Synopses & Reviews
explores the mid-nineteenth-century rise of mass electoral democracy in the southwestern region of Colombia, a country many assume has never had a meaningful democracy of any sort. James E. Sanders describes a surprisingly rich republicanism characterized by legal rights and popular participation, and he explains how this vibrant political culture was created largely by competing subaltern groups seeking to claim their rights as citizens and their place in the political sphere. Moving beyond the many studies of nineteenth-century nation building that focus on one segment of society, Contentious Republicans
examines the political activism of three distinct social and racial groups: Afro-Colombians, Indians, and white peasant migrants.
Beginning in the late 1840s, subaltern groups entered the political arena to forge alliances, both temporary and enduring, with the elite Liberal and Conservative Parties. In the process, each group formed its own political discourses and reframed republicanism to suit its distinct needs. These popular liberals andand#160;popular conservatives bargained for the partiesandrsquo; support and deployed a broad repertoire of political actions, including voting, demonstrations, petitions, strikes, boycotts, and armed struggle. By the 1880s, though, many wealthy Colombians of both parties blamed popular political engagement for social disorder and economic failure, and they successfully restricted lower-class participation in politics. Sanders suggests that these reactionary developments contributed to the violence and unrest afflicting modern Colombia. Yet in illuminating the countryandrsquo;s legacy of participatory politics in the nineteenth century, he shows that the current situation is neither inevitable nor eternal.
andldquo;Contentious Republicans is the most intelligent and persuasive application of the insights of andlsquo;subaltern studiesandrsquo; I have encountered in the field of Latin American studies. James E. Sanders shows in engaging detail how different subaltern groups turned the republican politics of newly independent Colombia into an arena of struggle. The quality and sheer quantity of Sanderandrsquo;s evidence is impressive; much of it is drawn from regional and national archives largely untapped for the purpose of writing social and cultural history.andrdquo;andmdash;Charles Bergquist, author of Labor and the Course of American Democracy: U.S. History in Latin American Perspective
andldquo;Contentious Republicans is a lucid, well-researched, and engagingly written account that will force a rethinking of popular political thought and practice and its impact on national politics in Colombia.andrdquo;andmdash;Mary Roldandaacute;n, author of Blood and Fire: La Violencia in Antioquia Colombia, 1946andndash;1953
Shows how Afro-Colombians, Indians, and “white” peasants helped construct a democratic political culture in 19th-century Colombia, and ways in which the loss of some aspects of this mass-based democracy fed into the pervasive violence of the
About the Author
James E. Sanders is Assistant Professor of History at Utah State University.