Throughout most of the 20th century, the Chilean urban poor mobilised over housing rights. They used land squatting as their main tactic and grew increasingly close to leftist political parties. And during Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990) these urban organisations fiercely protested to resist the military’s authoritarian rule and its human rights abuses. However, as described in many other cases, Chile’s democratisation process also involved the deactivation of civil society. The institutional mechanisms of transitional political exclusion affected the poor more directly.

This book project analyses why underprivileged urban mobilisation has survived in some exceptional cases. Drawing on an ethnographic, comparative fieldwork in Santiago de Chile’s underprivileged neighbourhoods, this book provides an analytical framework explaining how neighbourhood activists overcome transitional and post-transitional stark political exclusion to sustain mobilisation on the basis of citizenship construction. This concept is here called ‘mobilisational citizenship’.

Mobilisational citizenship explains how durable collective action results from the dynamic interaction between four factors: agentic memory, mobilising belonging, mobilising boundaries, and decentralised protagonism. This promotes the local transmission of political capital for leadership renewal. Instead, in neighbourhoods suffering post-dictatorial deactivation, local leaders use political capital to monopolise power and feed their networks of political loyalty. Through mobilisational citizenship, local residents politicise their neighbourhood, build autonomous local empowerment and self-define their political incorporation.