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Savage Frontier

Savage Frontier: Making News and Security on the Argentine Border

Ieva Jusionyte
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Savage Frontier
    Book Description:

    This highly original work of anthropology combines extensive ethnographic fieldwork and investigative journalism to explain how security is understood, experienced, and constructed along the Triple Frontera, the border region shared by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. One of the major "hot borders" in the Western Hemisphere, the Triple Frontera is associated with drug and human trafficking, contraband, money laundering, and terrorism. It's also a place where residents, particularly on the Argentine side, are subjected to increased governmental control and surveillance.

    How does a scholar tell a story about a place characterized by illicit international trading, rampant violence, and governmental militarization? Jusionyte inventively centered her ethnographic fieldwork on a community of journalists who investigate and report on crime and violence in the region. Through them she learned that a fair amount of petty, small-scale illicit trading goes unreported—a consequence of a community invested in promoting the idea that the border is a secure place that does not warrant militarized attention. The author's work demonstrates that while media is often seen as a powerful tool for spreading a sense of danger and uncertainty, sensationalizing crime and violence, and creating moral panics, journalists can actually do the opposite. Those who selectively report on illegal activities use the news to tell particular types of stories in an attempt to make their communities look and ultimately be more secure.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95937-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Hide-and-Seek
    (pp. 1-36)

    Numerous clandestine paths, colloquially known aspiques, descend down the forested slopes to the clearings on the rivers that separate Argentina from its neighboring countries: Paraguay to the west, and Brazil to the north. Despite being well known to law enforcement—agents have a name for each—piques are widely used by smugglers and traffickers, who avoid identity checks and customs inspection at authorized border posts by using the paths. One of these paths runs off the main road over Tancredo Neves International Bridge, which connects Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu with Argentine Puerto Iguazú. It leads through the jungle, evading...

  5. 1 Breaking the Code of Silence
    (pp. 37-59)

    Fieldnotes, June 10, 2010:In the morning we got into the mint-colored minivan withLa Voz de Catarataslogos and headed toward the Iguazú airport. Kelly and Silvia wanted to write a story about Argentine Air Force pilots who were training in town. When we arrived, the director of the airport informed us that the media were not allowed to take photographs or film outside, strictly prohibiting the journalists from approaching the military planes. So the three of us joined the others—Mario and Jorge from the provincial television station Canal 12, Vivi and Darío from the local cable Canal...

  6. 2 Dispatches from the Wild
    (pp. 60-97)

    “An immense nomadic population inhabits the forests, poor, naked, barbaric, without knowledge of industry, sociality, patria, religion, this absolute source of all human legislation, nor of any other element useful for settling down and preparing the social, intellectual, and moral progress for the succeeding generation,” wrote Rafael Hernández (1973 [1887]:147–148). It was 1883, and Argentina had just nationalized the territory that would later become the province of Misiones. President Julio A. Roca sent Hernández, a land surveyor, to locate and measure colonies to be founded in those remote northeastern borderlands. During the months the expedition spent in Misiones, often...

  7. 3 Global Village of Outlaws
    (pp. 98-131)

    There are two authorized routes to get from Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.

    The first one is by ferry. To reach the port of Iguazú, one must descend a curvy road down the steep riverbank, overgrown with lush jungle vegetation, pass in front of the historic “Cabildo”-style headquarters of the Iguazú National Park, one of the first constructions in the area, dating back to May 25, 1937, and move on past the modest new offices of immigration and the naval prefecture. On most days, there is a long line of look-alike minivans with tinted windows, winding like...

  8. 4 Small Town, Big Hell
    (pp. 132-172)

    The idea of placing security cameras in central locations in Puerto Iguazú met with significant resistance. In 2010 private television company C.V.I., which had a monopoly as the cable provider, presented the plan to the town council as a project ofseguridad urbana(urban security). C.V.I. was installing a fiber optic cable network for high-speed internet, and the company suggested that as part of the project it could also set up surveillance cameras at strategic points around Iguazú, such as busy street intersections. But the town council repeatedly blocked implementation of the project. Local government was uneasy about outsourcing the...

  9. 5 On and Off the Record
    (pp. 173-200)

    Zooming in on a landmass across the Paraná River, the camera moves past an abandoned convention center and focuses on a green-and-yellow landmark, a monumental version of the border demarcation signs found throughout Latin America, its colors blending with Brazil’s surrounding subtropical jungle. As the camera swiftly turns in a clockwise direction, it pans over the Iguazú River and, amidst lush vegetation, barely spots another marker: painted inceleste y blanco, sky blue and white, an obelisk built in 1903 celebrates Argentine national sovereignty. Finally, as the camera glides further to the right and returns across the Paraná, it captures...

  10. 6 Blurred Boundaries
    (pp. 201-236)

    One evening when we sat down to take a break after a long day of traversing the town in search of news stories, I asked Jorgelina what issue, falling outside the purview of Iguazú media agenda, worried her the most. Without hesitating for a moment, she said: “When I was younger, people who lived on the banks of the Tacuara stream and had as many as ten children, would sell one. Ten months later, after they spent the money, they would complain that their child had been kidnapped.”¹ But Jorgelina only initially referred to the past. “People from all over...

  11. Conclusion: Ethnography of In/visibility
    (pp. 237-248)

    Four years have passed since I left Puerto Iguazú. I have stayed in touch with the people whose lives make up the fabric ofSavage Frontier—Kelly, Silvia, Jorgelina, Horacio, Javier, Yanina, Mario, Andrés, Mariquita, and others—and in 2014 I returned to the field to visit them. Most of the journalists that I met in the tri-border region between 2008 and 2011 still work for the local media, though several have since quit and moved away. For those who remain, little, if anything, has changed. Their concerns with the negative effects of the discourses of lawlessness and danger on...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 249-264)
  13. References
    (pp. 265-280)
  14. Index
    (pp. 281-286)