Between Hope and Despair

Women Learning Politics

By Donna M. Chovanec  

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This book is an empirical account of political learning in social movements based on a study of a women’s movement in Arica, Chile. In the first part of the book the author tells the story of how the women of Arica organized to oppose the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. This gripping narrative, told through the women’s own words and experiences, paints a graphic picture of their courage and determination. The second part focuses on the political learning and educational processes that emerged from this narrative. The author explores three key themes: political consciousness, social movement praxis and how participation in social movements changes lives. She concludes by discussing the role of adult education in social movements. The book is illustrated with images from the struggle.


  • Introduction
  • Part A The Arica Story
  • Introduction
  • Los Antecedents (the Antecedents)
  • La Lucha (the Struggle)
  • La Continuacion (the Continuation)
  • Part B Learning and Education in Social Movements
  • The Research Study
  • How We Learn Political Consciousness
  • What is Social Movement Praxis?
  • How Does Participation in Social Movements Change Lives?
  • The Role of Adult Education in Social Movements


  • Donna M. Chovanec

    Univeristy of Alberta

    Donna Chovanec is Assistant Professor in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. Her area of specialization is adult education and she teaches courses in adult learning, the foundations of adult education, and the community practice of adult education. She has also taught adult education at Athabasca University.

    Donna’s interests include research, education, and learning for social change, in particular, social movements, qualitative research, feminist and critical pedagogy, and women’s issues. In her research, Professor Chovanec explores the learning dimension of social movements. She has done such research with the women’s movement in the city of Arica in northern Chile, as well as with women in an abused women’s drop-in centre who were anti-violence activists in Edmonton. Her research also include projects on the needs of families with children with disabilities, university teaching philosophies, counseling program evaluations, and services used by women who use substances.

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