This panel uses ethnographic insights to explore the potential direction of political thought and action in contemporary Venezuela. It draws on case studies covering polarisation and class, grassroots community organisations, higher education institutions, hip-hop collectives and labour movements.
In his 14 years in power, the late Hugo Chávez bestrode a political movement that dramatically changed the face of Venezuela and Latin America. Internationally, he cultivated new alliances and promoted the compelling but often confused political project known as "twenty-first century socialism". Domestically, his government used the country's lucrative oil rents to launch innovative social programmes, establish a new constitution and promote its own brand of participatory democracy. One year after Chavez's death, this panel draws on ethnographic insights to examine the past, present and future of the Bolivarian project. Analysing the everyday experience of life in the Chávez and post-Chávez eras, our aim is to explore the potential direction of political thought and action in contemporary Venezuela. Drawing on case studies covering polarisation and class, grassroots community organisations, higher education institutions, hip-hop collectives and labour movements, we aim to offer critical analysis on the political visions that gained traction over the past decade, their successes and struggles, and their prospects in the coming era. Since Chavez's project incited divergent opinions among the academic community, we want to explore new ways to account for Bolivarianism, recognising its advancements and shortcomings, and probing its changes and continuities. In a climate characterised by chronic insecurity, rising inflation and mutually hostile ideological projects, we hope to grasp the current state of what Fernando Coronil termed the "present-day future imaginary" of political practice in the country.