This collection of essays challenges long-entrenched ideas about the history, nature, and significance of the informal neighborhoods that house the vast majority of Latin America's urban poor. Until recently, scholars have mainly viewed these settlements through the prisms of crime and drug-related violence, modernization and development theories, populist or revolutionary politics, or debates about the cultures of poverty. Yet shantytowns have proven both more durable and more multifaceted than any of these perspectives foresaw. Far from being accidental offshoots of more dynamic economic and political developments, they are now a permanent and integral part of Latin America's urban societies, critical to struggles over democratization, economic transformation, identity politics, and the drug and arms trades. Integrating historical, cultural, and social scientific methodologies, this collection brings together recent research from across Latin America, from the informal neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, Managua and Buenos Aires. Amid alarmist exposés, Cities from Scratch intervenes by considering Latin American shantytowns at a new level of interdisciplinary complexity.
Contributors. Javier Auyero, Mariana Cavalcanti, Ratão Diniz, Emilio Duhau, Sujatha Fernandes, Brodwyn Fischer, Bryan McCann, Edward Murphy, Dennis Rodgers
Contentious Lives examines the ways popular protests are experienced and remembered, individually and collectively, by those who participate in them. Javier Auyero focuses on the roles of two young women, Nana and Laura, in uprisings in Argentina (the two-day protest in the northwestern city of Santiago del Estero in 1993 and the six-day road blockade in the southern oil towns of Cutral-co and Plaza Huincul in 1996) and the roles of the protests in their lives. Laura was the spokesperson of the picketers in Cutral-co and Plaza Huincul; Nana was an activist in the 1993 protests. In addition to exploring the effects of these episodes on their lives, Auyero considers how each woman's experiences shaped what she said and did during the uprisings, and later, the ways she recalled the events. While the protests were responses to the consequences of political corruption and structural adjustment policies, they were also, as Nana’s and Laura’s stories reveal, quests for recognition, respect, and dignity.
Auyero reconstructs Nana’s and Laura’s biographies through oral histories and diaries. Drawing on interviews with many other protesters, newspaper articles, judicial records, government reports, and video footage, he provides sociological and historical context for their stories. The women’s accounts reveal the frustrations of lives overwhelmed by gender domination, the deprivations brought about by hyper-unemployment and the withering of the welfare component of the state, and the achievements and costs of collective action. Balancing attention to large-scale political and economic processes with acknowledgment of the plurality of meanings emanating from personal experiences, Contentious Lives is an insightful, penetrating, and timely contribution to discussions of popular resistance and the combined effects of globalization, neoliberal economic policies, and political corruption in Argentina and elsewhere.
Austin, Texas, is renowned as a high-tech, fast-growing city for the young and creative, a cool place to live, and the scene of internationally famous events such as SXSW and Formula 1. But as in many American cities, poverty and penury are booming along with wealth and material abundance in contemporary Austin. Rich and poor residents lead increasingly separate lives as growing socioeconomic inequality underscores residential, class, racial, and ethnic segregation.
In Invisible in Austin, the award-winning sociologist Javier Auyero and a team of graduate students explore the lives of those working at the bottom of the social order: house cleaners, office-machine repairers, cab drivers, restaurant cooks and dishwashers, exotic dancers, musicians, and roofers, among others. Recounting their subjects’ life stories with empathy and sociological insight, the authors show us how these lives are driven by a complex mix of individual and social forces. These poignant stories compel us to see how poor people who provide indispensable services for all city residents struggle daily with substandard housing, inadequate public services and schools, and environmental risks. Timely and essential reading, Invisible in Austin makes visible the growing gap between rich and poor that is reconfiguring the cityscape of one of America’s most dynamic places, as low-wage workers are forced to the social and symbolic margins.
Patients of the State is a sociological account of the extended waiting that poor people seeking state social and administrative services must endure. It is based on ethnographic research in the waiting area of the main welfare office in Buenos Aires, in the line leading into the Argentine registration office where legal aliens apply for identification cards, and among people who live in a polluted shantytown on the capital’s outskirts, while waiting to be allocated better housing. Scrutinizing the mundane interactions between the poor and the state, as well as underprivileged people’s confusion and uncertainty about the administrative processes that affect them, Javier Auyero argues that while waiting, the poor learn the opposite of citizenship. They learn to be patients of the state. They absorb the message that they should be patient and keep waiting, because there is nothing else that they can do. Drawing attention to a significant everyday dynamic that has received little scholarly attention until now, Auyero considers not only how the poor experience these lengthy waits but also how making poor people wait works as a strategy of state control.
“Political clientelism” is a term used to characterize the contemporary relationships between political elites and the poor in Latin America in which goods and services are traded for political favors. Javier Auyero critically deploys the notion in Poor People’s Politics to analyze the political practices of the Peronist Party among shantytown dwellers in contemporary Argentina. Looking closely at the slum-dwellers’ informal problem-solving networks, which are necessary for material survival, and the different meanings of Peronism within these networks, Auyero presents the first ethnography of urban clientelism ever carried out in Argentina. Revealing a deep familiarity with the lives of the urban poor in Villa Paraíso, a stigmatized and destitute shantytown of Buenos Aires, Auyero demonstrates the ways in which local politicians present their vital favors to the poor and how the poor perceive and evaluate these favors. Having penetrated the networks, he describes how they are structured, what is traded, and the particular way in which women facilitate these transactions. Moreover, Auyero proposes that the act of granting favors or giving food in return for votes gives the politicians’ acts a performative and symbolic meaning that flavors the relation between problem-solver and problem-holder, while also creating quite different versions of contemporary Peronism. Along the way, Auyero is careful to situate the emergence and consolidation of clientelism in historic, cultural, and economic contexts. Poor People’s Politics reexamines the relationship between politics and the destitute in Latin America, showing how deeply embedded politics are in the lives of those who do not mobilize in the usual sense of the word but who are far from passive. It will appeal to a wide range of students and scholars of Latin American studies, sociology, anthropology, political science, history, and cultural studies.