Stuart Schrader, 2011 SSRC Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship recipient, traces the arc of US security assistance to Latin America from the late nineteenth century to the present, and finds deep continuities amid the policy changes. From gunboat diplomacy and direct occupation to training and support for militaries, police, and counterinsurgency, economic and geopolitical interests have predominated. At the same time, the legacy of former policies constrains new ones, and Latin American elites, once dependent on the United States, have grown more autonomous in pursuing their own political projects.
Items is an SSRC digital forum that renews and reimagines the Council’s former newsletter as a space for engagement with our work and with the social sciences more generally. From 1947 to 2008, Items (also called Items & Issues in its later years) was the principal mode by which social scientists and others learned about the impact of our programs and broader issues in the social sciences relevant to our commitment to scholarly rigor, cross-disciplinary encounters, and public relevance. In the same spirit, this site aims to shape current conversations through curated essays that reflect on the state of the social sciences today. A wide range of social scientists and others contribute their ideas and insights, often around featured themes that engage key debates of the moment.
In this “Just Environments” essay, Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa fellow Ebunoluwa Popoola examines the transfer of environmental lawsuits from Nigerian courts to European ones as a means of circumventing legal obstacles at the national level. Communities in the Niger Delta face multiple barriers when suing multinational oil companies in Nigerian courts, in part because of high costs, delays, and a restrictive interpretation of legal standing. Moving these cases to foreign jurisdictions, where the multinational companies are based, has been one avenue through which environmental justice has been achieved.
Contrary to the negative stereotypes associated with NIMBYism, Carol Hager’s contribution to the “Just Environments” series demonstrates how NIMBY protests can be beneficial components of participatory politics that result in social, political, and technological innovation. Contrasting case studies from Germany and the United States, Hager examines how, with varying degrees of success, local residents are able to resist unwanted development and environmental threats while imagining more progressive alternatives. In this light, NIMBY protests can be seen as initiating processes of community learning and innovation. Hager was the recipient of an SSRC Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies Fellowship.
Nikhil Anand’s contribution to the “Just Environments” series examines the making of urban inequality, focusing on water infrastructure as a key site for banal yet fundamentally political decision-making that neglects or harms poor citizens. In both Flint and Mumbai, environmental injustice is generated through bureaucratic routines that rarely take into account the humans they affect. Challenging these injustices, Anand argues, requires engaging in the “boring” technopolitics of infrastructure.
Danny Hoffman’s new essay explores the expansive role of militaries as “armed first responders,” which has become “the new normal of humanitarian intervention.” Based on his research on both the US and Liberian armies as they intervened in the 2014 Ebola crisis, Hoffman shows the connections between the actions of the two forces. In particular, he examines how the focus on training Liberian forces to counter violent extremism by the Americans shaped how the Liberian military, with tragic consequences, approached its role in containing the Ebola epidemic. Danny Hoffman was the recipient of two SSRC fellowships, the 2001 International Dissertation Research Fellowship and the Global Security and Cooperation Research Fellowship.