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Productive dilemmas: assistance and struggle in a Nicaraguan agricultural cooperative

Cooper, DTW; (2015) Productive dilemmas: assistance and struggle in a Nicaraguan agricultural cooperative. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Based on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork, this thesis is an ethnography of Gualiqueme, a village in the northern mountains of Nicaragua which was established by the Sandinistas as an agricultural cooperative in the 1980s. It explores the way rural Nicaraguan understandings of efficacy have informed and inflected their involvements with the cooperative, the Sandinista state, and each other. For Gualiqueme residents the prospect of productivity and efficacy revolves around a crucial dilemma. On the one hand effective action is viewed as grounded in an embodied personal struggle (lucha). On the other, relevant powers are taken to be distant and external, and viable action is understood to be contingent upon cultivating vital relations of assistance; with God and the saints, with the president and politicians, with the powerful outsiders staffing NGOs. The effort to mediate this duality of assistance and struggle across a range of domains is shown to comprise a central concern for Gualiqueme residents. It runs through the local production of historical knowledge, the negotiation of household relations, through efforts to establish entitlements to land, participation in state and NGO welfare projects, and the differing forms of popular religion. Developing this argument allows the thesis to present a novel perspective on the distributive politics characteristic of ‘New Left’ governments in Latin America, going beyond standard models of populism or clientelism. Gualiqueme residents are keen supporters of Daniel Ortega’s incumbent administration, and becoming a beneficiary of state welfare projects has come to hold a central place in rural political imaginaries. The thesis shows that understanding the appeal of these ‘assistentialist’ political forms for Gualiqueme residents requires framing them in relation to the diverse ways in which dilemmas of efficacy are handled in rural Nicaraguan life.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Productive dilemmas: assistance and struggle in a Nicaraguan agricultural cooperative
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1464514
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