Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Bernd Reiter


Afro-Latin America, Agency, Argentina, Democracy, Diaspora Studies


This thesis examines the organizing strategies and successes of Afro-Argentine civil society organizations (CSO) in Buenos Aires. I argue that despite low representation, Afro-Argentines have strategically designed their initiatives in ways that draw on national discourses of identity rights and nationalism; and, as well, have used cultural inclusion to influence state actors, creating agency and increasing visibility. Afro-Argentines are a highly understudied population due to the common belief that they do not exist in Argentina as a group. This thesis not only dispels that myth with a history of the long hidden importance of Afro-Argentines contributions to the formation of the Argentine nation and culture, but also provides a contemporary analysis which shows that they are a vibrant group which faces marginalization and exclusion on a daily basis.

The central argument is that civil society is a viable method by which Afro-Argentines can combat institutionalized racism. I show this with an analysis of the various theories on civil society, focusing strongly on Putnam's (1996) argument that strong voluntary organizations are vital to making democracy work. This assessment lends to the argument that civil society places Afro-Argentines in a discursive space in which they can communicate with state actors to make claims for cultural and citizenship rights. This argument is followed with concrete examples which show that the successful organizing of three Afro-Argentine CSOs in Buenos Aires have increased the visibility and agency of the Afro-Argentine community.

Overall I provide a contribution to the argument for civil society as a crucial component of functional democracies, contribute to academic discussion of the black diaspora in Latin America, and provide an in depth analysis of a highly understudied demographic.