Van Cott, Donna Lee
Van Cott, Donna Lee
Education: Tulane University, B.A., 1982; Columbia University, M.I.A., 1992; Georgetown University, Ph.D., 1998.
Office—Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut, 341 Mansfield Rd., Unit 1024, Storrs, CT 06269. E-mail—[email protected]
Inter-American Dialogue, Washington, DC, associate project director, 1992-95; Georgetown University, Washington, DC, instructor, 1997; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, assistant professor, 1998-2004, associate professor, 2004; Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, assistant professor, 2004-06, associate professor, 2006-07; University of Connecticut, Storrs, associate professor, 2007—.
Latin American Studies Association, American Political Science Association.
Fulbright fellow, 1997; professional development award, Tulane University, 2001, 2003; senior residential fellowship, U.S. Institute of Peace, 2004; visiting residential fellowship, Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame, 2005; Best Book on Comparative Politics from American Political Science Association, and Outstanding Academic Title from Choice, both 2006, both for From Movements to Parties in Latin America: The Evolution of Ethnic Politics; recipient of numerous development grants.
Defiant Again: Indigenous Peoples and Latin American Security, Institute for National Strategic Studies (Washington, DC), 1996.
The Friendly Liquidation of the Past: The Politics of Diversity in Latin America, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2000.
Contributor to books, including Democracy and Cultural Diversity, edited by Michael O'Neill and Dennis Austin, Oxford University Press, 2000; Latin American Politics and Development, 5th edition, edited by Howard Wiarda and Harvey Kline, Westview Press, 2000; Encyclopedia of Nationalism, Volumes 2 and 3, Academic Press, 2000; Multiethnic Nations in Developing Countries, edited by Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa and Thomas Fleiner, Institute of Swiss Federalism, 2001; The South America Handbook, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2002; Multiculturalism in Latin America: Indigenous Rights, Diversity and Democracy, edited by Rachel Sieder, Palgrave Press, 2002; Chiapas: Intepretaciones sobre la negociación y la paz, edited by Cynthia Arnson, Raúl Benítez Manaut, and Andrew Selee, Autonomous University of Mexico/Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, 2003; Povos Indígenas e Parlamentos, compiled by Ricardo Verdum, Instituto de Estudos Sócioeconomicos, 2004; The Handbook of Latin American Studies, U.S. Library of Congress; Crises in the Andes: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Paul W. Drake and Eric Hershberg, Social Science Research Council; Informal Institutions and Politics in Latin America, edited by Gretchen Helmke and Steven Levitsky, Johns Hopkins University Press; and Deprivation, Violence, and Identities: Mapping Contemporary World Conflicts, edited by Esther Gottlieb and Craig Jenkins, Ohio State University-Mershon Center.
Contributor of articles to numerous professional journals; contributor of poetry to periodicals and anthologies. Editor of journals, including Comparative Political Studies, Studies in Comparative International Development, Journal of Democracy, and Latin American Research Review.
Donna Lee Van Cott focuses her academic research on ethnic politics, social movements, political parties, and institutional reform, primarily with regard to Latin America. In addition to penning scores of professional articles and contributing numerous book chapters, Van Cott has also edited or written several of her own books dealing with indigenous peoples and ethnic politics in Latin America. Acting as editor on the 1994 collection Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America, Van Cott provides "an important and valuable contribution to both the increasingly crowded literature on democratization in Latin America (and elsewhere) and the rapidly expanding literature on indigenous peoples around the world," according to American Political Science Review contributor Eric Selbin. The chapters of the book attempt to demonstrate the diversity of indigenous cultures in Latin America and to show how they are connected to the political systems and the broader society of their regions. Selbin went on to praise Vat Cott's "well-articulated overview [which] raises some key points for both scholars and policymakers." Selbin concluded that Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America is "an extremely useful and highly valuable text that should quickly become a mainstay of undergraduate courses in Latin America politics and any graduate courses focused on democratization in Latin America." Orbis critic Edward A. Lynch, however, was less impressed with the same work, noting that it is, in fact, "most useful in providing erroneous conclusions that inadvertently point the way toward useful evidence for analysis." Among such false conclusions, Lynch contented, was Van Cott's assertion that indigenous peoples were purposely excluded from the political process in most Latin American countries. But Lynch felt that the example of El Salvador, with only five percent indigenous people in its population, might be a hard case to prove in this regard. "In spite of this analytical lacuna, the book is a useful account of the success of some (mostly local-based) indigenous organizations, either in winning political lights, protecting culture, or promoting economic progress for Indians," Lynch concluded.
Kathleen O'Neil, writing in Latin American Politics and Society, felt that Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America "put [Van Cott] on the map as a promising pioneer in the understudied topic area of indigenous political rights." With The Friendly Liquidation of the Past: The Politics of Diversity in Latin America, Van Cott, O'Neil thought, "lives up to that promise at a time when the study of indigenous politics is garnering increasing attention." For O'Neil, this 2000 study is "an indispensable resource for anyone interested in indigenous political achievement in Latin America." O'Neil also felt that the work offers a "cautiously optimistic" assessment about the amount of legal recognition indigenous peoples were achieving in Latin America. Van Cott divides her work into three sections: the first is an examination of basic constitutional reforms that allowed for more participation in Latin American democracies; the second section explores those reforms in Bolivia and Colombia; and the third attempts to judge the success of the reforms beyond the borders of Van Cott's two sample countries. O'Neil went on to observe: "With this ambitious book, Van Cott firmly establishes herself as one of the foremost authorities on constitutional change and indigenous politics in Latin America." Similarly, Michigan Law Review contributor Kirsten Matoy Carlson noted: "Throughout her book, she not only applauds Latin American states for constitutionally recognizing indigenous peoples and their rights, she suggests that it benefits the state." Carlson observed that "Van Cott's view of the development of multicultural constitutions may be overly optimistic because of tensions between the multiculturalism that Van Cott suggests is embedded in the new Latin American constitutions and the history of exclusionary politics in that region." The critic nevertheless concluded that "Van Cott's model explaining the creation of multicultural constitutions in Latin America is admirable and compelling."
Van Cott's 2005 work From Movements to Parties in Latin America: The Evolution of Ethnic Politics, further explores the increasingly large political role indigenous people have been taking in Latin America. Richard Feinberg, writing in Foreign Affairs, had high praise for this book, terming it a "magnificent landmark study, [in which] Van Cott establishes herself as the preeminent empiricist on and advocate for ethnic parties in South America." Van Cott contends that the increased power of indigenous people has come, in part, from the decreased strength of the political left in the region. Indigenous peoples have thus stepped into that vacuum, forming parties of their own. She examines successful new political parties in Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, while also looking at unsuccessful ones in Peru and Argentina. Reviewing this work in the Political Science Quarterly, Scott Mainwaring commented: "Van Cott has been a pioneer in the study of the politics of indigenous people in Latin America." Mainwaring further noted: "Her new book is an important contribution to the study of political parties, especially the questions of why indigenous parties form and succeed or fail to." Likewise, Rebecca Meyers, writing in Latin American Politics and Society, called From Movements to Parties in Latin America "an impressive cross-national comparison of the timely issue of indigenous movements, politics, and their intersection with the decline of political parties, democratic opening, and protests against neoliberalism."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, June, 1996, Paul H. Gelles, review of Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America, p. 408.
American Political Science Review, September, 1996, Eric Selbin, review of Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America, p. 686; June, 2001, review of The Friendly Liquidation of the Past: The Politics of Diversity in Latin America, p. 509.
Choice, November, 2000, E.A. Duff, review of The Friendly Liquidation of the Past, p. 607; June, 2006, M. Becker, review of From Movements to Parties in Latin America: The Evolution of Ethnic Politics, p. 1898.
Foreign Affairs, July, 2000, review of The Friendly Liquidation of the Past, p. 144; January 1, 2006, Richard Feinberg, review of From Movements to Parties in Latin America, p. 157.
International Affairs, July, 2006, Robert Andolina, review of From Movements to Parties in Latin America, p. 826.
Journal of Developing Areas, January, 1996, Howard Handleman, review of Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America, p. 261.
Journal of Latin American Studies, February, 2007, Leon Zamosc, review of From Movements to Parties in Latin America, p. 202.
Latin American Politics and Society, fall, 2001, Kathleen O'Neil, review of The Friendly Liquidation of the Past; summer, 2007, Rebecca Meyers, review of From Movements to Parties in Latin America.
Library Journal, November 1, 1994, Roderic A. Camp, review of Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America, p. 94.
Michigan Law Review, May, 2002, Kirsten Matoy Carlson, review of The Friendly Liquidation of the Past, p. 1470.
Orbis, summer, 1996, Edward A. Lynch, review of Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America.
Political Science Quarterly, fall, 2006, Scott Mainwaring, review of From Movements to Parties in Latin America.
Political Studies, June, 2001, Darren Wallis, review of The Friendly Liquidation of the Past, p. 388.
Reference & Research Book News, September, 1995, review of Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America, p. 16; February, 2006, review of From Movements to Parties in Latin America.
Tulane University Web site,http://www.tulane.edu/ (December 18, 2007), faculty profile of Donna Lee Van Cott.
University of Connecticut, Department of Political Science Web site,http://www.polisci.uconn.edu/ December 21, 2007), faculty profile of Donna Lee Van Cott.