Trial by Fire: Informal Agreements, Destructive Protest, and Arson in Bolivia.” Calla Hummel. 2022. Latin American Politics and Society: 64(3):132-151.

Civil society leaders develop relationships with officials and engage in contentious politics. Some resort to destructive tactics like arson and assault to target the officials they work with. Why do civil society leaders use destructive protest tactics? This article argues that leaders use destructive tactics when both they and officials need clear information and when leaders believe that officials will offer lucrative agreements to stop destructive protests. The research suggests that this dynamic is more likely in weakly institutionalized, highly politicized, and resource-strapped environments. The research supports the argument by process-tracing cases of peaceful and destructive protest by street vendor organizations and officials’ responses in El Alto, Bolivia. The argument and cases suggest that civil society leaders are more likely to target women and other minoritized people because leaders are more likely to underestimate minoritized officials, but that these officials are then more likely to punish the perpetrators.

Informalities: An Index Approach to Informal Work and Its Consequences.” Alisha Holland and Calla Hummel. 2022. Latin American Politics and Society: 64(3):1-21.

We propose an index approach to the concept and measurement of informal work, where individuals have a set of potential relationships to the state. We disaggregate benefit and labor informalities into welfare informality, e.g., people that have a work contract but no formal labor benefits such as gig workers, and legal informality, e.g., people that do not have labor contracts but do belong to universal pension or other benefit systems. We also review and summarize recent literature on informal work in politics in political science.

Strengthening Health Systems to Face Pandemics: Subnational Policy Responses to COVID-19 in Latin America.” Felicia Knaul et al. 2022. Health Affairs: 41(3): 454-462.

Nonpharmaceutical interventions such as stay-at-home orders continue to be the main policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic in countries with limited or slow vaccine rollout. Often, nonpharmaceutical interventions are managed or implemented at the subnational level, yet little information exists on within-country variation in nonpharmaceutical intervention policies. We focused on Latin America, a COVID-19 epicenter, and collected and analyzed daily subnational data on public health measures in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru to compare within- and across-country nonpharmaceutical interventions. We showed high heterogeneity in the adoption of these interventions at the subnational level in Brazil and Mexico; consistent national guidelines with subnational heterogeneity in Argentina and Colombia; and homogeneous policies guided by centralized national policies while coordinating with subnational governments to tailor local responses.

Legitimacy and Policy during Crises: Subnational COVID-19 Responses in Bolivia.” Ximena Velasco Guachalla, Calla Hummel, Jami Nelson-Nuñez, and Carew Boulding. Perspectives on Politics, 2021.

Why did some Bolivian departments have more success containing COVID-19 than others? We argue that low government legitimacy hampers coordinated responses to national crises, particularly where political polarization is severe and the crisis response becomes politicized. Low legitimacy can intensify the challenges of poverty and poor infrastructure. An original dataset of daily observations on subnational coronavirus policy and cell phone mobility data, paired with administrative data on cases and deaths, suggests that political divisions influenced governors’ policy implementation and citizens’ compliance. In departments that opposed the president, policies were more likely to deviate from the stricter national policy while mobility and protest activity were high. In departments aligned with the president, local policy followed national policy and citizens complied with policy and quarantine restrictions for a longer period of time.

When Does Competitive Authoritarianism Take Root?” Ximena Velasco Guachalla, Calla Hummel, Sam Handlin, and Amy Erica Smith. Journal of Democracy, 2021.

Democratically elected as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2005, Evo Morales eroded democracy and began a transition to competitive authoritarianism in the 2010s. By November 2020, however, both Morales and his successor, the right-wing president Jeanine Áñez, had fallen after failing to consolidate authoritarian rule. Why do some aspiring authoritarians succeed while many fail? A comparison of Bolivia to Brazil and Venezuela illuminates the challenges of both eroding democracy and institutionalizing new competitive authoritarian regimes. Aspiring autocrats must mobilize and control civil society in both stages of autocratization—a challenge that led to the fall of both Morales and Áñez.

A partisan pandemic: state government public health policies to combat COVID-19 in Brazil. Michael Touchton, Felicia Marie Knaul, Héctor Arreola-Ornelas, Thalia Porteny, Calla Hummel, Mariano Sánchez, Oscar Méndez, Marco Faganello, Vaugh Edelson, Benjamin Gygi, Silvia Otero, Jorge Insua, Eduardo Undurraga, Julio Antonio Rosado. BMJ Global Health, 2021.

We collected daily information on implementation of 10 NPI designed to inform the public of health risks and promote distancing and mask use at the national level for eight countries across the Americas. We then analyse the adoption of the 10 policies across Brazil’s 27 states over time, individually and using a composite index. We draw on this index to assess the timeliness and rigour of NPI implementation across the country, from the date of the first case, 26 February 2020. We also compile Google data on population mobility by state to describe changes in mobility throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poverty, precarious work, and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons from Bolivia.” Calla Hummel, Felicia Knaul, Mike Touchton, Ximena Velasco Guachalla, Jami Nelson-Nuñez, and Carew Boulding. The Lancet Global Health, 2021.

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America with a gross domestic product of around US$3500 per capita, health spending of approximately $220 per capita, a labour market dominated by informal work, and a weak health system. However, in the response to COVID-19, Bolivia has fared better than other health systems in the region and provides insight with regard to the implementation of subnational nonpharmaceutical interventions and supporting workers without social protection.

Bolivia: Lecciones sobre los primeros seis meses de la pandemia de SARS-CoV-2 (Bolivia: Lessons from the first six months of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic).” Calla Hummel, Ximena Velasco Guachalla, Jami Nelson-Nuñez, and Carew Boulding. 2020. Temas Sociales: 47: 98-123.

This article offers an initial descriptive exploration of the public policies designed and implemented by the Bolivian national government and the different departmental governments to prevent, treat and contain Covid-19 cases. The description and analysis focus on government action in the context of the health crisis. We constructed an index of public policies based on ten measures recommended to contain the virus, and we collected the number of confirmed cases, deaths, and mobility by department.

Mental Health and Fieldwork.” Calla Hummel and Dana El Kurd. PS: Political Science and Politics, 2020.

Researchers discuss the logistics of successful fieldwork but not the mental health considerations that fieldwork and the research process introduce. Successful fieldwork and fruitful academic careers hinge on acknowledging and managing our mental health. We discuss peer support networks, secondary trauma, coping skills, therapy, and researchers’ mental health options before, during, and after fieldwork.

 Do Political Finance Reforms Reduce Corruption?Appendix. Calla Hummel, John Gerring and Thomas Burt. 2019. The British Journal of Political Science, 50(1): 1-21.

Reformers claim that public subsidies and regulations of political finance reduce corruption in politics, while observers worry that they have no impact on corruption or increase it. Despite national-level debates and billions of dollars spent, few studies test this relationship. We argue that political finance reform mitigates corruption by reducing private money’s importance in politics and increasing sanctions for corrupt behavior. Elite interviews from Paraguay’s political finance reform illustrate the argument and elaborate the theoretical mechanisms. We evaluate the argument with an original dataset measuring political subsidies from 175 countries from 1900-2015, as well as disaggregated corruption measures from the Varieties of Democracy project. Findings support the thesis that political finance reform reduces corruption, even in countries where reforms are unevenly implemented.

Do Poor Citizens Benefit from Mega-Events? São Paulo’s Street Vendors and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.” Calla Hummel. 2018. Latin American Politics and Society, 60(4).

International mega-events inject millions of dollars into hosts’ economies, yet few studies assess which citizens benefit from events and which do not. Governments justify their bids on mega-events by arguing that infrastructure projects, event-related jobs, and tourist spending benefit many citizens. However, researchers find mixed impacts on host economies and the average citizen. Scholars and activists argue that a few businesses benefit while high prices and event-specific laws exclude poor citizens. Under what conditions do poor citizens benefit from mega-events? This article analyzes original interview, survey, and participant observation data on street vendors in São Paulo, Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The project finds that most street vendors lost money while a minority made record profits. Those that benefitted from the event used brokers, bribes, and pockets of forbearance to circumvent FIFA’s exclusionary rules.

Bribery Cartels: Collusive Corruption in Bolivian Street Markets.” Calla Hummel. 2018. Latin American Research Review, 53(2).

Many Bolivians engage in corruption through intermediaries, like civil society representatives and lawyers, instead of paying officials directly. People vocally resent that intermediaries add an extra layer of costs and opaqueness to corruption, but still choose to pay bribes through intermediaries that knowingly take advantage of them. Why do intermediaries facilitate corruption? While other studies on corrupt intermediaries find that they reduce uncertainty and transaction costs, this study contributes to corruption research by finding that intermediaries engage in cartel-like behavior by disproportionally helping officials and intentionally increasing uncertainty and costs for the average citizen. Ethnographic evidence from street markets in La Paz demonstrates that civil society actors like street vendors’ union representatives advance their careers by collecting and delivering bribes to specific bureaucrats. Collusive relationships between bureaucrats and intermediaries hide and perpetuate corruption, while giving the appearance of a transparent government that is responsive to civil society.

“Disobedient Markets: Street Vendors, Enforcement, and State Intervention in Collective Action.” Appendix. Calla Hummel. Comparative Political Studies, 50(11): 1524-1555. 

At 50% of the global workforce, informal workers constitute a large, diffuse, and resource-poor group with high barriers to collective action. Contrary to scholars’ expectations, informal workers organize to varying degrees in most countries, and states often encourage them to do so. Why do some informal workers organize while others do not? I argue that states can intervene in informal workers’ collective action decisions: As enforcement costs increase, states may pay informal workers to organize, and then bargain with the resulting organization over self-regulation. I present a game theoretic model of state intervention in collective action and illustrate it with original ethnographic, survey, and interview evidence from street markets in La Paz, Bolivia. I suggest that informal workers interact strategically with states and conclude with implications for formalization policies.

“Street Vendors and the Politics of Gender Representation.” Calla Hummel. 2016. Revista Umbrales, 29: 331-359. Available in English or Spanish.

In La Paz, Bolivia, 80% of street vendors are women and 75% belong to street vendor unions. However, most high-profile leadership positions belong to men. Why do men represent and lead majority female civil society organizations? I suggest that informal bureaucratic practices intervene in organizational gender dynamics and influence who attains positions of power in civil society groups. This influence is particularly strong in sectors where the survival of the organization depends on the leadership’s relationship with bureaucratic authorities, such as street vending. I develop the argument through an ethnographic case study of a street vendor federation in La Paz.