Maria G.M. Rodrigues


Political Science Department
Latin American and Latino Studies


Chair, Department of  Political Science

Ph.D., Boston University

Fields: Environmental politics; Latin American politics


Contact Information

Office Phone: 508-793-3410
Office: Fenwick 327
Box: 0163A

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Boston University
Ph.D. degree in Political Science, 1996.
Dissertation: “Environmental Protection Issue-Networks and the Prospects for Sustainable Development”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Master of Science in Political Science, 1991.
Thesis: "The World Bank's Impact on the Environment: The Precedent Setting Case of POLONOROESTE"

Involved In

The New England Council on Latin American Studies (NECLAS): President (2017-2018); Vice President (2016-2017).
Reviewer for academic journals Environmental Management, Comparative Politics
Reviewer for Tenure promotion, Fairfield University, University of San Francisco, California
Reviewer for Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

Grant Writer (volunteer), Brazilian Women’s Group, Boston
President, Friends of the Faneuil Library, Brighton (2014-2017) 


  • Introduction to Comparative Politics

The processes of democratization and economic globalization have swept the world in the past decades. Since the mid-1980s, different societies, previously under authoritarian rule, have either embraced democracy or tried hard to do so. This tendency suggests that democracy might be indeed a superior type of government. The fact that processes of democratization/re-democratization have unfolded in parallel with global economic integration and the expansion of free trade, suggests that capitalism may contribute to the emergence and consolidation of democracy. Finally, some suggest that freer markets and freer trade will bring about development worldwide, while others fiercely contest this premise. In this course we will examine the processes of democracy/democratization, development, and globalization, while probing many assumptions associated to them. We will discuss the origins of democracy, its different types, and its performance regarding the accomplishment of its main goals: liberty, equality, representation, social and economic justice, and political stability. We will compare Western-style democracies with other forms of governments, and ask the following questions: How do different democracies fare? Can the achievements of Western democracies be replicated in non-Western societies? Are there legitimate alternatives to liberal democracy? Does capitalism foster democracy? Can democracy emerge and flourish in the absence of a capitalist economy? How should societies pursue economic and political development? Is there a single path to development and modernity?

  • Latin American Politics

What factors have shaped Latin American politics? To what extent can these factors explain commonalties and differences among Latin American countries? What are the strengths and limitations of theories that attempt to explain Latin American development/underdevelopment? What can the world learn from the Latin American experience with populism, authoritarianism, democratization, and economic crises? How have Latin American countries responded to challenges, such as drug-trafficking, human rights abuses, and economic globalization? This course will address these questions while providing the student with intellectual and methodological tools to pursue further research on Latin America. It also discusses the main constraints to the economic and political development of Latin American nations and the various explanations to Latin America’s underdevelopment, and the  development paths of select Latin American countries. 

  • Natural Resources Conflicts in Latin American

The course investigates the nature of conflicts over natural resources in Latin America, their causes, and the position of the many stakeholders involved in them. It will also evaluate the diverse governance schemes that have been either proposed or implemented to solve such conflicts. The course will pay particular attention to the struggles of Latin American grassroots groups and social movements -- indigenous peoples, landless peasants, and fishing folk, among others -- for access to natural resources and environmental goods. Not all Latin American citizens have enjoyed unimpeded access to natural resources, whether such resources are “common” (as in public forests, oil and gas reserves, or clean air), formally owned by them, or located on their land. This reality – which has historical roots – persists today and may be aggravated in the future, despite the formal adoption of liberal democracy and the rule of law in most countries in the region. Acute economic and political power disparities among groups competing for natural resources contribute to create a permissive climate for systematic violations of environmental, social and cultural rights associated with such resources. Violations lead to new conflicts and aggravate old ones. Key questions we will attempt to answer in this course are: What are the structural as well as immediate causes of natural resources conflicts in Latin America in the 21st century? What are the stakes involved and who are the main stakeholders in the conflicts? How should we assess the merits of stakeholders’ demands and expectations? How do stakeholders organize to demand (or guarantee) their access to natural resources and environmental goods? What political and material resources do stakeholders have and what strategies do they use to advance their claims? What obstacles do they face? How have conflicts been negotiated and solved?

  • Latin American Seminar - The Struggle For Citizenship In Post Authoritarian Latin America

The seminar will address the struggles of Latin American grass-roots groups and social movements -- indigenous peoples, Amazon forest dwellers, landless peasants, women, and urban squatters, among others -- for justice and equality. Not all Latin American citizens have enjoyed such rights to the same extent, despite the fact that democracy is now the system of choice in most countries of the continent. Violation of basic human and environmental rights, racial and gender discrimination, and acute economic disparities, are only a few of the challenges against which Latin American citizens have mobilized. This course will assess the effectiveness of these efforts and their contribution for the improvement of democracy in Latin America. What strategies have grass-roots groups used to achieve their goals? With whom have they allied? How effective have they been in influencing long-term policies? What constrains have they faced? What lessons can be drawn from each case? Can these lessons be replicated in other contexts?

The format of the course is that of a group of researchers preparing a book. We will discuss working hypotheses to explain different outcomes of grass-roots groups’ and social movements’ struggles, and we will develop a theory. We will then look at specific cases -- the struggle for human rights, for indigenous peoples,’ minorities,’ women’s, and landless peoples’ rights, for labor rights and for the rights of the urban poor.  We will compare cases across time and across Latin American countries. The objective of the course is to provide students with the opportunity of evaluating Latin American democracies thoroughly, i.e., beyond the limits of formal electoral politics. Good knowledge of Latin American politics and society, and active participation in the seminar is expected. 



Global Environmentalism and Local Politics – Transnational Environmental Networks in Brazil, Ecuador, and India. State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, NY, (2004).

Articles, book reviews, and book chapters

“Environmentalism and the Globalization of the Oil Industry in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – An integrated approach to the challenges of mobilization,” Latin American Perspectives, July, 2018.

Book Review:

  • Monsanto and Intellectual Property in South America. By Felipe Amin Filomeno. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014, The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History, (July 2017).
  • “The prospects for transnational advocacy across the IBSA bloc – a view from Brazil” Third World Quarterly, v. 37, issue 4, 2016.
  • “Reseaux Transnationaux, Action Collective et Dificile Negotioation the Valeurs Communes,” (Transnational Networks, Collective Action, and Difficult Negotiation of Common Values)  in Dumoulin Kervran, D. and Pepin-Lehalleur, M. (dir.): Agir en reseau – Modele d’action or categorie d’analyse? Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Rennes Cedex, France, 2012.
  • “Rethinking the Impact of Transnational Advocacy Networks,” in New Global Studies Journal, volume 5, Issue 2, 2011.
  •  “Politics of Development,” in McElwee, T., Hall, B.W., Liechty, J, and Garber, J (eds.): Peace, Justice, and Security Studies – A Curriculum Guide, 7th Edition, Lynne Rienner, London and Boulder, 2009
  • “Sanitation and Water Management in Brazil: The Role of Local Governments and Grassroots organizations,” in Jornadas Agua y Globalizacion en El Mediterraneo – XI Congreso Mundial del Agua, published in 2004 by the Junta de Andalucia, IWRA, Ministerio de Educacion Y Ciencia and Instituto Geologico y Minero de Espana (2006) “Advocating for the Environment – Local Dimensions of Transnational Networks,” in Environment, v. 46, n. 2, March 2004.
  • “Advocating for the Environment – Local Dimensions of Transnational Networks,” in Environment, v. 46, n. 2, March 2004.
  • “The Planafloro Inspection Panel Claim: Opportunities and Challenges for Civil Society in Rondônia, Brazil,” in Dana Clark, Jonathan Fox and Kay Treakle, eds., Demanding Accountability: Civil Social Claims and the World Bank Inspection Panel (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003)
  • “Privatization and Socioenvironmental Conditions in Brazil’s Amazonia: Political Challenges to Neoliberal Principles,” in Journal of Environment and Development, V. 12, n. 2, June 2003.
  • “Indigenous Rights in Democratic Brazil,” in Human Rights Quarterly, v. 24, n. 2, May 2002.
  • “Transnational Advocacy Networks: Strategies and Impacts -- The Planafloro Project and the World Bank’s Inspection Panel” (original title: “Redes Transnacionais de Advocacia Pública: Estratégias e Impactos – O Projeto Planafloro e o Painel de Inspeção do Banco Mundial,”), in Contexto Internacional, v. 24, January/June, 2002, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • “Environmental Protection Issue Networks in Amazonia,” in Latin American Research Review,” v. 35, n. 3, 2000.
  • “The Kyoto Conference on Climate Change: Are Equity Issues Being Addressed?” in Peacework, Cambridge, December, 1997.
  • “Law and the Environment: Impacts on Corporate Policies in Brazil.” (original title: “Direito e Meio Ambiente: Implicações para a Área Empresarial”) in Arché Interdisciplinar, v. 4, n. 12, 1995, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • “Environmental Movement and Political Activism: A Case-Study of the Campaign Against the Multilateral Development Banks.” (original title: “Movimento Ambiental e Ativismo Politico: Um Estudo de Caso da Campanha Contra os Bancos Multilaterais de Desenvolvimento”) in Contexto Internacional, Julho/Dez. 93, v. 15 n.2, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 
  • “The Catholic Church in Context of Crisis: The Case of the Angolan Independence," in Current Research on Peace and Violence, v.13, n.4, Tampere Peace Research Institute, Tampere, Finland, 1990.
  • “US-Angolan Relations: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in the Angolan Crisis.”(original title: “As Relações Estados Unidos-Angola: Estudo do Processo Decisório na Crise Angolana”) in Estudos Afro-Asiáticos, n.19, R.J., Brazil, 1990.

Online Publications

  • “Searching for Common Ground – Transnational Advocacy Networks and Environmentally Sustainable Development in Amazonia,” (

Invited Talks

  • “Global Environmentalism and Local Politics,” delivered at Boston University’s “Political Science Lunch Series” January 30, 2004
  • “Indigenous Rights in Democratic Brazil,” delivered to the Brazil Studies Group of the University of Arizona’s Latin American Studies, Tucson, Arizona, April 21, 2000

Papers in Conferences and Workshops

  • “The Efficacy of Transnational Advocacy Networks in Latin America – Environmental Activism in Rondonia, Brazil,” presented in the Workshop “Global Non-State Actors and Democracy in International Relations, held in the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 23 and 24, 2007.
  • “Negotiating Values and Visions: Political and Ethical Implications of Transnational Environmental Activism at the Local Level,” final paper presented at the Fellows Meeting of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs’ Fellows Program, New York, June 19, 2003.
  • “Privatization and the Environment: Challenges to Neoliberal Principles in Brazil’s Amazonia,” paper presented at the 2002 Annual Fall Meeting of the New England Conference on Latin American Studies (NECLAS), College of the Holy Cross, October, 2002.
  • “Political and Ethical Implications of Transnational Environmental Activism at the Local Level,” research proposal presented at the Fellows Meeting of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs’ Fellows Program, New York, June 17, 2002.
  • “Constructing Citizenship in Democratic Brazil: Grassroots Participation in the Guanabara Bay Basin,” Paper presented at the 2001 Annual Fall Meeting of the New England Conference on Latin American Studies (NECLAS), Salem State College, Salem, Massachusetts, November 3, 2001.
  • “The Planafloro Inspection Panel Claim: Opportunities and Challenges for Civil Society in Rondonia, Brazil,” paper presented in the authors’ workshop for the book Demanding Accountability: Lessons from the World Bank Inspection Panel, edited by J. Fox, D. Clark, and K. Treakle (forthcoming), Washington, DC, June 21-24, 2001, and in the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, California, August 29 to September 1, 2001.
  •  “Searching for Common Ground – Transnational Advocacy Networks and Environmentally Sustainable Development in Amazonia,” presented at the workshop “Human Rights and Globalization: When Transnational Civil Society Networks Hit the Ground,” organized by the Center for Global, International, and Regional Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, December 1-2, 2000, and at the 2000 Annual Fall Meeting of the New England Conference on Latin American Studies (NECLAS), Amherst College, Amherst, MA, October 14, 2000. 
  • “Environmental and Indigenous Policies in Democratic Brazil,” paper presented to the New England Conference on Latin American Studies (NECLAS), Mount Holyoke College, October 18, 1997.
  • “Environmental Protection Issue Networks: Preliminary Steps toward an Integrated Approach to International Environmental Relations,” paper presented to the Northeastern Political Science Association and International Studies Association, November 16, 1996, Boston.