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Signs of democracy. Street art in Latin America

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UCL Institute of the Americas

51 Gordon Square

London

WC1H 0PN

United Kingdom

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Olivier Dabène (Paris Institute of Political Studies) - Manifestations of democratic vitality often go unnoticed because nation-states and governments are generally the sole units of analysis and the electoral processes are the only metric to gauge democracy. As a reaction, this conference makes the case for exploring signs of democracy in the streets of Latin American cities. Its argument is twofold.

First, when artists invade public space for the sake of voicing rage and disseminating claims or statements, they raise public awareness, nurture public debate and hold authorities accountable. They can also interact with neighbors and thereby contribute to community building. Consequently, I argue that they behave as urban citizens, fostering street-level democracy despite often violating the law. Second, street art reveals how public space is governed. When local authorities try to contain, regulate or repress public space invasions, they can achieve their goals democratically if, instead of simply criminalizing their activity, they dialogue with the artists and try to reach a consensus inspired by a conception of the city as a commons.

The conference is based on five case studies: Bogota (Colombia), São Paulo (Brazil), Valparaíso (Chile), Oaxaca (Mexico) and Havana (Cuba).

Olivier Dabène is professor of political science at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) and senior researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research (CERI, Sciences Po). He is also the President of the Political Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean (www.sciencespo.fr/opalc) and visiting professor in many Latin American universities. His latest books include: The Politics of Regional Integration in Latin America (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), La gauche en Amérique latine, 1998-2012 (Presses de Sciences Po, 2012) and Summits and Regional Governance: The Americas in Comparative Perspective (with Gordon Mace, Jean-Philippe Terrien and Diana Tussie, Routledge, 2016).

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UCL Institute of the Americas

51 Gordon Square

London

WC1H 0PN

United Kingdom

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