Current research

Within the broad frame of political inclusion, incorporation, and democracy, I am currently pursuing three lines of research.

1) Women’s suffrage

Paths to Women’s Suffrage in Latin America

My book project, based on my dissertation, draws on approaches from political science, history, and sociology to explain the timing and paths to female enfranchisement in Latin America. Focusing on variation in the timing of enfranchisement, I find that the alignment or misalignment of decision-makers’ two sets of motivations – strategic and normative beliefs – explain the success or failure of reform. Strategic calculations refer to the potential electoral and political benefits of extending the franchise, while normative commitments about the issue include ideas about democracy, inclusion, and gender roles. The literature on electoral reform, however, tends to only emphasize the first of these motivations. This micro-level explanation is complemented by a historical argument for motivation alignment and misalignment. The central finding is that historical class and religious cleavages in Latin America, in what I consider the period of early enfranchisement (before World War II), produced contradictory motivations in political parties and individual legislators, making early women’s suffrage rare. Moreover, I find that for understanding early suffrage, normative motivations take preponderance whereas in the postwar period, as democratic values extended through newly created international organizations and norms, strategic considerations became more relevant. For this project, in addition to a region-wide analysis, I examine in close detail the cases of Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay. By analyzing inclusion along gender lines, introducing religion as a major factor, and focusing on Latin America, this research overcomes the male, class, and European biases that characterize the democratization literature.

In addition to the book manuscript, my work on suffrage considers a set of articles:

“Cleavages, Motivation Alignment, and Woman Suffrage in Latin America.”

“The Authoritarian Path to Women’s Suffrage: Peru in Comparative Perspective.”

“Gender, Ethnicity, Class, and the Breadth of Suffrage in Chile and Peru: Perspectives Among Suffragists.”


2) Early women’s participation in the post-enfranchisement period

This research is the focus of my FONDECYT postdoctoral project. I am currently in the data collection stage, examining two aspects of women’s early political participation.

“Gendered Inclusion: Estimating the Gender Gap in Turnout in Latin America”

General trends on the evolution of the gender gap – both in Latin American and other regions – indicate that women’s initial participation after enfranchisement was relatively low, that it eventually equalized with that of men, and that in recent decades there is even a slightly higher rate of turnout among women. Nonetheless, except in Chile (where we had sex-segregated electoral data), we know very little about the speed and rates at which women were incorporated into the electoral body and the variations between countries. Using the methodology of Corder and Wolbrecht for the US case and following advances on ecological inference spearheaded by Gary King, I will use population and electoral data to estimate the gender gap in turnout and explore the mobilization strategies behind surges in women’s electoral participation.

“The Party Ladies: Women’s Representation and Political Parties in Mid-Twentieth Century Chile”


3) Religion and politics

“Conservative Women’s Mobilization and Gender Equality in Latin America” (with Camilla Reuterswärd)

In this paper, we ask when conservative women mobilize in defense of religion and what are the consequences for gender equality. We compare two junctures when religion has been politicized in Latin America, sparking the mobilization of conservative women: late nineteenth and early twentieth century with the process of secularization, and early twenty-first century, with the advancement of feminist agendas and the consequent conservative reaction. We claim that comparing these two junctures allows observing common a mechanism of conservative women as an attractive constituency for political parties.

Evangelicals and the Re-politicization of Religion: Chile’s Constitutional Process in Comparative Perspective (with Danissa Contreras and Camila Henzi).

In this project, we are interested in studying if, how, and with what goals are evangelicals organizing to participate in the constitutional process in Chile. The guiding hypotheses are that the plebiscite will increase participation of evangelicals; that this participation will highlight socially conservative positions; and that it will spark a countermovement with a more progressive religious agenda. This research has received funding from APSA’s Small Research Grant program, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and APSA’s Religion and Politics Section Small Grant Award.