of the last year invite us to rethink the current situation without forgetting the past and its legacy, and to exercise collective memory to identify the multiple cultural and societal responses that have been formulated in other critical periods. It is necessary, in this sense, to reflect on the different ways power has manifested and on how societies have responded throughout history to express their malaise and proposals for change.
New challenges put pressure on states and societies in Latin America and the Caribbean. This call for LASA2021 congress is also a call to contribute from our disciplines and fields of knowledge to the debate around access to justice, basic rights, and the construction and consolidation of democratic regimes.
Lastly, having the global nature of COVID-19 as the axis of discussion also offers the opportunity to link debates between the social sciences, the humanities, and other sciences such as biology and the health sciences. We hope that this congress will also make these bridges possible.
This call plans for a hybrid congress that enables both face-to-face participation in the city of Vancouver, if the evolution of the global health situation allows it, and virtual participation.