Ethnic-territorial demands, local political elites and elections. An Alternative View of the Democratization Processes in Colombia

Project: Research Project

Project Details


This research project is constituted to give continuity to a previous project entitled "Collective action and political elites at the local level. A Comparative Perspective on Some Democratization Processes in Colombia and Mexico", which was approved by the FIUR in 2011 and fully implemented. Insofar as that project insisted fundamentally on the processes of collective action that vindicate diverse causes of ethnic-territorial type, leaving the issue of local political elites in the background, this project wishes to deepen the motivations, dynamics and strategies used by some social actors of Urabá Choco (Bajo Atrato) and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, who have decided to participate in local and national politics through elections. It is essentially a question of describing and analysing the interactions of these social actors with traditional local political elites, the ways in which these social actors have attempted at times to enter the institutional political arena and become a new political elite in their respective territories, and the dilemmas that these experiences of participation in formal politics have posed to them, especially with regard to the communities they have sought to represent.
This new research project, which allows us to deepen and broaden a previously explored field of research, has been thought as a joint effort to strengthen our lines of research in the long term, even more so in view of the electoral scenario of 2014 and 2015, a very particular situation that will allow us to observe and analyse new aspects of the political phenomena that we have been working on in regions far removed from the national geography, such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Bajo Atrato.

It is important to highlight that the lines of research in which this project is inscribed (the line of Governance and Democracy and that of Social Movements and Collective Action), constitute important pillars of the Master's and Doctorate programs in Political and International Studies of our Faculties. For this reason, this project has a positive impact, not only on CEPI research, but also on research at the level of the Doctoral School of our faculties, articulating this research with outreach work.
The project seeks to study some democratization processes in Colombia, operating a triple displacement in the way in which, in general, these processes have been studied, that is to say, as dynamics that are analyzed merely in the field of politics at the national and institutional level, without considering the local or the social.
In the first place, the project focuses on regions far from the central political dynamics, such as, for example, the sub-region of Bajo Atrato Chocoano and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Secondly, the gaze takes into account the social sphere (that in which social organizations carrying ethnic-territorial claims normally exercise their activity) and not exclusively the institutional sphere (that in which political forces instituted with the purpose of competing electorally for power act). And thirdly, special attention will be paid to the encounters and disagreements that are evident between these two types of actors (social organizations and political elites).
This project finds its justification in the need to understand the democratic dynamics in Colombia in a way that is more complex and closer to the terrain than that proposed by the traditional viewpoint, which is limited to the political-institutional field. Thus, its main objective is to provide an answer to the question of how and to what extent social actors, bearers of ethnic-territorial rights, articulate with political elites that dispute power in local scenarios, even reaching, in some circumstances, to compete with such elites in electoral contests. However, beyond academic justification, this project is also relevant in terms of the consolidation of research agendas that will be fundamental for the forthcoming launch of the Doctorate in Political and International Studies, as well as in terms of the deepening of links and relations with relevant social organisations in Bajo Atrato and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
At the methodological level, the project will be carried out by approaching both case studies through three perspectives: first, documentary analysis, with the help of a computer tool designed for the qualitative analysis of texts (Próspero), which will allow us to obtain information on the political forces and dynamics in the territories studied; second, electoral analysis, based on the electoral geography approach (through the Philcarto


a) Contribution to the academic productivity of the Center for Political and International Studies CEPI through new publications.
b) Acquisition of knowledge and skills for future consultancies and research.

Commitments / Obligations

- Two articles that can be published in indexed academic journals or the publication of a book with the results of the research.
- Agreements
- Doctoral Research Seminars
- Carrying out field work for doctoral theses
Effective start/end date5/1/145/17/15

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Main Funding Source

  • FIUR


  • Bogotá D.C.


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