My Ph.D. project, located within the field of historical sociology, seeks to answer "how the urban poor build citizenship in Ecuador from the 1970s to the contemporary historical context of the "citizen revolution". It postulates that in the peripheries of cities, new kinds of particular citizenship have arisen and have been striving to expand the limits of the political community. To compare two case studies, I will use an ethnographic immersion and oral history, which will allow comprehending the broader notions of politics that are entrenched within the practices of citizenship.
Generally speaking, in Latin America, as in Ecuador, the question of citizenship has been directly related to the different entanglements and social changes that have shaped the narratives of the republic and the state formation process. After the agrarian reform in 1964 (and 1973) and the 'oil boom' occurred in the early 1970, Ecuador's social, political and economic structures were modified. The urbanization process had an exponentially growth and besides it citizen conflicts proliferated. The main cities become crowded with marginalized citizens who developed different socio-political practices to contest their exclusions.
In the Ecuadorian political-academic field, the concepts which explain the relationships between the political system and citizenship are "caudillismo"/populism, urban patronage/clientelism and political culture. These notions, which have been hitherto used uncritically, have prefigured a scholastic point of view that looks "from afar and from above" the practices and socio-political relations that the subaltern sectors display at the time of exercising their citizenship within the institutional frame of the public arena. In this context, the study of the politics of common people has almost always been stereotyped, excluded or has received little attention.
My project departs from the explanatory models which use these notions and, based on previous work, argues that even under unfavorable material and symbolic conditions, underprivileged population groups produce alternative political institutions, practices and interdependencies, which should be described in order to understand the socio-political bonds and frames of interaction that trigger the operation of legally recognized institutions from the territorial level. Popular political activity is a meaningful historical and social strategy to achieve political and public recognition.