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Backlash politics and sustainable development in Latin America

Politiques de Backlash et développement durable en Amérique latine

Políticas de backlash y desarrollo sostenible en Latinoamérica

Special issue of the “Revue internationale des études du développement”

Dossier thématique de la « Revue internationale des études du développement »

Dossier temático de la «Revue internationale des études du développement»

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Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2024


This special issue of the Revue internationale des études du développement  aims to bring together articles dealing with the politics of backlash in sustainable development in Latin America. The terms “backlash” and “backlash politics” are essential elements of the contemporary political landscape. They can be used in various contexts to refer to conservative mobilization, to movements in favor of local autonomy, to radical right populism, etc. We seek to stimulate in-depth reflection on conservative mobilization and the varied responses it has elicited in Latin America, across different political areas and at different scales. We call for innovative contributions and invite authors to focus on three lines of inquiry centered on ideas, institutions, and interests: 1/ Conservative agendas: reconfigurations and contestations of SD discourses and frameworks; 2/ Institutionalizing the backlash: changes in norms and politics; 3/ The strategies and interests of backlash actors.


Project description

The terms “backlash” and “backlash politics” are essential elements of the contemporary political landscape. They can be used in various contexts to refer to conservative mobilization (anti-human rights, anti-feminism, anti-LGBTQ+, etc.), but also to movements in favor of local autonomy, to radical right populism, and to the rejection of international institutions, to name a few (Alter & Zürn, 2020) The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have not been left unscathed: they are perceived as a hegemonic global political program, constituting an increasingly questioned and even contested agenda (Munro, 2023). In various contexts, the movements against the SDGs have expressed their disagreement through a multitude of channels, ranging from citizens taking to the streets to officials at the highest level taking a stand, including presidents. Their opposition appears through the explicit rejection of certain institutional notions and recommendations that are currently considered predominant at different levels, whether locally, nationally, regionally, or internationally (Alter & Zürn, 2020). These movements question fundamental principles such as human rights, the importance of protecting the environment and ecosystems, and the necessity of vaccines for public health, as well as social advances such as gender parity and women’s rights. They also challenge the policies and measures implemented under the 2030 Agenda, often arguing that these initiatives compromise national sovereignty, hinder economic development, or threaten cultural and traditional values.

While interest in conservative collective action was limited until very recently (Poulson, Caswell, & Gray, 2014), particularly in the French-speaking world (Agrikoliansky & Collovald, 2014), the rise to power of far-right governments in several countries now represents a challenge and a new area of inquiry for all researchers and actors, particularly in the field of development, including those interested in Latin America.

The Latin American region saw the emergence of neoliberal, far-right governments following the “pink tide” in the 2000s (Bull, 2013), which was characterized by the rise to power of progressive governments in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, as well as by significant progress in socio-economic development indicators. In recent years, far-right candidates and parties have gained influence within social organizations and legislative institutions in several countries, and have even risen to executive power in some cases. They are often rooted in the most conservative social, political, economic, and religious forces. These political movements share ideas such as the preservation of traditional identities, the appreciation of masculinities, and racialized supremacism, and they advocate policies that restrict the role of the welfare state, reduce progress on matters of gender equality, and challenge democratic attributes, thus leading to forms of authoritarian restoration.

Due to these dynamics, Latin America is a particularly interesting laboratory to analyze backlash politics in times of political upheaval. Although other regions of the world have also been affected by such intellectual movements, political forums (like the Madrid Forum), and popular mobilization, Latin America provides a rich context to grasp these phenomena. Understanding the dynamics (the ideas, the agenda, the strategies, the alliances, etc.) and the political and institutional effects of these movements in Latin America has become a major concern for academics and researchers specializing in the region. Such backlash phenomena are not a source of concern solely for “progressive” national movements, but also for international institutions and development actors, to the extent that these phenomena have managed to circumvent, weaken, or even pervert certain democratic processes through forms of populism that are often demagogic. Furthermore, it can be observed currently that neo-Pentecostals often join conservative Catholic groups to support certain right-wing political proposals and parties (Pérez Guadalupe, 2018). Although the current conservative offensive has been taking place partly in reaction to the advances of the 1990s and 2000s in terms of socio-economic indicators and social changes, it is crucial not to only consider its reactive dimension, but rather to perceive it as intrinsically productive (Serrano Amaya, 2017), with its own ideology, repertoire of actions, instruments, relays, sociologies, and specific agendas.

We share the view that the proponents/supporters of backlash politics do not simply act in reaction to a specific set of circumstances, but have an original agenda with its own logic. Backlash politics is defined by four features: (1) retrograde objectives, focused on cultural withdrawal and societal value lost (also possibly with a focus on the past and explicit appeals to a glorified tradition while advocating for a different future); (2) exceptional goals and strategies based on a permanent state of emergency or on the jeopardizing of fundamental democratic principles; (3) high visibility in the public debate through the dissemination of demagogic discourse, simplifying solutions, and outrageous, brutal, and shocking ideas, which are thus trivialized (Alter & Zürn, 2020); and (4) sometimes also misusing or even twisting the meaning of the commitment to SD.

In this period of political reconfiguration marked by the rise of conservative mobilization and leaders, this special issue aims to explore the dynamics of backlash and to understand its implications and its effects on public policies in terms of sustainable development in the region. It will contribute, both theoretically and empirically, to this emerging literature (Alter & Zürn, 2020; Patashnik, 2019; Paternotte, 2021; Patterson, 2023; Snyder, 2020), by focusing at the same time on the analysis of backlash actors, their mobilizing forces and their ideas, as well as on the policies they dismantle, circumvent, or adopt when they come to power. These analyses will take into consideration the constraints and requirements of sustainable development, from the stakes related to strengthening family farming, supporting agroecological practices, adapting to climate change, preserving biodiversity, but also linked to the fight against inequalities when it comes to gender, education, health, and the recognition of peoples, traditional communities, and indigenous knowledge. Above all, this issue aims to closely examine the contextual specificities of the emergence of these backlash actors, movements, and policies, as well as their crystallization and their diffusion.

We seek to stimulate in-depth reflection on conservative mobilization and the varied responses it has elicited in Latin America, across different political areas and at different scales (local, national, regional, and international). We call for innovative contributions and little-explored perspectives, and invite authors to focus on three lines of inquiry centered on ideas, institutions, and interests (Hall, 1997; Palier & Surel, 2005; Patterson, 2023). This approach makes it possible to account for the dynamics, effects, and different dimensions and complexities that this subject requires.

Line of inquiry 1: Conservative agendas: reconfigurations and contestations of SD discourses and frameworks

What are the dominant discourses in terms of shared principles, objectives, processes, and practices contested by these conservative movements? What alternative proposals and programs are defended? What key features from the past do these movements and far-right groups consider preferable? What are the “modernizing” features that are put forward? The setbacks at various levels experienced by agroecology, one of the progressive causes in the rural area, are particularly emblematic. In 2018-2019, the criticism leveled at the FAO for its support of agroecology was part of a more global reaction questioning the agroecological vision of peasant movements for the transformation of food systems. A contrario, its critics defended a “narrow view of science and knowledge to push for technology-driven food systems development, digitalization and financialization” (Canfield, Duncan, & Claeys, 2021).

From another perspective, how has backlash politics become part of mainstream political discourse? What (re-)framing in terms of sustainable development do these movements propose? Indeed, international and regional human rights systems appear increasingly threatened by anti-rights actors, seeking to “undermine rights related to gender and sexuality through misleading references to religion, culture, tradition and state sovereignty” (Shameem, 2017). These movements have increasingly adopted the language of rights and modernity from a different, reversed perspective to suggest the emancipatory nature of recovering local values and priorities (Bob, 2019; Snyder, 2020). For example, Corredor (2021) shows how people opposed to the gender perspective and the 2016 peace agreement in Colombia used the “human rights rhetoric to establish an alternative present and promote an imagined future rooted in exclusion and repression.”

Line of inquiry 2: Institutionalizing the backlash: changes in norms and politics

Backlash politics, through its non-compliance with the usual processes and norms of opposition in democracies, profoundly calls into question the legitimacy of political action (Alter & Zürn, 2020; Madsen, Cebulak, & Wiebusch, 2018; Patashnik, 2019), generating particularly intense and volatile grievances (Patterson, 2023). To what extent can these movements (social groups, far-right parties, etc.) inscribe backlash politics into the institutions themselves so that it can be perpetuated? What political and institutional spaces are occupied? What are the preferred arenas and scales? How have institutional arrangements been renegotiated in these contexts? Can they lead to profound changes in public policies, both in their form and in their functions? Are more gradual institutional changes or rather institutional ruptures caused by the backlash

taking place? Contrary to common interpretations, in general, backlash politics cannot be explained by policy changes seen as going “too far” or as having been implemented “too quickly” (Alter & Zürn, 2020). In Latin America, for example, hostile reactions against LGBTQ+ people have occurred in regions where no progress had been made regarding LGBTQ+ rights, so that these reactions may not come in response to victories in this area (Encarnación, 2020). That is why analyses focusing on possible contagion or diffusion effects in the region are also welcome.

Although backlash politics is not simply reactive, it can be put on the agenda at opportune political moments, for example taking advantage of symbolic power to win elections. It is also important to note the feedback effect, that is, how policies influence other policies (Pierson, 1993). This effect is particularly obvious in sustainability policies when they encounter local resistance, as in the case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). Such resistance can affect policies in various areas such as climate (Patterson, 2023; Vihma, Reischl, & Nonbo Andersen, 2021), migration (Alesina & Tabellini, 2022; Zhou, Grossman, & Ge, 2023), or the participation of women (Kjelsrud & Sjurgard, 2022). Taking into account the feedback effect of public policies implies simultaneously considering the unintended consequences and the inertia effects of these policies (Spire, 2017), making it possible to uncover the influence of interest groups and (non-)state actors.

Line of inquiry 3: The strategies and interests of backlash actors

Who are the backlash actors and what are the connections that support and link them? What are the political divisions and alliances involved in defending reactionary policies? According to Della Porta (2020), these conservative movements enjoy the support of diverse class coalitions, including not only economic elites but also other segments of what was once considered the working class. What are their strategies and what interests are at stake? Who are the “intermediaries” and the “entrepreneurs”? What role have the media and digital platforms played in the emergence of such movements and mobilization?

From another perspective, what are the different methods of financing and material resources that contribute to catalyzing this mobilization? This leads to considering crucial questions for development stakes: how is foreign aid used, or is it supposed to be used as a lever in case of human rights violations (Dasandi & Erez, 2023)? Beyond questioning human rights, backlash politics also challenges the environmental crisis. Therefore, what tactics have been implemented to hinder the efforts to limit this crisis or to adapt to it?

This special issue is open to varied disciplinary, geographical, and methodological approaches. Submissions may explore various spatial and temporal scales of analysis, from a monographic or comparative perspective, or by looking at transnational issues. Interdisciplinary submissions are particularly encouraged, as are diverse development perspectives (societal, environmental, organizational, etc.). This issue aims to contribute to the discussion on the politicization and depoliticization of development programs in the era of sustainable development, and the various dynamics of activism and politicization within Global South societies, as well as the risks for democratic processes stemming from conservative mobilization. It will thus contribute to a better understanding of backlash politics, with particular emphasis on Latin American contexts.

Guest Editors

  • Catia Grisa, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil
  • Carla Tomazini, Marie Skłodowska–Curie Postdoctoral Fellow (EUTOPIA-SIF COFUND), University of Warwick, UK
  • Jean-François Le Coq, Cirad, France

Submission details

The authors agree to read the editorial policy of the Revue internationale des études du développement and to comply with the code of ethics and the Guidelines for Authors.

The selection process will take place according to the dates specified in the publication calendar below.

1- Submitting the proposal

The proposals in French, English, or Spanish must present the paper in 4,000 characters (with spaces), or approximately one page. The file for the proposal must be entitled “AUTHOR’S SURNAME-Proposal-258,” and must include:

  • a title (70 characters maximum, with the possibility of adding a subtitle);
  • an abstract detailing the research question, the theoretical framework, the fieldwork, and the main results;
  • some bibliographical references (not included in the character count);
  • a second file entitled “AUTHOR’S SURNAME-258-info,” including the author’s first name and last name, their status, their institutional affiliation, and their email address.

The relevancy of the proposals with regard to this call for papers and their conformity to the journal guidelines will be verified by the journal editors and the editorial team and a preselection of the proposals will be made.

 2- Submitting the paper

The authors whose proposals have been selected will be invited to send a first draft of their article, which must absolutely follow the guidelines for Authors. The articles will then be submitted to a double blind peer review by two external reviewers who are experts on the topic.

The articles (45,000 characters with spaces, excluding the abstract and references) may be written in French, English, or Spanish. They must be original work. They may however have been presented at a conference (with proceedings), as long as they have been adapted to the format required by the Revue internationale des études du développement, but the author must not submit their paper to another journal simultaneously.

The references cited must be presented in APA format.

Publication Calendar

The authors agree to comply with the calendar.

The proposals must be submitted 2024 to:

  • catiagrisaufrgs@gmail.com
  • carla.guerra-tomazini@warwick.ac.uk
  • jean-francois.le_coq@cirad.fr
  • revdev@univ-paris1.fr

by June 30th

The authors preselected by the editors and the editorial committee will be notified by the editorial team the week of July 8th, 2024.

The first draft (V1), following the journal’s guidelines for authors, must be submitted by the authors to the aforementioned email addresses by September, 15th 2024.

The evaluation process will take a few months; each – anonymous – article will be submitted to a double-blind peer review by two external reviewers who are experts on the topic. Requesting a first version of the article does not constitute a commitment on the part of the journal to publish the aforementioned article, which must be approved by the editorial committee, following the different steps in the evaluation process; no. 258 is expected to be published in June 2025.

Editors in chief

  • Claire BEAUGRAND, Science politique – CNRS IRISSO
  • Pierre JANIN, Géographie – Institut de recherche pour le développement / Développement et sociétés
  • Jean-Michel WACHSBERGER, Sociologie – Université de Lille

Editorial committee

  • Tania ANGELOFF, Sociologie – Université Paris 1 / Développement et sociétés
  • Sarah BEN NÉFISSA, Science politique – Institut de recherche pour le développement / Développement et sociétés
  • Sylvie CAPITANT, Sociologie – Université Paris 1 / Développement et sociétés
  • Quentin CHAPUS, Économie – Sciences Po Bordeaux
  • Dominique CONNAN, Science politique – Université Paris Nanterre
  • Tarik DAHOU, Anthropologie – Institut de recherche pour le développement / Patrimoine locaux et gouvernance
  • Jean Noël FERRIÉ, Science politique – CNRS
  • Mylène GAULARD, Économie – Université Grenoble Alpes
  • Gaëlle GILLOT, Géographie – Université Paris 1 / Développement et sociétés
  • Tourya GUAAYBESS, Science politique – Université de Lorraine / Centre de recherches sur les médiations
  • André GUICHAOUA, Sociologie – Université Paris 1 / Développement et sociétés
  • Tarik HARROUD, Urbanisme – Institut National d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme
  • Valeria HERNANDEZ, Anthropologie – Institut de recherche pour le développement
  • Imène LAOURARI, Économie, Banque d’Algérie
  • Elena LAZOS CHEVERO, Anthropologie – Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Anne LE NAËLOU, Sociologie – Université Paris 1 / Développement et sociétés
  • Karine MARAZYAN, Économie – Université de Rouen
  • Kamala MARIUS, Géographie – Université de Bordeaux / Les Afriques dans le monde
  • Emmanuel PANNIER, Anthropologie – IRD
  • Ariel PLANEIX, Anthropologie – Université Paris 1 / Développement et sociétés / Cour d’appel de Paris
  • Marc PONCELET, Sociologie – Université de Liège / Pôle SuD
  • Mireille RAZAFINDRAKOTO, Économie – Institut de recherche pour le développement / Développement, institutions et mondialisation
  • Brenda ROUSSET YEPEZ, Démographie – Universidad Central de Venezuela
  • Abdoul SOGODOGO, Relations internationales – Faculté des sciences administratives et politiques de Bamako
  • Sadio SOUKOUNA, Sociologie politique – Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Fatiha TALAHITE, Économie – Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Marburg
  • Virginie TALLIO, Anthropologie – MISR/LAM/ISCTE-IUL
  • Marie Reine TOUDEKA, Sociologie – Université de Lomé
  • Francis VERIZA, Géographie – Université de Toliara
  • Madeleine WAYACK PAMBÈ, Démographie – Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagadougou


  • Agrikoliansky, É., & Collovald, A. (2014). Mobilisations conservatrices : Comment les dominants contestent ? Politix, N° 106(2), 7.
  • Alesina, A., & Tabellini, M. (2022). The Political Effects of Immigration: Culture or Economics? (Rapport No. w30079). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Alter, K. J., & Zürn, M. (2020). Theorising backlash politics: Conclusion to a special issue on backlash politics in comparison. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 22(4), 739‑752.
  • Bob, C. (2019). Rights as weapons: Instruments of conflict, tools of power. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press.
  • Bull, B. (2013). Social Movements and the ‘Pink Tide’ Governments in Latin America: Transformation, Inclusion and Rejection.
  • Dans K. Stokke & O. Törnquist (Éds), Democratization in the Global South (pp. 75‑99). London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  • Canfield, M. C., Duncan, J., & Claeys, P. (2021). Reconfiguring Food Systems Governance: The UNFSS and the Battle Over Authority and Legitimacy. Development, 64(3‑4), 181‑191.
  • Corredor, E. S. (2021). On the Strategic Uses of Women’s Rights: Backlash, Rights-based Framing, and Anti-Gender Campaigns in Colombia’s 2016 Peace Agreement. Latin American Politics and Society, 63, 46‑68.
  • Dasandi, N., & Erez, L. (2023). The flag and the stick: Aid suspensions, human rights, and the problem of the complicit public. World Development, 168, 106264.
  • Della Porta, D. (2020). Conceptualising backlash movements: A (patch-worked) perspective from social movement studies. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 22(4), 585‑597.
  • Encarnación, O. G. (2020). The gay rights backlash: Contrasting views from the United States and Latin America. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 22(4), 654‑665.
  • Hall, P. (1997). The Role of Interest, Institutions and Ideas in the Comparative Political Economy of the Industrialized Nations. Dans M. Lichbach & A. Zuckerman (Éds), Comparative Politics. (S.l.): Cambridge University Press.
  • Kjelsrud, A., & Sjurgard, K. V. (2022). Public Work and Private Violence. The Journal of Development Studies, 58(9), 1791‑1806.
  • Madsen, M. R., Cebulak, P., & Wiebusch, M. (2018). Special Issue – Resistance to International Courts Introduction and Conclusion. International Journal of Law in Context, 14(2), 193‑196.
  • Munro, L. T. (2023). Are the SDGs a Hegemonic Global Policy Agenda?: Evidence from National Development Plans. Revue internationale des études du développement, (253), 33‑61.
  • Palier, B., & Surel, Y. (2005). Les « trois I » et l’analyse de l’État en action. Revue française de science politique, 55(1), 7‑32.
  • Patashnik, E. M. (2019). Limiting Policy Backlash: Strategies for Taming Countercoalitions in an Era of Polarization. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 685(1), 47‑63.
  • Paternotte, D. (2021). Backlash : Une mise en récit fallacieuse : La Revue Nouvelle, N° 6(6), 11‑15.
  • Patterson, J. J. (2023). Backlash to Climate Policy. Global Environmental Politics, 23(1), 68‑90.
  • Pérez Guadalupe, J. L. (2018). ¿Políticos Evangélicos o Evangélicos Políticos ? Los Nuevos Modelos de Conquista Política de los Evangélicos en América Latina. Dans J. L. Pérez Guadalupe & S. Grundberger (Éds), Evangélicos y Poder en América Latina. (S.l.): Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Instituto de Estudios Social Cristianos.
  • Pierson, P. (1993). When Effect Becomes Cause : Policy Feedback and Political Change. World Politics, 45(4), 595‑628.
  • Poulson, S. C., Caswell, C. P., & Gray, L. R. (2014). Isomorphism, Institutional Parochialism, and the Study of Social Movements. Social Movement Studies, 13(2), 222‑242.
  • Serrano Amaya, J. F. (2017). La tormenta perfecta: Ideología de género y articulación de públicos. Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedad, (27), 149‑171.
  • Shameem, N. (2017). Religious Fundamentalisms: The Observatory on the Universality of Rights Initiative. Development, 60(1‑2), 100‑103.
  • Snyder, J. (2020). Backlash against naming and shaming: The politics of status and emotion. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 22(4), 644‑653.
  • Spire, A. (2017). État des lieux : Les policy feedbacks et le rapport ordinaire à l’État. Gouvernement et action publique, 5(4), 141‑156.
  • Vihma, A., Reischl, G., & Nonbo Andersen, A. (2021). A Climate Backlash: Comparing Populist Parties’ Climate Policies in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. The Journal of Environment & Development, 30(3), 219‑239.
  • Zhou, Y.-Y., Grossman, G., & Ge, S. (2023). Inclusive refugee-hosting can improve local development and prevent public backlash. World Development, 166, 106203.


  • Sunday, June 30, 2024


  • développement durable, retour de bâton, backlash, amérique latine

Information source

  • Marilyne Efstathopoulos
    courriel : sr [dot] revdev [at] univ-paris1 [dot] fr


CC-BY-4.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International - CC BY 4.0 .

To cite this announcement

Catia Grisa, Carla Tomazini, Jean-François Le Coq, « Backlash politics and sustainable development in Latin America », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/11p2g

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