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Grounding Rights

Populist and Peasant Conceptions of Entitlement in Rural Nicaragua

David Cooper

Keywords: agrarian reform; FSLN; land; Nicaragua; organization; populism; revolution; rights

Since the Sandinistas returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007, ideas about rights have been central to the governing party’s populist project. The rights in question are understood to require the production of ‘organized’ citizens who become integrated into the mechanisms of popular governance. But for rural Sandinistas who participated in the revolutionary agrarian reform of the 1980s, rights are about land. For some, realizing rights has required disentangling themselves from local organs of organized life, resulting in their exclusion from the government’s populist model of rights. Contending ideas about how to legitimately ground the rights that result—and the effort of these excluded Sandinistas to make revolutionary ‘struggle’ the basis of entitlements— trouble a standard anthropological model that views abstract rights as subsequently particularized in practice.

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