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Bridging Regionalism and Secessionism: Territorial Autonomy Movements in the Iberian World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 May 2021

Matthias vom Hau*
Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals, Barcelona, Spain
Hana Srebotnjak
Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals, Barcelona, Spain
*Corresponding author. Email:


In comparative works on nationalism, Latin America is usually portrayed as a world region that is devoid of nationalist and separatist movements, while in Europe nationalist movements seeking greater self-determination or separate statehood can be easily observed. This article takes a different perspective. Applying the concept of territorial autonomy movements, it pursues a cross-regional comparison of Santa Cruz in Bolivia, Guayas in Ecuador, and Catalonia in Spain to show that movements strikingly similar with regards to their core claims, diagnostic frames, and tactics do in fact exist across the Iberian world. The chapter then draws on social movement theory to account for the recent intensification of territorial autonomy mobilizations in these cases. We argue that in all three substate units (1) threats of political exclusion emanating from contestations over established power-sharing arrangements triggered territorial grievances; (2) the formation of dense associational networks and new alliances with subnational party and state representatives enhanced the organizational resources of territorial challengers; and (3) broader protest cycles, and their concern with direct democracy and/or multicultural group rights, provided territorial challengers with new framing strategies to justify their demands.

© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Association for the Study of Nationalities

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