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Narratives of civil society participation often paint an overly rosy picture of engaged citizens enlivening democratic deliberation and democratizing decision making. This chapter draws on ethnographic research in a “new democratic space” in northeastern Brazil to explore the politics of institutionalized civil society participation in health governance. Told in three installments, this chapter traces the biography of a participatory health council through different periods of membership, leadership, and local government administrations. In doing so, it juxtaposes the normative assumptions of narratives of civil society with the politics and dynamics of participation in this particular political, cultural, and social context.

This chapter explores the diverse strategies applied by farmer communities, social organizations, and NGOs in the north of Peru to resist the plans of the Río Blanco mining company to exploit minerals in their territories. Both contentious strategies of direct action and protest, such as the organization of a referendum by local municipalities and social organizations, faced rejection and criminalization by the central government. The author argues that it is not the type of action, but the insistence on the possibility of organizing life, economy, the state, and politics in an alternative way to historical extractivism that inspires this aggressive government reaction.

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