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25 Years

Institutional Disaffection and the Exercise of Legal Agency in Latin America

Date: 
Fri, 10/23/2020 - 12:00pm
Event Location: 
Zoom

Presented by: Lisa Hilbink, Department of Political Science

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Passcode: 704G1d

Abstract: Surveys show that trust in justice institutions in Latin America is extremely low, but we know little about what behavioral implications this has. Many observers worry that such mistrust may cause people to eschew institutional engagement, resigning themselves to injustice or turning to vigilantism. However, the literature, based in large-n surveys and/or single case studies, contains contradictory claims on if and why disaffection leads to institutional disengagement. Based on a comparative focus group research design in Chile and Colombia, we find that eroded trust in justice institutions will not necessarily have a demobilizing effect, and we contribute new insights into why. We argue, first, that opinions of the justice system are based on general perceptions of systemic (un)fairness that go beyond how individuals think those institutions would work for people like them in particular situations. Second, democratic entitlement and expectations motivate justice system engagement, even when people have little reason to believe it will pay off. And third, while people’s identity and capacity as legal agents are not evenly distributed across class, race, and gender, political interventions can empower otherwise marginalized people, affecting their perceived options for redressing harms and claiming rights within the justice system.704G1d704G1d704G1d704G1d