Precarious Becomings: The Politics of Migrant Life in Chile

In several publications based on my dissertation project, I have combined anthropological, decolonial, and feminist theories of structural violence and embodiment with ecological approaches to health, inequality, and care. In an article under review in Ethos, I put anthropology into conversation with feminist phenomenology to show how in the process of flattening the rock-hard terrain of their encampments, migrant women refashion their relationship to their bodies and their embodied relationships with others. The article centers on a Black Colombian woman who developed what she describes as a “hard” corporeal self in her encampment that allows her to maintain a safe emotional distance from violent neighborly relationships. I have also published two peer-reviewed chapters forthcoming in Spanish-language edited volumes: Heroicidades latinoamericanas (Editorial de la Universidad de La Habana) and Ciudadanías (Pehuén Editores). In these chapters, I use decolonial theory to examine how Quechua- and Aymara-speaking Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Bolivian women foster reciprocal relations of care with earth-based beings through transnational Andean rituals in their encampments. Yet, these and other ways of living with precarity are fragile: violence is quick to seep into relationships; and earth-based beings are difficult to sustain in encampments that are slowly being demolished.

Addiction, Spiritual Welfare, and Recovery in Peru

I have made one publication based on a secondary research project: «‘We Will Revive’: Addiction, Spiritual Warfare, and Recovery in Latin America’s Cocaine Production Zone,» published in Third World Quarterly in 2017. Once a key site in the War on Drugs against cocaine, the Upper Amazon in northeastern Peru has lately seen an increase in addiction to coca paste, a toxic by-product of the cocaine manufacturing process. Unregulated and coercive Pentecostal ministries, founded and administered by recovered pastors, constitute the main form of addiction treatment in the Upper Amazon today. Based on ethnographic research in nine ministries and using the example of the ministry ‘We Will Revive,’ this article suggests that Pentecostal ministries re-articulate addiction as demonic possession. Accordingly, ministries treat addiction through spiritual warfare against the Devil. In so doing, Pentecostal ministries change the locus of the War on Drugs from trade networks to sinful bodies.

«The First Latin American City: Decolonial Urbanism in Los Arenales»

Chapter in Los Arenales: Hacia el derecho a la ciudad, edited by José Francisco Vergara Perucich, Camillo Boano, and Martín Arias, forthcoming as a trade book in Sangría Editora

This forthcoming chapter will be published in a trade book that contains chapters written by migrant women community leaders with whom I conducted research. In order to theorize the right to the city, we first need to understand the forces that work to produce the radically undemocratic and extremely unequal cities of today. Based on ongoing ethnographic work with migrant women activists and their allies in Los Arenales, I argue that these forces include but are not reducible to the forces of capital accumulation that dominant Marxist theories of the right to the city tend to emphasize. They also include the forces of racism, patriarchy, and state bureaucracy that often but not always work in concert with those of capital accumulation. A decolonial approach to the right to the city considers these intersecting forces as a complex matrix of power that has historically shaped cities according to modern-colonial hierarchies. As such, making the right to the city real, as the migrant women activists and their allies leading the struggle in Los Arenales know all too well, takes more than rising awareness about an objective reality (i.e. class struggle over urban resources). Rather, it requires the creative work of developing a critique that resonates with people’s desires and of forming coalitions on the basis of this critique that are able to mobilize people against sometimes desirable but ultimately disempowering state-led alternatives.

Navigating Apathy and Attacks in the Struggle for Migrant Rights in Chile

NACLA Report on the Americas (2022)

This article, featured in NACLA‘s 2022 Special Issue on Chile’s failed process to draft a new progressive constitution, provides a contemporary analysis of the struggle for migrant rights in Chile. For one activist, Chile’s proposed constitution missed a historic opportunity to defend migrant rights amid a right-wing backlash that ultimately defeated the new progressive charter.

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Migración en Chile: Notas para pensar el fenómeno desde la izquierda

(with Enrique Riobó and Pablo Rojas) (2020)
Nodo XXI 23

En la actualidad se está tramitando una nueva ley de migraciones. Era un consenso la necesidad de una regulación, pues la actual, que viene de la dictadura, se encuentra obsoleta tanto por su enfoque de seguridad nacional como por su desajuste con la realidad actual.

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Global Protest Movements in 2019: What Do They Teach Us? 

(with Shan Huang and Kerem Can Ussakli) (2020)
Fieldsights, Society for Cultural Anthropology

Amid an unprecedented sense of global uncertainty, protest movements around the world are opening new horizons. This series, which was assembled before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, includes brief reflections on a number of protest movements that emerged or consolidated during the second half of 2019. Protest movements in, but not limited to, Hong Kong, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Ecuador, Colombia, and Chile have put into question various forms of power and inequality. They offer us new and very different languages of justice, methodologies of political engagement, notions of citizenship, and pluralist, intersectional revisions of social contracts. By engaging with global protest movements that have garnered widespread “real world” media attention, this series attempts to explore how useful anthropology is in capturing the affectively intensive, dramatic, vital, performative, and friction-filled dimensions of the real world of protests.

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Staying with the Rubble: Chile at a Crossroads

(2020) Fieldsights, Society for Cultural Anthropology

The traces left behind in Antofagasta by the nationwide uprising tell of a series of demands made from multiple and intersecting subjectivities. Feminist claims against gender-based violence meld with decolonial claims against the Church, anti-neoliberal claims against privatized social services, as well as critiques against state violence based on human rights. Juan’s support of the uprising may resonate with some of these claims, yet he tells me that, as a migrant, these claims seem foreign to him—his support of the uprising is specifically premised on his newfound freedom to sell on the streets. How can we think of the uprising from the perspective of Juan and many other everyday citizens who suddenly took to the streets in October 2019? In this brief reflection on the Chilean uprising, I write about, and against, a persistent tendency, in established political circles, academia, and the news media alike, to frame the ongoing struggle in Chile as following a clear historical trajectory and reducing its demands to coherent objectives by well-defined subjects. I suggest, rather, that ethnographers are uniquely positioned to sit with the struggle as messy and unfinished and, in that way, amplify rather than reduce the uprising’s historical, subjective, and political entailments.

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Letter from the Field

(2019) Department of Anthropology, Stanford University 2018-2019 Newsletter

It is a mid-May evening in Antofagasta, Chile’s rich but extremely unequal copper mining capital in the Atacama Desert, right around the 􏰀me when the desert’s dry heat quickly gives way to sharp cold. I stand huddled together with ap- proximately 150 self-identified pobladoras (shantytown dwellers) in their campamento (informal settlement) on the windy hillsides surrounding Antofagasta’s modern coastal core. Pachakuti—as I call their campamento—houses ap- proximately 5,000 people, about 80% of them immigrant, and is today the largest campamento in Chile. Of the 150 pobladoras gathered this evening, virtually all of them are im- migrants, most of them Indigenous Quechua- and Aymara- speaking women from Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

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Unfinished: An #AmAnth17 Panel Review

(2018) Fieldsights, Society for Cultural Anthropology

If classical anthropology was concerned with revealing the structures and patterns that govern human thought and behavior across time and space, this panel showed just how far anthropologists have come in the direction of the kinetic and the interstitial. Yet, one of the central insights of the panel was that the domain of becoming is in constant tension with the sticky political economic, social, and ethical closed systems that circumscribe us.

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Deliverace: Views from the Captive South

(2017) Fieldsights, Society for Cultural Anthropology

With the escalation of carceral states and border regimes, we may be witnessing a proliferation of what Maurizio Albahari calls an “intermodal and transnational network” of infrastructures of captivity. In this piece, I would like to call our attention to a less apparent infrastructural form of captivity: unregulated, often clandestine and coercive residential Christian ministries for addiction treatment that are widespread throughout Latin America (Hansen 2012; Wilkinson 2013; O’Neill 2014; Garcia 2015). Parts monastery, clinic, and prison, these institutions complicate categories of control and care and are, in that way, useful to think captivity with, including how (and if) to escape it.

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Captivity

(2017) Fieldsights, Society for Cultural Anthropology

In a global order marked, on the one hand, by unfettered mobility for the powerful and their resources, and, on the other, by the strengthening of borders to keep the powerless in place, anthropological inquiry into captivity seems urgent. The concept of captivity is able to capture many of the forms that contemporary sovereign power takes, including prisons, immigrant detention centers, human trafficking networks, coercive labor systems, gentrified urban spaces, Indian reservations, zoos, and animal sanctuaries. The concept of captivity helps us understand the workings of power today and widens our spaces of critique and action.

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Community Report to the United Nations

In 2019, I helped the Macrocampamento Balmaceda in Antofagasta submit an official report to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing denouncing the Chilean state’s eviction efforts against an Indigenous campamento in Antofagasta.

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