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Volume 59 / Social Sciences


WILLIAM F. WATERS, Senior Associate, Center for Global Health, and Associate Professor, Department of Global Health, The George Washington University

MUCH OF THE SOCIOLOGICAL LITERATURE ON ECUADOR falls into four broad areas of research. Traditionally strong lines of analysis—particularly rural and peasant studies—have been further developed, while newer, more innovative lines of inquiry have been introduced. First, studies of peasant society, and rural transformation continue to be of abiding interest. Among the issues addressed are ethnicity, rural poverty, and links between local change and globalization. Two lines of inquiry can be observed. Case studies address particularities of specific locales, and in large part represent the work of well established local NGOs, especially the Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio and the Central Ecuatoriana de Servicios Agrícolas, which have both been active in promoting and researching issues related to rural transformation for several decades (items #bi 99001100#, #bi 99001096#, #bi 99001120#, #bi 99001128#, and #bi 99001131#). Other studies of this genre present more theoretical perspectives of peasant and indigenous society (items #bi 99001099#, #bi 99001109#, and #bi 99001117#); its environmental, cultural, and ethnic components; and links between rural and urban sectors (item #bi2001001376#).

Studies of gender issues are a second field of increasing interest. Two approaches can be noted. Studies of identity and domestic violence (items #bi 99001125#, #bi 99001113#, and #bi 99001124#) are supplemented by analyses of new forms of women's participation in rural society (items #bi 99001130# and #bi 99001107#), education (item #bi 99001114#), and the environment (item #bi 99001105#). Other studies reveal concern with the role of women in the informal sector and in local participatory planning.

A third field of continued interest includes diverse studies related to national and cultural identity and the development of social movements. New areas of study include the role of youth and adolescents in local participation (item #bi 99001112#). Ongoing interest in the role of the military in national identity is reflected by item #bi 98004828#, while the growing participation of indigenous organizations was perhaps the most significant development in this area (items #bi 98008943#, #bi 98011186#, and #bi2001001377#). Works on the indigenous movement note increasing cohesion and relevance at the national level. In addition, two new lines of analysis have emerged: the linking of indigenous organizations at the local, regional, and national level and the development of ties with other segments of civil society. These analyses are clearly consistent with dramatic political events at the end of this period.

A fourth area of developing research links the social sciences with health issues and demonstrates greater recognition of the links between economic, political, and social development and health. One approach emphasizes health promotion from the perspective of national and international agencies (item #bi 99001116#) and local organizations (item #bi 99001092#). A second approach emphasizes the role of health policy from the perspective of its effects on the indigenous population (item #bi 99001122#), as well as from the broader perspective of the international trend toward health reform (item #bi 99001091#).

Among the developments in English-language sociological analyses of Ecuador during this period, one of the most significant was the double issue of Latin American Perspectives on Ecuadorian politics, rural issues, women, and social movements. Among Spanish-language publications, the most positive development was the increased breadth of analysis, enhancing our understanding of the ways in which Ecuadorian trends are related to global transformations and, in particular, demonstrate that local responses to globalization can be understood in a context that extends beyond national boundaries. Much of the literature annotated here represents a contribution to Latin American and international scholarship. Fewer gaps in the literature are apparent. One area, though, that has attracted limited attention from sociologists is the two-way relationship between social organization and the natural and built environment, a topic that continues to be analyzed principally by ecologists and biologists.

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