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  May 8, 2001

Hewlett Foundation to support Studies
of Democracy in Latin America

The Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies has been awarded a grant of $100,000 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for a project titled "Navigating the Storm: Constructions of Democracy in Latin America."

The grant is the fourth in a series awarded by the Hewlett Foundation to the Latin American Studies Consortium of New England, UConn's joint venture with Brown, the University of Massachusetts and Yale, to develop and integrate academic and co-curricular programs related to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Two related research projects that explore dimensions of democracy in Latin America will be supported by the Hewlett grant. The first, headed by Peter Kingstone, assistant professor of political science, addresses the relationship between institutions and policy performance in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela.

The second, directed by Jocelyn Linnekin, professor of anthropology, and Samuel Mart’nez, assistant professor of anthropology, uses ethnographic methods to explore how individuals in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela understand and act upon their ideas of democracy.

Kingstone's research builds on his earlier work in Brazil, exploring how alternative presidential strategies for economic reform may succeed but still lead to different kinds of less than optimal policy outcomes.

His research will examine executives' strategies for implementing telecommunications privatization and pension fund reforms in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela to understand how they find ways to navigate even relatively ungovernable political systems.

Linnekin and Mart’nez's work will focus on the grassroots, attempting to understand what "democracy" means to ordinary people. As an introduced political model, democracy is not passively adopted by people in emerging nations, but is reinterpreted and adapted to local conditions. The term "democracy" therefore encompasses a range of political models, and it is uncertain to what degree all segments of any country's population concur on the core values that democracy ought to uphold.

Building on a pilot study they carried out in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, in 1999, their Hewlett-supported fieldwork in the Dominican Republic will complete the first in a projected series of national studies. Their research in Venezuela will initiate a second case for intra-regional comparison. Linnekin and Mart’nez's research contributes to their larger, multi-site, cross-cultural study of constructions of democracy in nations where democracy is new or in a state of flux.

The policy implications of the research being conducted by Kingstone, Linnekin and Mart’nez will be explored in a Working Group on Democracy, organized by the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2002-03. Twice a semester, the working group will bring together UConn faculty and other scholars working on issues related to democracy and democratization throughout the world to share their research in progress.

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