XXXI International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association
University of North Carolina
Kenneth M. Roberts
In the first decade of the 21st century, income inequality has gone down in a substantial number of Latin American countries. This is the first time that inequality has declined on such a broad scale since we have had reasonably reliable data on income distribution. Beginning in the 1990s educational reforms have expanded the percentage of the population with secondary and tertiary education. The governments of the left that came to power after 2000 implemented a number of other reforms to improve life chances for the underprivileged, such as increases in the minimum wage, social assistance programs, and health care coverage. Are these trends likely to continue, or are they conjunctural and easily subject to reversal once economic growth rates decline? Are underprivileged groups becoming empowered to defend these changes as improvements in social rights? Are more privileged groups accepting these changes as necessary for further development? Are governments pursuing economic strategies aimed at upgrading the productive potential of their societies? Can we see corresponding changes in social consciousness and popular culture? How have technological changes and increased access to technology, e.g. the internet and digital media, challenged established media hierarchies? Are new circuits and pathways for cultural expression emerging from the political mobilization of once-marginalized groups? How do literature, the arts, and historiography adapt to new realities by transforming historical representations? Our Congress will provide the opportunity to engage in extensive interdisciplinary discussions of this conjuncture in its historical, economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions.