CEDLA Dissertations

The Challenge of Legal Pluralism: Local Dispute Settlement and the Indian-State RelationshipDr. Marc Simon Thomas
(2013) The Challenge of Legal Pluralism:
Local Dispute Settlement and the Indian-State Relationship

This thesis analyzes how internal conflicts among indigenous inhabitants of the Ecuadorian highlands are being settled in a situation of formal legal pluralism, and what can be learned from this in terms of Indian-State relationships. It is shown that, on a local level, the phenomenological dimension of legal pluralism can be termed “interlegality.”

On a more macro level, ontological assumptions underscore that legal pluralism is still seen as a dichotomy between customary law and national law. It is argued here that, because ordinary Indians are not positively biased in favor of customary law per se, a heterogeneity of legal practices can be observed on a daily basis, which consequently undermines the commonly held view of customary law as a “counter-hegemonic strategy.” On other socio-geographical levels, however, this thinking in terms of resistance holds true.
Ecuador formally identified itself as a multicultural nation in 1998, an action that necessarily included recognition of customary law. Thus, a situation of de jure legal pluralism prevails in the nation. Because additional rules that would make customary law compatible with national law still had to be developed, this formal recognition led to legal uncertainty for indigenous people regarding how customary law could and should be used in cases involving internal conflicts. It is within this legal void that the de facto use of legal pluralism occurs. The formal recognition of diversity also led to a change in the indigenous population’s position in political society. Indigenous authorities and the state alike are now forced to deal legally as well as politically with the new reality of formal legal pluralism.
The in-depth analysis of disputes in the rural parish of Zumbahua reveals that the perception and use of two different legal systems on the part of ordinary Indians reflect that, at the local level, these systems are mixed to such an extent that they have resulted in the creation of a new system, a reality that obtained in the villages of the Ecuadorian Andes for decades prior to the promulgation of formal legal pluralism. On a regional and national level, however, legal pluralism is understood as a jurisprudential process with more sharply defined boundaries. Indigenous authorities as well as state representatives (i.e., lawyers, judges and politicians) purposely seem to test the legal and political boundaries between customary law and national law. The legal void thus provides a space in which jurisdiction can be asserted. The use of customary law in a situation of formal legal pluralism is thus used to increase power rather than to settle a conflict.


La búsqueda de justicia desde los microespacios de la política: organizaciones de mujeres desplazadas en ColombiaDr. D.A. Britto Ruiz
(2012) La búsqueda de justicia desde los microespacios de la política: organizaciones de mujeres desplazadas en Colombia

La búsqueda de justicia desde los microespacios de la política: organizaciones de mujeres desplazadas en Colombia’ es una investigación que ha explorado el proceso organizativo de las mujeres en situación de desplazamiento forzado en Colombia, desde un amplio espectro que incluye el análisis de la trayectoria de vida antes del episodio de desplazamiento hasta la conformación de organizaciones para la búsqueda de justicia.

A partir de este análisis, fue posible establecer: a) que la violencia de la que han sido víctimas tiene profundas raíces en la dinámica social y familiar, lo que les ha llevado a un menor desarrollo de sus capacidades humanas y les hace más vulnerables a múltiples formas de violencia, b) que la respuesta gubernamental, en atención a las reivindicaciones jurídicas que se dan en el marco de los derechos humanos, no han sido las más adecuadas para la superación de la violencia, incluso tienen el riesgo de perpetuar esquemas de injusticias de género, c) que las mujeres por su particular forma de relacionarse y de afrontar la experiencia del desplazamiento llegan a tejer redes de apoyo que tienen el potencial de ser organizaciones políticas, pasan de los intercambios de ayudas al trabajo colectivo e integración de movimientos sociales de mayor calado, y d) que a su vez, dichas organizaciones desarrollan dinámicas particulares, en tanto logren la implementación de la perspectiva de género en su ideario, que se traduce en una visión particular de la injusticia y por ende en la definición de la agenda de cada organización. Full text available


saskia_van_drunenDr. Saskia van Drunen
(2010) Struggling with the Past. The Human Rights Movement and the Politics of Memory in Post-Dictatorship Argentina (1983-2006)

Argentina has been the only Latin American country to bring the military commanders responsible for human rights violations (in the period 1976-1983) to justice. Yet, after this important measure, the Argentine government reversed this process through a number of amnesty laws, culminating in a general pardon in 1990 under president Menem.

Since that period, society has been constantly divided between the wish to forget and the necessity to remember. The successive democratic governments have until recently essentially promoted a policy of impunity and silence about the recent past. This official policy has been strongly opposed by human rights activists, journalists, intellectuals and artists, who have managed to keep the past on the public agenda. Their objective is to reform democratic institutions. At the same time, the human rights movement displays significant diversity in the strategies, discourses, and activities it deploys to achieve these goals.

The main purpose of the project is to analyze how the past continues to haunt Argentine society despite the official policy of impunity and silence. A subsequent aim is to assess the consequences of this policy for the character of Argentine democracy. These questions will be explored through an analysis of the struggle for memory, truth and justice carried out by the human rights movement, as it has unfolded since the presidential pardon of the generals in 1990. The focus will be on the diversity of interpretations and actors implicated in these ‘politics of memory’, taking into account the social, political and economic context in which the struggle unfolds, as well as the relationship with other social and political movements, and trying to assess the political and social impact of this struggle for Argentine society. The project aims to relate to broader theoretical issues such as the constitution of collective memories and the role of social movements in transforming societies.

Saskia van Drunen received a WOTRO grant and started her research in August 2002. She has been working for ICCO (Interkerkelijke Organisatie voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking - Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation in Utrecht as a programme specialist at the Democratisation and Peace Building department since January 2008. She defended her thesis on 8th of June 2010.


Dr Asuza Miyashita
(2009) Killing the snake of poverty: local perceptions of poverty and well-being and people’s capabilities to improve their lives in the Southern Andes of Peru 

Poverty and well-being are geographically and cultural specific, and there is a need to understand the dynamics of impoverishment or emergence from poverty within the local context.


Rather than focusing on the structural factors of poverty, her research will focus on the cultural dynamics of social mobility, centring on the capabilities of families to adapt and make sense of the ongoing rural transformations. A nine-month period of fieldwork will be carried out in three communities belonging to the high provinces of Cusco (considered the most marginal regions). Her supervisors are Prof. dr. Michiel Baud and Prof.dr. Annelies Zoomers.

After finishing her bachelor’s program in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Sophia in Japan, Tokyo, Azusa Miyashita-Hemmen came to Amsterdam to follow the International Master’s Program in Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, with a specialization in Anthropology. Her Master’s thesis was on the social impact of changes in irrigation systems in the community of Quillunza in Cotahuasi (Arequipa), Peru. A report of the study was submitted to AEDES (the NGO active in the region that has supported her studies). She graduated in December 1999. Miyashita-Hemmen started her PhD program at CEDLA in September 2002, with research on the perceptions of poverty and well-being and its relation to social mobility in the Southern Peruvian Andes (Cusco).

Asuza Miyashita defended her dissertation on 12 November 2009.



Dr Griet Steel
(2008) Vulnerable careers, tourism and livelihood dynamics among street vendors in Cusco

Every day a considerable group of street vendors make their way down to the city centre of Cusco, one of the most touristy cities of Latin America. The city attracts more tourists annually than there are residents. The street vendors come to this Peruvian city to scour its streets, hoping to get a piece of the tourist pie. In Spanish these street vendors are called ambulantes, a denomination which finds its roots in the Latin verb ambulare, which means to walk or move about.

A short walk through the streets of Cusco brings every passer-by in contact with ambulantes vending small arts and crafts, sweets and cigarettes. Children skipping around in second hand clothes approach you with their postcards, sweets or handmade finger puppets of llamas, monkeys, sharks and turtles out of school hours. Boys search for potential clients to shine their shoes. Young male and female vendors, dressed in jeans, t-shirt, sneakers and fleece jacket, stroll the streets with tarjetas or painted postcards, watercolour paintings, CDs and DVDs, or with a wooden tray with cigarettes around their neck. Women – quite often single mothers – accost tourists with children on their back and with trays of silverwork and shopping bags filled with carved gourds and other handmade arts and crafts, including woven belts, muñecas or dolls representing Andean people, and textiles. Most of these vendors sell during the day, but around sunset a new shift of evening vendors relieve the day sellers. They are constantly on the move, not only because they are itinerant workers, but also because they are often chased away by the local authorities. This PhD research is about this heterogeneous group of street vendors, the dynamics in their livelihoods and the way they try to make a living in tourism.

Griet Steel defended her PhD dissertation on 13 October 2008. She now works for the IOB (Instituut voor Ontwikkelingsbeleid en Beheer – Institute of Development and Management) at the University of Antwerp. She has started a post doc in the thematic group "poverty and well being as a local institutional process", and is planning to do research on processes of poverty in the countryside of Nicaragua.




Dr Beatrice Simon
(2008) Het Pisaq Theater: presentaties en beleving van "authentieke" Andes cultuur
in toeristisch Peru 

Beatrice Simon graduated in Cultural Anthropology from the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, in September 2002. She performed her fieldwork in Pisaq (Peruvian Andes), which is close to Cuzco and is mostly known as a tourist attraction. The research centred on the impact of tourism on this village and especially on the social tension between the various actors who arose (or were strengthened) in the field.

The fieldwork resulted in a thesis titled ‘Tourism and social tensions in Pisaq, Peru’. From December 2001 to January 2002, Beatrice Simon assisted with the preliminary investigation related to the project on Incatourism. On 1 September she was appointed as a research assistant. Her research will take place mainly in Pisaq, but also in Tarabuco, a village close to Sucre in the Bolivian Andes. The theme of the research is cultural sustainability and will focus primarily on the processes of cultural changes brought about by the influence of tourism. The fieldwork will concentrate on describing how the various actors in Pisaq and several communities represent themselves and their culture to tourists (‘staging of culture’) and how concepts of authenticity and sustainability are formulated by the various actors. She was away on fieldwork during the periods February-May 2002 and November 2003-July 2004.

Beatrice Simon defended her PhD dissertation on 5 December 2008.