Gender and Populism in Latin America

Passionate Politics

Paper or softback
Karen Kampwirth
Published 22 Nov 2010
List Price £25.95

Only available to back order


“The case studies in this book offer a compelling and nuanced view of a multifaceted reality: populism is extremely difficult to grasp, both theoretically and empirically, and its complexity and ambiguity also apply to its gendered underpinnings. As the more general debate still unfolds as to whether Latin American populism is or has been a liberating or a controlling force toward the disfranchised masses, the same uncertainty prevails regarding its effects on women. Given the elusive nature of the topic itself, this book as a whole may raise more questions than it answers, but the editor and each of the individual contributors have done an outstanding job in giving the reader highly useful and intelligent insights into the role that gender plays in Latin American politics.”

—Victor Armony, Université du Québec à Montréal

“Karen Kampwirth has put together a fascinating and timely book that uses the lens of populism to compare patterns of women’s political mobilization and a gender perspective to explore the varieties of populism, both historical and contemporary. Insightful, provocative, and relevant.”

—Jane Jaquette, Occidental College

“This book offers a range of rich case studies on an array of populist leaders and experiences. More significantly, it illustrates how populism is gendered and how it promotes different, even contradictory, gendered practices. Drawing on examples from the early twentieth century to the present, and from Mexico to Argentina, it not only fills a gap in our understanding of populism but also sheds new light on the gendered politics and impact of major figures and events in modern Latin American history.”

—Margaret Power, Illinois Institute of Technology

“The vast literature on Latin American populism has long explored the relationships between populist leaders and diverse social groups defined largely by their class positions, but rarely has it analyzed the role of women in populist movements. Kampwirth's volume on gender and populism is a most welcome corrective to this oversight, and it sheds new light on the contradictory ways in which populist leaders—despite their macho tendencies—sometimes provide new legal rights, social benefits, or political opportunities for women. Readers of this volume will be introduced to a dimension of the populist experience that has for too long remained in the shadows.”

—Kenneth M. Roberts, Cornell University

“Politics and society in Latin America cannot be understood without comprehending the power of populism. Combining fine-grained, historically rich analysis with powerful feminist scholarship, this superb volume explores the ways that populism and gender politics have been intertwined. Every essay is innovative, controversial, and highly persuasive.”

—Elizabeth Dore, University of Southampton

In the first half of the twentieth century, classic populist leaders like the Peróns in Argentina and Vargas in Brazil sought to create direct, personal ties between themselves and their followers. At the same time, they incorporated large numbers of previously excluded people into the body politic. The resurgence of democracy in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s brought with it two new waves of populism: first, the neopopulism of leaders like Salinas in Mexico and Fujimori in Peru, who promoted neoliberal solutions to the economic problems of the 1990s; and second, the radical populism of leaders like Chávez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia, who repudiated neoliberal policies in favor of some form of socialism in what has come to be called “the pink tide.”

Many have studied populist movements, for they offer fascinating insights into Latin American history and politics. But until now there have been no book-length studies of the relationship between gender and populism throughout the region. The essays in Gender and Populism in Latin America analyze the role of masculinity and femininity in the political careers of figures ranging from Evita Perón to Hugo Chávez, considering the relationships among populism, democracy, authoritarianism, and feminism in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela.

In addition to the editor, the contributors are Michael Conniff, Gioconda Espina, Sujatha Fernandes, Victoria González-Rivera, Karin Grammático, Jocelyn Olcott, Cathy A. Rakowski, Stéphanie Rousseau, Ximena Sosa-Buchholz, and Joel Wolfe. The Foreword is by Kurt Weyland.



Kurt Weyland



Karen Kampwirth

1 The Politics of Opportunity: Mexican Populism Under Lázaro Cárdenas and Luis Echeverría

Jocelyn Olcott

2 Changing Images of Male and Female in Ecuador: José María Velasco Ibarra and Abdalá Bucaram

Ximena Sosa-Buchholz

3 Gender, Clientelistic Populism, and Memory: Somocista and Neo-Somocista Women’s Narratives in Liberal Nicaragua

Victoria González-Rivera

4 From Working Mothers to Housewives: Gender and Brazilian Populism from Getúlio Vargas to Juscelino Kubitschek

Joel Wolfe

5 Women and Populism in Brazil

Michael Conniff

6 Populist Continuities in “Revolutionary” Peronism? A Comparative Analysis of the Gender Discourses of the First Peronism (1946–1955) and the Montoneros

Karin Grammático

7 Populism from Above, Populism from Below: Gender Politics Under Alberto Fujimori and Evo Morales

Stéphanie Rousseau

8 Populism and the Feminist Challenge in Nicaragua: The Return of Daniel Ortega

Karen Kampwirth

9 Waking Women Up? Hugo Chávez, Populism, and Venezuela’s “Popular” Women

Gioconda Espina and Cathy A. Rakowski

10 Gender, Popular Participation, and the State in Chávez’s Venezuela

Sujatha Fernandes

A Few Concluding Thoughts

Karen Kampwirth

Notes on Contributors


Karen Kampwirth is Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Latin American Studies Program at Knox College. Her two previous books with Penn State Press are Women and Guerrilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba (2003) and, co-edited with Victoria González, Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right (2001).

Analyzes populist movements in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela from a gender perspective. Considers the role of masculinity and femininity in populist leadership, the impact of populism on democracy and feminism, and women's critical roles as followers of these leaders.