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Title: Patronage for revolutionaries : the politics of community organising in a Venezuelan barrio
Author: Greatorex, Harry
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 405X
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2016
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The political success of Hugo Chávez and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution has relied on the promise of both emancipation and improved terms of patronage for the urban poor. This thesis takes a journey through barrio Pueblo Nuevo, the oldest informal township in Mérida city, to consider the tension between these ways of thinking about the relationship between people and government as a context for community organising. Different kinds of evidence are presented from fieldwork conducted between 2013 and 2014, when Mérida made international headlines as violent protests erupted and the middle-class neighbourhoods around Pueblo Nuevo barricaded themselves against the state. Observations from community meetings in and around the barrio show how different groups position themselves strategically in relation to political parties and city authorities. Experiences from nine months volunteer teaching work is used to explore the participatory methodology of the barrio’s famous ‘little school’ - the Fundación Cayapa education collective – and its work to reduce gang violence. Experiences of living and participating in Pueblo Nuevo and of building relationships with key community members are drawn on to explore perceptions of the lawlessness and political radicalism of Venezuela’s barrio populations. Interviews with activists, residents and local officials are used to map the intellectual landscape of the barrio, identifying different overlapping folk concepts about the urban poor – including as ghetto thugs and as social revolutionaries – and connecting these to notions about government and democracy. These connected areas of analysis are used to bring together the existing scholarship around Venezuela’s experience of Chavismo – as a public narrative, as a set of institutions and policies and as the context for barrio organising. The thesis contributes to these existing areas of literature by challenging the representation of Bolivarianism as a break from the pre-Chávez political era. Historical evidence is presented to connect the contemporary experience of Pueblo Nuevo with the history of the barrio as Mérida’s first so-called “land invasion” following ruralurban migration during the mid-Twentieth Century. Important continuities are identified with the pre-Chávez era in the strategies of community groups, their administration by partisan city authorities and within the Bolivarian public narrative of class warfare and popular empowerment. The thesis argues that community organising in Pueblo Nuevo is shaped by the inherited tension between processes of social emancipation and patronage and their premises in competing folk concepts about the urban poor.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available