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Theses - Centre of Latin American Studies


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  • ItemOpen Access
    Practices of Assembling in (Post-)Dictatorial Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay (1973-2019)
    Corrigan, Anna
    During the Argentine (1976-1983), Chilean (1973-1990), and Uruguayan (1974-1980) dictatorships, systematic state repression violently restricted possibilities for communal exchange, access to public space, and collective dissent. The human rights abuses waged by the regimes included the kidnapping, torture, and execution of presumed "subversives" without a trial. After the transition to democracy in these countries, citizens agitated against amnesty laws that protected military officials and prevented families from obtaining information regarding the whereabouts of their disappeared (kidnapped and executed) relatives. This thesis explores how resistance to these regimes and the memory politics forged in their wake hinge on simultaneously creative and political acts of assembling. The focus is on artistic projects that facilitated identification, dissent, exchange, and debate during these contexts of political repression, and those that have responded to the political demands of collective and generational memory in their wake. The projects comprising my corpus all experiment with various practices of assembling, defined as a simultaneously aesthetic and political practice, to foster moments of exchange, contact, and contingency. My analyses develop at the nexus of political assembly (Butler) and assemblage philosophy (Deleuze and Guattari). From these philosophical coordinates, I think through ten projects that engage with material and social precariousness, historical memory and elemental shame, a political consciousness that extends beyond the human, reciprocal exchange, and networked forms of witnessing. In the first chapter, I bring together two works in which portraits of the disappeared were introduced into the city centers of Buenos Aires and Montevideo: the *afiches participativos* by C.A.Pa.Ta.Co. (1984) and Juan Ángel Urruzola's *Miradas ausentes (en la calle)* (2008). The second chapter explores how a politics of recognition informs the passage of trauma within and between generations, considering the role of "elemental shame" (Arendt), or shame as a mode of seeing, in León Ferrari's *Nunca más* collages (1995) and Lucila Quieto's configurations of the "familial gaze" (Hirsch) in the collaged family photo album in *Filiación* (2013). The third chapter develops a theory of recognition that extends to include the non-human through a comparison of Cecilia Vicuña's *Saborami* (1973) and Graciela Gutiérrez Marx's *ediciones de con-fusión* (1980-1983). In chapter four, I compare Marcelo Brodsky's collaborative project *Visual Correspondences* (2008) with the reciprocity described and attempted by a 1986 piece of correspondence by mail artist Edgardo Antonio Vigo. The fifth and final chapter proposes a notion of "networked witnessing," a form of collective witnessing defined by digital and analog social networks, in relation to a 1977 mail art initiative to free two Uruguayan artists from prison and an Instagram page of analog collage documenting the 2019 protest movement in Chile. Illustrating the links between art, activism, historical memory, and human rights in the Southern Cone, my thesis proposes specific historical and theoretical anchors for interpreting the mutual endurance and entanglements of creative practice and political assembly.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Punishment, Injustice, and Modernity: Incarceration in Argentine Cinema
    Wilson-Nunn, Oliver; Wilson-Nunn, Oliver [0000-0003-1716-3829]
    This thesis explores how cinematic engagements with imprisonment in Argentina have reflected on and participated in changing experiences, discourses, and projects of modernity from the 1930s through to the present day. Canonically, punitive modernity has been theorised as the result of punishment being rationalised, institutionalised, and secluded into strictly bound spaces (Foucault 1975). Drawing on debates about the relationship between imprisonment and modernity in Latin America (Caimari 2004, Salvatore and Aguirre 1996), however, I argue that the films of my corpus dramatise the entanglement of modernisation and modernity in the multidirectional flows of emotions, violence, and capital across prison walls. Be they ‘progressive’ or ‘reactionary’, these films offer structural assessments of incarceration, such that prison is understood to affect ‘everyday lives everywhere’ (Gilmore 2007). Argentine prison-based cinema encourages critical readings of the internal contradictions within the modern state and the broader socio-economic inequalities within which its institutions are entangled. In order to conceptualise the wide-reaching relationship between imprisonment, film, and the rest of society, I develop a methodology that moves beyond the scholarly tendency to ‘spot the difference’ between prison realities and ‘deceitful’ images. This thesis is concerned not with the truth value of films about prison but the ways in which these films inform and are informed by historically specific discourses regarding the relationship between state and society in modernity. My resulting interdisciplinary approach is attentive not only to the moving image itself but to the institutional relationships embedded in the production, exhibition, and reception of films about incarceration. The thesis is structured around what I argue to be four key moments in the cinematic history of incarceration in Argentina. In Chapter 1, I analyse cinema from the 1930s through the lens of melodrama theory. These films make moral and emotional arguments against ineffective, modernised institutions to legitimise more ‘popular’ forms of justice. In Chapter 2, I draw on spatial theory to examine how films made during the first Peronist governments (1946–1955) situate reformed prisons as part of porous urban circuits that include domestic, work, and leisure spaces. Attentive to the increased popularity of location shooting and film exhibition in operational prisons, this chapter also considers how offscreen cinematic practices are incorporated into these networks. Chapter 3 turns to women-in-prison exploitation films made during the 1970s and 1980s, either side of the last civic-military dictatorship. Building on debates about the changing role of gender, sexuality, religion, and state violence in Argentina’s identity as a modern nation, I situate the tension between pleasure, evidence, and knowledge as central to these films’ unease towards democratic state institutions. Lastly, in Chapter 4, I engage with critical human rights studies to show how contemporary films made by incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and non-incarcerated people alike build on but defamiliarise iconographies of human rights associated with the last dictatorship. Focusing on the gendered, classed, and racialised experiences of contemporary ‘common’ prisoners, these films invite critical reflection on modernity’s framework of individual and universal rights.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Non-Governmental Organizations and Anti-Racist Resistance in Greater Rio de Janeiro
    Rodgers, Carlyn; Rodgers, Carlyn [0000-0001-7585-7680]
    This dissertation investigates the relationships between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local anti-racist activists and organizers in Greater Rio de Janeiro. Through fieldwork carried out from 2019 to 2021, this work considers how the region’s contemporary organizing and activist terrains become dominated and dictated by the directives of NGOs to the detriment of the radical possibilities of the activism and organizing these same organizations claim to support. What sits at the heart of this study is how Greater Rio de Janeiro’s local organizers and activists navigate a political and social terrain commanded by such organizations, what this means for human rights organizing and struggles against racism, and how this comes to change the very nature of activism, its work and its future. This dissertation follows community human rights and anti-racist activists and organizers throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro and its neighboring municipalities of Baixada Fluminense. It focuses primarily on their work with and around international, national, and local non-governmental organizations that saturate the region’s social and political landscapes. The work’s analytical elements are marked by the temporal divide wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic. To begin, I trace the phenomenon of the NGO-ization of resistance, conceptualized by Sonia Alvarez (1999, 2009), throughout Greater Rio de Janeiro between 2013 and 2016. Following the life experiences of community activists Gizele Martins and Dudu do Morro Agudo, I untangle the relationship between the entrenchment of this phenomenon and the escalation of violence in Greater Rio de Janeiro in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The following chapter tells the story of Coletivo Papo Reto, a community collective turned NGO from the favela of Complexo do Alemão. In conversation with co-founder Thainã de Medeiros, I explore the motivations and rationale behind Coletivo Papo Reto’s transition from community collective to official NGO, as well as the realities and challenges community organizing experiences when confronting the world of highly professionalized human rights organizations. In the final chapters, I situate Greater Rio’s Covid-19 pandemic experience in conversation with Bedour Alagraa’s (2021) conceptualisation of the interminable catastrophe, to unpack the recession and responses of the region’s NGOs I observed in the face of global and local humanitarian crises. I argue this moment can be thought of as a break wherein a space of radical imagination, and possibility of the present, was made real beyond the confines determined by the NGO and the NGO-ization of resistance. In reflecting on both before and during the pandemic, I offer an analysis of how activists across Greater Rio de Janeiro are able to move beyond the NGO-ization of resistance and organize on terms of their own making. I argue that the NGO is further evidence of the sociospatial logics of neoliberalism in the city where the appearance and presence of NGOs is another facet of the neoliberal state’s self-preservation. While the NGO-ization of resistance is by no means absolute, the NGO-ization of anti-racist activism in Greater Rio de Janeiro is an attempt by the neoliberal state to mask the root causes of the forms of violence that target Black and favela communities. NGOs therefore become another institution dedicated to the protection of the status quo.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Other Grounds for Dignity: Ideas from India in the Philosophies of Twentieth-Century Latin American Writers
    Sequeira, Jessica; Sequeira, Jessica [0000-0002-8861-4474]
    In this thesis, I trace an alternative genealogy for the concept of dignity through six Latin American writers from the first half of the twentieth century—Gabriela Mistral (Chile), Vicente Fatone (Argentina), Pablo Neruda (Chile), Cecília Meireles (Brazil), Miguel Serrano (Chile) and Octavio Paz (Mexico), all of whom engaged deeply with ideas from India. The tradition of philosophical liberalism, derived from eighteenth century European tradition and found in Latin American criollo tradition, tends to put the reasoning individual at the center of its thinking, and associate dignity with a lucid mind within a productive body. Yet other, more holistic systems of value in Latin America, found in some indigenous, leftist Catholic and Asian-influenced thought, afford greater importance to aspects such as emotional sensibility, belonging in community, and cyclical ideas of time that allow for renewal, based in a respect for nonhuman beings and the natural world. Through their poetry and essays, the writers I discuss conceived of human value in interrelational ways extending beyond the individual physical body capable of reason, drawing on ideas from India newly accessible in Latin America in the first half of the twentieth century as globalization enabled an era of comparative religions, international politics and more widespread literary circulation. Reading these writers’ work in historical context, I bring them into dialogue with each other to recuperate ideas of dignity that integrate the self with community, local with global, and present with history. Ideas of dignity are at the root of conversations in Latin America today about “derechos de naturaleza” (rights of nature) and “derechos sociales” (social rights), which extend beyond the rights of the individual to consider the interrelated existence of humans with one another, the natural world and nonhuman beings. My Introduction discusses the pertinence of dignity discourse in the twentieth- and twenty-first century, dignity and its history in the Latin American context, the ways Latin American writers drew on ideas from India, some previous approaches to studying Latin American receptions of Indian thought, and my approach. The body of the thesis is structured in three sections: “Dignity of individual in community”, with Chapter I on Gabriela Mistral and Chapter II on Vicente Fatone; “Dignity of local in global”, with Chapter III on Pablo Neruda and Chapter IV on Cecília Meireles; and “Dignity of present in history”, with Chapter V on Miguel Serrano and Chapter VI on Octavio Paz. In my Conclusion, I discuss what this project leaves out, further directions it might take, and ways it grounds dignity as a “humanism beyond human rights”.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Becoming Japanese and Mexican: A Trans-Pacific Social History of Race, Mestizaje, and Resistance across Five Generations.
    Fernandez De Lara Harada, Jessica
    This thesis develops a socio-historical understanding of encoded systems of race, racialised violence and resistances by foregrounding the historical experiences of Mexican descendants of Japanese immigrants over five generations in Mexico. Despite having a genealogy that reaches to the 16th century, these ethno-racial groups are erased from dominant academic, government and popular discourses of national, racial and cultural identity in Mexico. These discourses are informed by mestizaje defined in this thesis as a Euro-American settler colonial system that is embodied, organises social relations between indigeneity, asianness, and blackness, and frames practices of appropriation, dispossession and elimination in Mexico. Addressing this gap, this thesis elaborates ‘writing mestizaje in reverse’ as a decolonial method to challenge the coloniality of mestizaje, undo its epistemic violence and unlock alternative narratives that challenge its racist underpinnings. Building on critical studies of race, ethnicity and resistance, it documents and analyses the dominant notions, structures and operation of mestizaje, in relation to the experiences of Mexicans of Japanese descent from the Mexican Cultural Revolution (1920-1946) to the present. To capture the enduring, yet evolving mestizo system, it attends to geopolitical continuities and shifts in this period, which were informed by the mestizo racial system as a genocidal project. This thesis builds an intergenerational approach of ‘family histories’ to investigate the meanings of race, ethnicity and social status that arise in systems of relations shaped by the erasure of mestizaje. Based on extended family life history interviews and archival sources with five generations of Mexicans of Japanese descent, gathered over a one-year period of fieldwork research across the US, Japan and the main 23 cities of settlement of Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Mexico, it indicates how Mexicans of Japanese descent have been consistently positioned outside the national project. It argues that Mexicans of Japanese descent have experienced genocide, various degrees of racialised violence and exclusion based on the nullification of their citizenship, on the suppression of their political subjectivity, and on their being subjected to controlling images of non-personhood, and that they resist the mestizo system to gain a sense of inclusion, however conditional, to national spaces. Across chapters that sequentially focus on different generations, I examine how Mexicans of Japanese descent experience, make sense of, and respond to mestizaje, which entails an analysis of the varied and evolving ways they lived through and fought against structural, institutional, and everyday racism. To begin these inquiries, this thesis elaborates ‘transpacific crossings’ as a critical methodology to chart and scrutinise the symbolic and material effects of racism and the mestizo system on people’s everyday lives. I show how more inconspicuous forms of racialisation of bodily, cultural and other markers of difference, previously ignored in the literature on race and ethnicity, have shaped the experiences of all generations. These experiences were varied, depending crucially on how groups and individuals could leverage their positioning, but followed some main patterns. In this vein, I contend that Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) were positioned by the Mexican state as non-citizen disposable labour; Nisei (second generation descendants of Japanese immigrants) as national enemies; Sansei (third generation) as ambivalent others for whom association to Japan was less socially desirable; and Yonsei and Gosei (fourth and fifth generations) as multiply situated individuals whose exclusion and conditional inclusion as familiar foreigners depended on perceived racial purity and mixtures deemed desirable to mestizaje. Through this in-depth analysis of the unfolding experiences of five generations of Mexicans of Japanese descent, this thesis contributes to our understanding of mestizaje as a structural system that regulates the ethno-racial exclusion and inclusion of Asians/Japanese in relation to other groups in Latin America, and as a site of negotiations whereby cultural repertoires of resistance can be mobilised by Mexicans of Japanese descent to resist their exclusion and negotiate spaces of recognition and belonging.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Curatorial Constellations: Queer and Feminist Approaches to Latin American Comics
    Aramburu Villavisencio, Andrea; Aramburu Villavisencio, Andrea [0000-0002-4057-9905]
    This thesis takes queer and feminist approaches to contemporary alternative Latin American comics published between 2011 and 2020. Inspired by frameworks developed by Gayatri Gopinath, José Muñoz, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, I coin the category of curatorial constellations to understand how this corpus of comics performs relational ontologies of subjectivity. With this notion, I inquire into the affordances of the comics medium for the expression of ordinary, intermedial and queer subjectivities. The comics selected for analysis are by Catalina Bu (Chile), Otto Etraud (Chile), Powerpaola (Ecuador/Colombia), Adriana Lozano (Colombia), and Jazmín Varela (Argentina) (Part I); Nacha Vollenweider (Argentina), Victoria Rodríguez (Argentina), Silvana Unyas (Peru), the collective No tengo miedo (Peru) and Ana Paula Machuca (Peru) (Part II); and Inés Estrada (Mexico) and Taís Koshino (Brazil) (Part III). Part I: Ordinary constellations explores a set of comics – from diary comics to ‘inventories’ of portraits – that explore the limits of subjectivity and agency in a shapeless and stretched-out present. The first two sections (Catalina Bu, Otto Etraud, Powerpaola) draw on theories of failed futurity, neoliberalism, and relationality, to ask about the limits and possibilities of collective existence within a world where subjects are left to be self-sufficient and author their own frames. The third section (Powerpaola, Lozano, Varela) proposes the serialising of portraits as an aesthetic technique to sketch out an ethics of alterity. Part II: Intermedial constellations studies comics that employ intermedial aesthetic gestures to dialogue with material cultures and media from colonial and Andean pasts: the illustrated chronicles of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala (Vollenweider); pre-Columbian ceramics (Rodríguez); traditional Andean materialities such as the coca leaf and natural fabrics and dyes (Unyas); and third-gender ritualised subjectivities (No tengo miedo). I argue that these comics engage with notions of identity and collectivity in ways that need to be thought in relation to a history of coloniality. In the final section, I propose a decolonial and intermedial interpretation of Machuca’s mini comic Un día. Part III: Queer constellations develops a curatorial reading of a collection of comics by Estrada and a mixed-media comic by Koshino. I argue that these works operate as queer aesthetic devices that foreground a shared materiality between humans and non-humans, encouraging changes in perception in the reader (Estrada), and that they can produce maps of relational subjectivities via an intersectional approach that considers gender, race, and region (Koshino). Overall, the thesis proposes a feminist, queer, and decolonial methodology for reading comics. I suggest that comics can formally accommodate multidirectional perspectives and that the prominence they give to the spatial offers a surface for non-linear temporalities to emerge in the creation of meaning and allows for an embodied mapping of subjectivity with respect to matter of different kinds.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Envisioning Citizenship: Photographic Practice and Human Rights Activism in Contemporary Argentina
    Teichert, Erika
    This thesis is a study of the visual culture of human rights movements in Argentina in the twenty- first century, looking specifically at the mobilisation of photography by activists. In each chapter, I cover different human rights organisations: collectives that respond to the country’s dictatorial past (Chapter One), the Malvinas war veterans’ organisations (Chapter Two), abortion and feminist activists (Chapter Three), HIV activists (Chapter Four), and citizens’ assemblies against the socio- environmental damages caused by open-pit mining (Chapter Five). I explore a variety of photographic genres that are relevant to the movements I study, ranging from fine arts photography to photojournalism and vernacular uses. While the thesis is highly interdisciplinary – navigating cultural studies, history of art, the anthropology of art, citizenship studies and human rights legal frameworks – I ground my analyses in theories of photography to examine how the medium serves the aims of activism. My project advances arguments about both the politics of human rights and about photography as activism. I depart from interpretations of photography as testimony to reveal its performative uses. I argue that, in the hands of activists, photography as activism constitutes a performative effort of imagining time. While acknowledging truth-telling and denunciation as part of the photographic mandate when mobilised for human rights activism, I posit that photography offers another crucial possibility: using the space enabled by photography to imagine and create a different reality. Through photography, activists encounter the present and re-visit the past to materialise the worlds of tomorrow. Through this line of analysis, I also depart from notions of victimhood often tied to a testimonial reading of photography. While recognising victimhood’s particular prevalence in Argentine political culture around human rights, I argue that the notion of citizenship is a more stable lens through which to study these photographic practices. Photography as activism is mobilised to give life to rights claims: not as testimony, but as a performative, relational practice where citizenship comes to be constituted as a political subjectivity. In turn, this local, embodied study of photography serves to foreground the importance of equally localised studies of human rights: despite its status as a global discourse on human dignity, the political currency of human rights frameworks is shaped by locality. Human rights are always re-imagined and re- contextualised through local histories and narratives of which the bodies of the activists are the protagonists. The ways in which activists frame and materialise rights claims in order to shape and produce citizenship act as a localised counterpoint to global human rights discourses and debates.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Mexico's federal open data and the possibilities of transparency
    Brandim Howson, Joseph Sebastian
    This study addresses the Mexican state’s sudden emergence at the vanguard of global open data rankings and transparency indices. I examine this turn to open data-led transparency by focusing on the work of daterxs – those who take advantage of the state’s data disclosures to expose corruption, scrutinise decision-making, and participate in governance. To do so, I deploy what I term an aesthetic approach. Situated within an interpretivist methodology, I propose that aesthetic analysis requires the researcher enter an intimate and responsive relationship with the object(s) of study. Therefore, this research project has involved ten months of in-person and digital fieldwork amongst communities of daterxs in Mexico. I present the reader with rich materials assembled through participant observation and observant participation; perspectives gathered in over seventy interviews with open data users, cultural producers, civil society representatives, public officials and public servants; and archival records collected across cultural and public institutions in Mexico. Advancing Transparency Studies, I develop empirically detailed chapters formed around specific projects that take seriously the production and substance of open datasets. I propose that the work of daterxs involved a conceptual narrowing of the possibilities of transparency. I determine that open data-led transparency activities are only able to momentarily articulate the fine details of what occurs in the recesses of the state apparatus, stopping far short of purging it of its shadows and masks. In contrast to the celebratory rhetoric of open data proponents, this complicates any simple alignment between open data and democratic advances. I explore this narrowing across three dimensions: scale, scope, and proximity. In developing this argument, I consider the forces these open data-led activities encounter and how daterxs subsequently respond to them. Enriching Mexicanist scholarship, I argue that this digital phenomenon advances our thinking in three key areas. First, the role of open data in the consolidation of centralising logics of power; second, extending our understanding of the impact of violence on digital activities; third, the renewing role open data outputs present for political culture. Yet, despite this narrowing, I argue that open data-led transparency can remain politically significant. Expanding Critical Data Studies, I focus on the ways in which my fieldwork experiences underscored the multiple representational dimensions of open data. In acknowledging the openness of open data, I propose that Mexico’s federal open data are also deployed in ways that do not necessarily halt or eliminate the shadows and masks of Mexico’s state apparatus, but also in ways that attempt to “exceed” (Harcourt 2020) and do “justice” (Taussig 1999) to them. To do so, I reflect on speculative engagements with federal open data, and on creative deployments of data analysis tools in contemporary cultural projects. By using the work of daterxs to encourage a shift in the ambition of transparency activities, I conclude by arguing for a re-expansion of the political possibilities of open data-led transparency.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Impossible Subjects: Racial Politics, Citizenship, and Spatial Mobility in Chilean Cinema of Late Neoliberalism (2011-2020)
    Del Valle Casals, Sandra
    Impossible Subjects: Racial Politics, Citizenship, and Spatial Mobility in Chilean Cinema of Late Neoliberalism (2011–2020) Sandra del Valle Casals This thesis explores contemporary entanglements of racial and class politics as portrayed in Chilean films of the past decade (2011-2020). In Chile, the collapse of race into class has meant that the power of racial politics in articulating regimes of social difference has often been overlooked. However, the films analyzed here show the convoluted way in which race and nation have historically been interwoven, determining the exercise of citizenship. My analysis approaches racial frameworks in film as ways of representing (Hall, Dyer, Ahmed) that reproduce or challenge hegemonies of difference based on physical appearance as one of the main markers. In addition, the study proposes a dialogue between critical race perspectives and theories of space and urban geography, in order to discuss the spatial dimension of racial difference. The works examined indicate that spatial boundaries have been shaped by racialized ideas of progress and modernity: racial distinctions are created and reinforced through the space racialized bodies can inhabit and where they can belong. Thus, the status of Otherness in the films under discussion is framed by spatial (im)mobility. Moreover, the films also highlight that exclusion under late neoliberalism in Chile remains interwoven with paradigms of difference and the historical nation’s project of belonging, putting into question claims of the market’s neutrality and the depoliticization of neoliberal systems. I suggest that the Other embodies the figure of impossible subject which describes their condition of impossible belonging, both to the racial regime of the nation and to the neoliberal narrative underscoring the so-called Chilean economic miracle. I contend that the films under discussion, inserted as they are within the aegis of neoliberal cultural production, reveal important continuities and contrasts regarding the treatment of neoliberalism with respect to other movements and periods in Chilean filmmaking since the 1990s. In particular, they reflect cinematic responses to “late neoliberalism” in Chile. Borrowed from Donatella della Porta and others (2017), this term is used to define the character of neoliberal arrangements in the Great Recession across Europe as well as related reactions of discontent: late neoliberalism in Chile is similarly marked by the upsurge since 2011 of collective demands to address social inequality and precarity. Nevertheless, this engagement with neoliberal politics is not without contradiction, since it not only replicates the entrenchment of individualist subjectivity through the filmic form in the representation of the figures of the Other, but also denotes the continuation of the politics of global insertion in the international film market through the transnational legibility of the film. The inspection of this intricate relationship through the lens of transnational film studies indicates that the transnational character of this cinema is nonetheless still strongly undergirded by national identities and historical context, even if it has, as a market strategy, been adapted to fit into the world film industry.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Between Marxplaining and Solidarity: The Moral Logics of Venezuela's Populist Divide
    (2022-01-01) Subbiah, Parvathi
    This thesis examines the ‘moral logic’ implicit in populist ‘divides’—radical social polarisation— by looking at the case of crisis-ridden Venezuela. I examine Venezuela’s divide from the ‘ground-up’: through the eyes of two confronted groups residing abroad: non-Venezuelan supporters of the Maduro government (‘solidarity activists’), who blame the US for Venezuela’s crisis; and Venezuelan migrants, who have left Venezuela at different points in the last 20 years, and blame the government. The divide coerces understandings of democracy, race relations, ‘the people,’ sovereignty, human rights, even colonialism and imperialism. Both discourses hold these to be values to be protected, or conversely ‘wrongs’ to be shunned; conflict arises from respective discursiveconstructionsthat set differing hierarchies or priorities to those values. Both groups can forgo some of their less prioritised values, in the belief that having their side prevail is ultimately what is ‘good’ for Venezuela in the long-term: either keeping or dismantling Chavismo. Central to the Venezuelan divide, then, are different knowledges and epistemologies of oppression, inflicted suffering, well-being and flourishing. Yet, I will argue that these opposed political positions are strikingly consonant in their logic: overwhelmingly both groups resort to moral arguments to express what they feel about Venezuela’s dire situation, their understanding of the opposing political faction, and the legitimacy of President Maduro’s governance. They express moral emotions responding to their judgements of 'the other' and blame attribution: anger, contempt, disgust (not incidentally, markers of populist discourse). Their positions, although based on a ‘political’ issue, were, as they describe, of deep moral concern—that is, about ‘doing the right thing.’ This meant that one of the most socially problematic consequences of these logics is that approximation with the other side, rapprochement or dialogue, is seen as immoral in itself.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Embodied Dissent: Exploring the Activist Turn in Contemporary Cuban Art
    Mato, Katherine Anne
    In 1961, Fidel Castro famously proclaimed, ‘¿Cuáles son los derechos de los escritores y de los artistas, revolucionarios o no revolucionarios? Dentro de la Revolución, todo; contra la Revolución, ningún derecho’. These words have permeated the Cuban art scene ever since, with some artists choosing to work within Castro’s prescribed ideals and others seeking to problematise them. Those artists deemed counterrevolutionary have faced significant consequences, including imprisonment, erasure, and exile, retributions that have garnered international attention and cultivated an Activist Turn in contemporary Cuban art. This thesis aims to provide insights into the ways in which this phenomenon has taken shape on the island, as well as to explore how Cuban and diasporic artists have engaged with democracy, globalisation, and the critical themes of migration, displacement, and identity that have pervaded activist art in/from Cuba since the 1970s. To properly examine activist art in/from Cuba, each chapter explores a particular artistic strategy, focussing on photography in Chapter I, artist-centred performance art in Chapter II, spectator-driven performance art in Chapter III, and alternative spaces in Chapter IV. Through this organisational framework, the thesis charts how such approaches have shifted over time, often reflecting international trends in contemporary artmaking. Although post-revolutionary Cuba has remained relatively isolated from global economies, this thesis reveals how the island’s limited exposure to such trends has yielded an art centred on hybridity, one that, while highly internationalised, continues to feature characteristically Cuban tropes and responds to local concerns. For instance, notions of the democratic across activist artistic practices in/from Cuba are examined in depth, exploring the ways in which contemporary Cuban artists promote and enhance democracy. Thus, this thesis gives evidence of artists’ growing involvement in activism in recent years, arguing that these approaches should be understood within a broader historical framework, building on the artistic strategies developed by the previous generation.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Political Economy of Transnational Drug Trafficking: Criminal Rackets and State-Making in Modern Mexico
    (2021-09-30) Lerch, Alejandro
    Far from embodying distinct social actors, the line separating the ‘police’ from the ‘criminal’ is historically fluid and at times very thin. Generated by the capitalisation of economic relations, waves of bandits and criminals have often been instrumental to advance the interests of their enabling economic and political elites by forming the security apparatuses (reliant on preying, delinquency and extortion) supporting the elites' hegemony. Mexicans, at multiple stages in the country's national history, have become well-acquainted with the blend of legality and illegality characterising the country’s security sector. Building from historical sociology, comparative studies and critical approaches to policing, this thesis argues that criminal activities (in particular contraband and drug trafficking) were important political economies supporting the development of the state security apparatus under the PRI regime in Mexico (1940s to 1990s). The thesis documents the paradoxical but regular input of criminal markets into the political economies of pacification, policing and state repression, taking place at crucial junctures in the history of the single-party state, and assisting the production of its particular socioeconomic order. This ‘instrumentalisation’ of transnational criminal markets connects with and replicates little-studied Cold War security dynamics whereby the reach of the U.S. security apparatus (global policing, paramilitarism, counterinsurgency, dirty wars, etc.) was expanded by tapping into criminal activity in host nations. Building from the Mexican experience, the thesis argues that state rackets in (transnational) crime generated political economies that, embedded into local processes, played a notable part in the making of capitalist modernity, liberal state making and empire. The thesis documents in particular the ancillary role of drug and contraband markets in the operation of the PRI’s central security bodies, the Dirección Federal de Seguridad and the Policía Judicial Federal. Drawing from multi-archival research and unprecedented testimonies by former law enforcement agents, the thesis provides a new framework to grasp the important role of criminal-police entanglements in the making of Mexican modernity.
  • ItemOpen Access
    What Happened to Mexican Eugenics?: Racism and the Reproduction of the Nation
    (2020-02-01) Sanchez Rivera, Rachell
    This thesis uses historical sociology to explore the ways in which eugenics was carried out in Mexico. Particularly, this research seeks to analyze the historical continuations of eugenic measures and ideas in Mexico and the ways in which this impacts and echoes in the twenty-first century. This, in turn, allows for an intersectional approach that engages with issues of gender, race, sexuality, science and technology, risk and the management of disease.
  • ItemOpen Access
    “Picb’il”: digital repatriation and textile production as cultural revival in the Alta Verapaz of Guatemala.
    (2019-07-20) Vandewiele, Callie; Vandewiele, Callie [0000-0003-3181-6013]
    Textile production on back strap looms in the Maya region of Central America has continued uninterrupted for over three thousand years. Forming the backbone of a rich cultural tradition, the craftwork of Maya women remains an indigenous tradition in the Maya region to survive the Spanish conquest and subsequent waves of violence. For Q’eqchi’ women of the Alta Verapaz of Guatemala, textile production not only plays an important role in continuing indigenous culture, but also contributes to family and community economic life. As artefacts of cultural production, Maya textiles are integral to collections across the world, and museums and academic institutions have sought after them since at least the mid-nineteenth century. In many cases, these collected textile objects have been divorced from their context. The names of the artists, and even the communities in which they were produced, have been forgotten or unrecorded. Contemporary groups and communities of Maya weavers often remain unaware that historic textile objects from their culture and communities are being held in museums in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. This PhD research hinges on encounters between contemporary indigenous weavers in the Q’eqchi’ communities around Cobán in the Alta Verapaz of Guatemala and historic museum textiles by means of the visual repatriation of picb’il textiles; specifically, high-quality photographs of textiles in the collections of the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and the University of California, Berkeley. This has resulted in weavers not only experiencing what they described during interviews as connections to their communities’ past and ancestors, but also reproducing lost textile patterns by copying the patterns present in museum textiles, which they did not recognise as being woven by modern weavers. Relying on extensive interviews with weavers and local community members, I juxtapose the history of picb’il weaving in the region with the role that master weavers, or weaving teachers, play in the continuation of picb’il affecting weaving in local communities. The thesis elucidates how national or international markets and vendors affects the ability of communities to continue relying on textiles as part of the women’s income, as well as engaging with the role that textile collectors and museum buyers played in regional textile production in the past. The first chapter is a short history of the region in which I worked. The Q’eqchi’ weavers I interviewed live in a complex and difficult political environment, one whose history is violent. This chapter seeks to situate the history of picb’il within the history of the Alta Verapaz as experienced and perceived by my informants. It includes a specific history of two of the communities in which I worked most closely with informants. The second chapter covers the methodology used during the course of the PhD, including the research design process that led to the adoption of the methodology and the challenges that arose in the field. This necessitated a reconfiguration of the research model to ensure that it suited the circumstances. It is in this chapter that I address the concept of visual repatriation as part of a field research model. The third chapter addresses the role of gender in Q’eqchi’ communities and the role of weavers as gendered actors. This chapter draws from anthropological research and focuses on the way in which picb’il textile production is a gendered act of cultural preservation. The fourth chapter is an ethnographic overview of the picb’il textile and its cultural and ethnographic value. In this chapter, I address the construction of the textile as well as its spiritual and ontological significance to the communities where it is produced. In the fifth chapter, I address the impact of international and tourist markets on picb’il production in the Alta Verapaz while considering the future of the textile as these markets continue to grow or potentially collapse. This chapter examines past “booms” and “busts” of picb’il production, and what may have driven those changes. The sixth chapter is on intangible cultural heritage and the reactions of the weavers and other informants I worked with to the museum textiles I visually repatriated. In this chapter, I address the value of visual repatriation and the role that visual repatriation can have in the preservation and recovery of disappearing or lost cultural heritage. The final chapter encompasses the museum aspect of my work, including the value of engaging with museum objects in anthropological fieldwork and the impact that museums have had on the preservation of objects such as picb’il textiles. In this chapter, I address the role that previous researchers and collectors may have played in picb’il production. As a whole, this thesis further examines the ways in which museums by means of their collections can engage with and be perceived by source communities and ethnographers working both within and outside the museum world. Through this research, it became apparent that weavers and local communities have a distinctive interest in museum textiles as being physical connections to a shared Maya heritage in the region. Community members and weavers view these textiles as tools that can be used to recover lost heritage, and repair cultural damage from colonisation and the ensuing centuries of violence and genocide.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Pulp Fictions: The Role of Detachable Corporate Social Responsibility in Building Legitimacy for Uruguay’s Largest Ever Foreign Investment.
    (2019-02-23) Balch, Oliver
    This thesis examines how practices of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) serve to legitimise Uruguay’s largest ever foreign investment, the US$2.5-billion pulp mill constructed by the Finnish-Chilean firm Montes del Plata. Unusually, this investment prompted little social conflict, which runs counter to the community tensions frequently associated with large-scale infrastructure investments in Latin America. To explore this, the thesis takes an agency-oriented approach to the study of corporate-community relations. It offers fresh insights for critical management scholars and anthropologists of corporations into the techniques of collusion and co-optation in large-scale foreign direct investment (FDI) projects. Based on participant observation with Montes del Plata’s community relations managers and their community interlocutors, conducted over separate periods during and after the mill’s construction, the thesis examines the legitimising impulse of corporate citizenship, both as concept and practice. I show how the company seeks to incorporate itself as a morally-infused entity through ongoing interactions between its representative agents and external actors. I argue that the form of CSR that emerges is neither moral nor responsible, but its command over social relations nonetheless makes it a potent force for corporate capitalism’s expansion. The mill owner attempts to manage its social and political relations in such a way as to secure the proximity needed for legitimacy-building, while creating the requisite distance to reduce onerous moral obligations; a balance that I analyse using the concepts of detachment and depoliticisation. The thesis opens with a discussion of the politics of representation, demonstrating how the agents of Montes del Plata (the Corporation) shape the local political ecosystem through the recognition, or not, of its counterparties’ claims to representativeness. Chapters 1 and 2 also explore the theory of personation, especially in the efforts by the Corporation’s community managers to infuse the company with moral characteristics. Their struggles in doing so invite consideration of a pragmatic approach to legitimacy building through the calculated management of social relations. Chapters 3 and 4 further show how principles of detachment and depoliticisation frame the Corporation’s approach to relationship management. Chapter 3 examines how participation and empowerment are utilised to depoliticise development goods and stage the Corporation’s detachment from their delivery. Chapter 4 examines the detachment effects of the changes to the region’s political economy sparked by the mill project, and how the mill owner depoliticises public expectations of job creation. The conclusion makes the case for a distinctive approach to FDI legitimation driven by detachment (and reattachment) and facilitated by depoliticisation, which I term ‘detachable CSR’.
  • ItemControlled Access
    A Comparative Study of the Triadic Relation Between Time, Identity and Language in the Works of Julio Cortázar, Marcelo Cohen and Nāgārjuna
    SUN, MINYAN; SUN, MINYAN [0000-0003-1451-5796]
    While current scholarship acknowledges the influence of Buddhist ideas on Julio Cortázar’s fiction, critical analysis of this element of his work does not often engage in depth with Buddhist thought. Buddhism is frequently characterised as something mystical or mythical when read in relation to the works of Cortázar. This approach leads to an insufficient reading of the highly important notion of the ‘centro’ in Rayuela (1963), whose symbolism, evoking a dynamic equilibrium, may be more successfully explored with closer reference to Buddhist philosophy. The Argentine author Marcelo Cohen has also engaged with Buddhist ideas in his works; his Buda (1990), a biography of the historical Buddha, testifies to this interest. Again, however, this aspect has not received full attention in critical scholarship. Given the importance of the use of negation in Cohen’s literature, comparing Cohen with Buddhist philosophy can enrich our understanding of many aspects of his works, such as his treatment of relationality. I have chosen to compare both Argentine authors with the Indian Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna, who is considered the founder of the Madhyamaka school, which is particularly associated with the theory of ‘emptiness’ (‘śūnyatā’). Nāgārjuna’s philosophy is cited directly in Cortázar’s poem ‘Canción de Gautama’ and Cohen’s Buda and informs a number of these writers’ other texts. The main body of the thesis is divided into three sections. These examine the triadic relation between time, identity and language, with each section focusing more on one of these three aspects in turn. The three chapters and three authors will be drawn together to form a new reading of the role of negation.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Reframing Excess: Death and Power in Contemporary Mexican Literary and Visual Culture
    (2018-07-20) Bollington, Lucy J
    My PhD is a study of the politically charged literary and visual works that have emerged in response to escalating violence in contemporary Mexico. Providing close, comparative readings of fictional, theoretical and documentary works by critically-acclaimed authors Jorge Volpi, Cristina Rivera Garza, Mario Bellatin and Juan Pablo Villalobos, and award-winning filmmakers Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante and Natalia Almada, my chapters examine explicit and oblique cultural engagements with topics such as the political assassinations of the 1990s, the dispossession brought on by the neoliberal restructuring of the economy, and the violence prompted by the so-called ‘War on Drugs’. The cultural texts I examine share a concern with visualising and deconstructing the close relationship between death and power that marks the contemporary political terrain. I contend that narrative has become a critical site of cultural contestation, and discuss the ways in which experiments with the assemblage and frustration of narrative intertwine with issues related to visuality, embodiment and the nonhuman. Through my discussion of these themes, I trace out the ways in which cultural texts frequently employ narrative strategies that are rooted in dispersal, displacement and loss when engaging with destructive power. These strategies, I argue, pose urgent questions about the interrelation of violence and aesthetics, speak to critical shifts in the relationship between culture and the nation-state, and are marshalled to launch tentative appeals to forms of politics and ethics that work through spaces of shared dispossession. My thesis offers an innovative framework through which to theorise these cultural processes by reframing the notion of ‘excess’, a foundational concept in scholarship on death and power that has seen a resurgence in contemporary political philosophy. In dialogue with authors such as Georges Bataille, Achille Mbembe, Adriana Cavarero, Roberto Esposito, Michel Foucault and Jacques Rancière, and with close reference to the ‘necropolitical’ theory and cultural texts authored in Mexico, I posit excess as an analytical term that can encompass both reflexive critiques of spectacular violence and latent forms of resistance to this violence that proceed through loss and displacement.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Radical Democracies: The Politics of the Aesthetic in the Southern Cone
    (2017-11-08) Critchfield, Katherine
    The transitions to democracy in Argentina and Chile have been critiqued by numerous artists and analysts alike, both because of the social and economic continuity from dictatorship to democracy, and because of the democratic states’ occlusion of the violence of the preceding dictatorships. Yet while this compromised democracy has been subject to numerous artistic critiques, this does not necessitate an aesthetic abandonment of democracy as an ideal, but rather a challenge to its consensual nature. This study identifies a specific set of texts – by the art collective CADA, by writers Pedro Lemebel and Néstor Perlongher, and by poets Juan Gelman and Raúl Zurita – and locates within them a desire to radicalise the democratisation processes that were only superficially carried out in the 1990s. And as this work describes, this is a uniquely aesthetic project. In its association of the aesthetic and the political domains, this work draws substantially on the theoretical work of Jacques Rancière. Yet the juxtapositions of the artworks with the theoretical perspective is aimed not only at elucidating the particular nature of the relationship between aesthetics and politics to be found in these works, but also at productively complicating or expanding upon certain aspects of Rancière’s theoretical framework. The artists and authors discussed here call for a new understanding of the aesthetic as an intrinsically political category, seeking at once to revolutionise both politics and aesthetics. The texts analysed as part of this work all appear at a time when the political aesthetic functions primarily according to a revelatory paradigm, as exemplified by the testimonial genre. At the same time, the category of the aesthetic is treated with scepticism in the light of the apparent ability of the marketplace to assimilate even the most radically oppositional text into its hegemonic narrative. The notions of both political and aesthetic dissensus, therefore, find themselves under threat at this particular historico-political juncture. In contrast, the texts I examine in this work undertake an aesthetic investment in alternative significatory sensibilities in order to counter political consensus. In other words, they locate the political in a different aesthetic sensorium: that of the human body, of emotions, and of the affective connections between subjects. In so doing, they move beyond the denunciatory text as the political aesthetic par excellence, pointing instead to aesthetic distributions that remain excessive, or that overspill any effort to order the sensus communis.
  • ItemOpen Access
    New Constructions of House and Home in Contemporary Argentine and Chilean Cinema (2005-2015)
    (2017-11-14) Merchant, Paul Rumney; Merchant, Paul Rumney [0000-0003-1323-5004]
    This thesis explores the potential of domestic space to act as the ground for new forms of community and sociability in Argentine and Chilean films from the early twenty-first century. It thus tracks a shift in the political treatment of the home in Southern Cone cinema, away from allegorical affirmations of the family, and towards a reflection on film’s ability to both delineate and disrupt lived spaces. In the works examined, the displacement of attention from human subjects to the material environment defamiliarises the domestic sphere and complicates its relation to the nation. The house thus does not act as ‘a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability’ (Bachelard), but rather as a medium through which identities are challenged and reformed. This anxiety about domestic space demands, I argue, a renewal of the deconstructive frameworks often deployed in studies of Latin American culture (Moreiras, Williams). The thesis turns to new materialist theories, among others, as a supplement to deconstructive thinking, and argues that theorisations of cinema’s political agency must be informed by social, economic and urban histories. The prominence of suburban settings moreover encourages a nuancing of the ontological links often invoked between cinema, the house, and the city. The first section of the thesis rethinks two concepts closely linked to the home: memory and modernity. Analysing documentary and essay films, Chapter 1 suggests some political limitations to the figure of the fragment which dominates scholarly discussion of memory in Latin America. Chapter 2 studies films which explore the inclusions and exclusions created by modernist domestic architecture. The second section focuses on two human figures found on the threshold of the home: the domestic worker and the guest. Chapter 3 analyses unorthodox representations of domestic work, and explores how new materialist approaches can enhance readings of the political potential of ‘art cinema’. Finally, in Chapter 4 I examine films depicting household visitors that upset urban class divisions, and question the possibility of ‘domestic cosmopolitanism’ (Nava 2006) in contemporary Latin America. My comparative analysis of these films explores a rupture between physical dwelling and imagined home that points towards new political practices in a neoliberal, post-dictatorship context.