HomeProtections versus Societies. Latin America in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Protections versus Societies. Latin America in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Protecciones versus Sociedades. América Latina s. XIX-XX

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Published on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 by Elsa Zotian


The symposium “Protections versus Societies” invites researchers of history and the social sciences to collaboratively reflect on the history of social protection in Latin America and its contemporary manifestations. The objective will be to deepen our understanding of the debates concerning the history of social protection and reforms of social security, debates which have gained a new depth and urgency over the last decades, originating in regional policies of free trade and agendas of privatization of public health, education, and social security.We want to explore how these and older transformations, present from the 19th century onwards, played a critical part in the process of modifying the way societies were constructed and thought in Latin America. The 19th century mutual societies with their associative function would be one example, as well as the later precarization of public social security arrangements and its impact on the proliferation of the so called “Societies of Risk”. This makes the study of the performative dimension of social protection paramount, with regards to how it led to the extinction, conservation and transformation of different types of societies.



The Symposium invites scholars to critically revise the findings and paradigms of the sociology of social security, which in recent years has produced a vast field of studies on risk and vulnerable population. Another aim will be to contribute to the history of social protections,
which recently has highlighted networks of social assistance, developing from the 19th century onwards, on different scales and supported by local actors. We are inviting researchers to present new sources, case studies and methodologies to further the study
of regimes of protection and their relations with the societies that generate them. Taking this complex proposition into consideration, three lines of inquiry are proposed, in order to discuss the general theme.

Main themes

1. Knowledge, institutions and policies
One of the main aspects of sanitary policies of the 18th century was their temporary or exceptional quality. From the 19th century onwards however, procedures that were implemented only in times of crisis started being integrated into the fundamental functioning of the urban space. The symposium will be interrogating these mechanisms of stabilizations, as well as exploring the role that experts from different domains played in its implementation, be it legal, statistical, or medical. At the same time we are interested in exploring the multiplicity of institutions that mediated these activities of protection. Examples would be networks of mutuality which emerged in the 19th century, closed institutions such as prisons and houses of correction, missions and other religious organizations, professional and industrial associations, and public institutions of social protection. Ultimately, the objective is to understand the emergence and eventual prevalence of a wide array of social protections, heterogeneous not only in its objectives, but also in the means to concretize its aims.

2. Work, risks, and new social actors
Also of interest will be protections related to the sphere of labour, in many cases reaching significant sectors of the population. Here we are referring to social protections specifically designed for the work force, like systems of rural dependence between labourers and land owners, domestic servants, company-town welfare policies, or public systems of social security. The symposium seeks to reflect on the innovations that accompanied industrialization in the 20th century, like work accident & illness compensation mechanisms, or labour norms with respect to sectors increasingly identified with being “at risk”: mothers, children and the disabled.
At the same time, investigating the strengthening of the State and the emergence of public policies of social protection, taking into consideration the complex set of interests involved, seems to us a crucial agenda of research. This involves historical enquiries into the influence of a multiplicity of institutions, like private insurances, employer associations, church-related entities, labour movements, and political parties, as well as accounting for strategies of alliances-building.

3. Displacements: Territories and flows of migration

A third aspect that we want to take into consideration is the phenomenon of migration. The symposium is interested in the migrants’ accessibility to labour markets, housing and health arrangements, and his and her impact on the emergence of social security arrangements in the countries of destination. Equally important is the study of the relation between flows of migration and the mechanisms that attract labour, as these relations are receptive to transformations like the diminishment of large scale latifundios, the evolution in the transport sector, and developments of urban centres and isolated enclaves of work. As these transformations also impacted the modes of protection within the work force, the symposium will explore the dynamics between social protection and flows of migration.

Taking these issues into consideration, the objective of the symposium will be to analyze the construction of systems of social protection in Latin America during the 19th and 20th century. We are seeking to contribute new perspectives on the issue of social protections and the societies that these were supposed to defend, by studying the effects and consequences of migration, labour and industrialization.

Timeline and submission guidelines

Deadline for submission (max of 3 pages):
15th September

Notification of acceptance:
30th September

Submission of full papers (max of 10 pages):
10st November

Summaries should be sent in English and/or French, indicating your institutional affiliation and current research project.

For further information, please contact the organizing committee.

Organizing and scientific committee

Matias Kitever
Santé, Population, Politiques Sociales (SPPS), EHESS

Thomas Maier
Institute of the Americas, University College London

Diego Ortúzar
Centre de Recherches Historiques (CRH), EHESS


  • EHESS 105 Bd Raspail
    Paris, France (75006)


  • Monday, September 15, 2014


  • protección social, seguridad, sociedad, américa latina, trabajo, salud, migración, riesgo, social protection, social security, welfare state, history of social policy, work, migration, Latin America, history of the state


  • Diego Ortúzar
    courriel : diego [dot] ortuzar [dot] r [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Thomas Maier
    courriel : thomas [dot] maier [dot] 12 [at] ucl [dot] ac [dot] uk
  • Matias Kitever
    courriel : matiaskitever [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Diego Ortúzar
    courriel : diego [dot] ortuzar [dot] r [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Protections versus Societies. Latin America in the 19th and 20th Centuries », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, https://calenda.org/288519

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