Not Just Listening

Activism’s Role in Redirecting Development  

Though attempts at citizen engagement and participation have recently emerged through the grassroots in the forms of committee meetings, community forums, and surveys, the voices of minority populations and subaltern classes continue to be excluded in mainstream development discourse and policy.

How can discussions with such “bottom-up” intent be followed up by actual delivery and provision of the needs of minority groups? In what ways do populations take it upon themselves to act with initiative and become more visible in the face of unresponsive and inactive government institutions?  

This panel will explore the numerous interactions at work in the politicized realm of activism: the role of activists and autonomous citizen action, the systematic ways government institutions and grassroots organizations work together (and at times against each other) to fulfill the needs of minority populations, and how the politics of citizenship and non-citizenship play a role in the visibility of those “on the margins”.

The aim of this thematic discussion is not only to discuss the complex spheres of activism in the Global South and Global North, but also to address how development practitioners, scholars, and current students can move from a passive role of simply listening to minority demands, to the active and progressive delivery of meaningful support to minority populations.


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Philip Oxhorn, McGill University

Philip Oxhorn is Associate Provost (International) and a Professor of Political Science at McGill University. Prior to that, he was the Founding Director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development, and Associate Dean (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies), as well as the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Latin American Research Review. His research focuses on the comparative study of civil society and its role in supporting democratic regimes, particularly in Latin America. Professor Oxhorn’s publications include Sustaining Civil Society: Economic Change, Democracy and the Social Construction of Citizenship in Latin America (Penn State University Press, 2011) and Organizing Civil Society: The Popular Sectors and the Struggle for Democracy in Chile (Penn State University Press, 1995), as well as numerous articles and four co-edited volumes: What Kind of Democracy? What Kind of Market? Latin America in the Age of Neoliberalism (with Graciela Ducatenzeiler, Penn State University Press, 1998), The Market and Democracy In Latin America: Convergence or Divergence? (with Pamela Starr, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999), Decentralization, Civil Society, and Democratic Governance: Comparative Perspectives from Latin America, Africa, and Asia (with Joseph Tulchin and Andrew Selee Woodrow Wilson Center Press/the Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), and Beyond Neoliberalism? Patterns, Responses, and New Directions in Latin America and the Caribbean (with Kenneth Roberts and John Burdick, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Professor Oxhorn has lectured extensively in North and South America, Africa, Western Europe, Asia and Australia. He has also worked as a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Population Fund, Global Affairs Canada, the International Development Research Centre, the Department for Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development, Canada, the MasterCard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, The Carter Center, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and the Mining Association of Canada.  He has a PhD in Political Science from Harvard University.

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Lesley Wood

Lesley Wood is interested in how ideas travel, how power operates, how institutions change, how conversations influence practices, how people resist and how conflict starts, transforms and ends. She is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at York University. A longtime activist, she is currently involved in anti-poverty organizing in Toronto. She is the author of Crisis and Control: The Militarization of Protest Policing ((2014), and Direct Action, Deliberation and Diffusion (2014) and is coauthor of Social Movements 1769-2012 (with Charles Tilly).

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Scott rutherford

Scott Rutherford is interested in histories of local oppositional movements. His research investigates the ways people have used organizing and protest to help imagine and develop new understandings of culture, identity, land, development and work in the late twentieth century. He is currently working on two major projects with such themes. Canada's Other Red Scare looks at the various Indigenous 'Red Power' movements that took shape Canada during the 1960s and 1970s. Dr. Rutherford has also just completed work on a co-edited introductory textbook with Karen Dubinsky (Queen's) and Sean Mills (University of Toronto) called Canada and the Third World: Overlapping Histories (University of Toronto Higher Education Press, 2015).