Juan Ignacio Arboleda is a historian of modern Latin America, particularly Colombia and Brazil,
interested in the social and cultural history of constitutionalism. His research revolves around
democracy, violence and inequality, popular political culture, processes of state formation, the
recognition of diversity and its material consequences, and struggles for the redistribution and
legitimization of power.
His dissertation, tentatively titled “Raise your Hand: Constitutional Fever and Participatory
Democracy in Brazil and Colombia at the End of the Cold War,” examines the broad popular
participation that marked the process of constitution making and the creation of mechanisms for
direct democratic participation in Latin America during the last decades of the twentieth century.
The project has three goals: First, to analyze how direct citizen participation became a core
principle of democratic government and developmental projects in two countries with different
political and institutional regimes. Second, to examine how the process of democratization was
experienced and legitimized outside the halls of the Constituent Assemblies in Brasilia and
Bogotá. And finally, to explore how the tension between the recognition of socioeconomic and
collective rights and the implementation of neoliberal reforms has shaped the economic role of
the state and has limited constitutional aspirations.
By focusing on a perspective from “below,” this dissertation explores nuances and ambiguities in
the process of democratization in Latin America. It reflects on the paradox of a region that has
become a leading global force in constitutional innovation and political recognition but still
remains one of the most unequal and violent places in the world. It argues that the enthusiastic
participation of ordinary citizens in the process of constitution making created a deep and
enduring sense of inclusion and appropriation, which has contributed to the continuing popular
legitimacy of both the Brazilian and Colombian constitutions. Further, his research points to the
role played by ordinary people and local communities in keeping constitutional aspirations alive.
Committee: Ann Farnsworth (Adviser), Melissa Teixeira, Amy Offner, Tulia Falleti, and Kristina
M.A., Geography, Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia)
B.A., History, Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia)
Latin American History, Twentieth century, social and cultural history, constitutionalism.