Project Title: “From Victims to Resilient Citizens: The Policy Feedback Effects of State Violence”
Project Description: State violence is a prevalent yet understudied feature of many democracies, particularly in Latin America, where state security forces kill thousands each year. Although systematic data are often scarce, investigations by civil society groups and state entities show that these killings largely target society’s most marginalized sectors. Research predicts that such marginalized groups, as well as those with direct experience of coercive and punitive state policies, are unlikely to become politically mobilized. Yet the mothers and families of those killed often engage in activism. This study is among the first political science studies to investigate the drivers, repertoires, and impacts of mobilization by victims of state violence in democracy. My initial research finds that mobilization by families of victims of state violence reflects what scholars of resilience characterize as positive adaptation to adversity or risk. In contrast to most policy literature on resilience – which examines how states intervene to make citizens more resilient – this project develops and tests a theoretical framework to explain how marginalized citizens engage the state to reduce risk and adversity generated by the state itself. The project investigates the conditions under which state-induced trauma results in what I call resilient citizenship, a collective process to reconstitute citizenship through rights-based claims and demands upon the state. The project draws on a multi-method strategy, including quantitative analysis of data on state violence in Brazil and Colombia, an original survey experiment, interviews with state and societal actors, ethnographic observation at government and activist events, and accompaniment of victims’ mothers.