Van Cott, Donna Lee. From movements to parties in Latin America: the evolution of ethnic politics. Cambridge, 2005. 276p bibl index ISBN 0-521-85502-0, $75.00 . Reviewed in 2006jun CHOICE.
Since 1995, indigenous activists in South America have made a surprising shift from following strategies of social movements in order to advance ethnic agendas, to entering the electoral arena as political parties themselves. In a clear and well-written treatment, Van Cott (political science, Tulane Univ.) asks why ethnic parties emerged in the 1990s and why they experienced different levels of success. Her three main case studies are Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, all of which have sizable indigenous populations. While militant ethnic movements emerged in the first two, Peru does not share a similar history. Not content to focus only on areas of high indigenous population density, Van Cott makes a novel and important contribution by comparing this history with that of Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela. These three countries have very small indigenous populations but highly differing patterns of ethnic mobilization. Van Cott's treatment will be more interesting and useful for general readers than Deborah Yashar's Contesting Citizenship in Latin America (CH, Jan'06, 43-3043), which is of primary interest to political scientists. This is a crucial resource for understanding contemporary indigenous politics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- M. Becker, Truman State University