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Life in Debt

Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile

Clara Han
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 298
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  • Book Info
    Life in Debt
    Book Description:

    Chile is widely known as the first experiment in neoliberalism in Latin America, carried out and made possible through state violence. Since the beginning of the transition in 1990, the state has pursued a national project of reconciliation construed as debts owed to the population. The state owed a "social debt" to the poor accrued through inequalities generated by economic liberalization, while society owed a "moral debt" to the victims of human rights violations.Life in Debtinvites us into lives and world of a poor urban neighborhood in Santiago. Tracing relations and lives between 1999 and 2010, Clara Han explores how the moral and political subjects imagined and asserted by poverty and mental health policies and reparations for human rights violations are refracted through relational modes and their boundaries. Attending to intimate scenes and neighborhood life, Han reveals the force of relations in the making of selves in a world in which unstable work patterns, illness, and pervasive economic indebtedness are aspects of everyday life. Lucidly written,Life in Debtprovides a unique meditation on both the past inhabiting actual life conditions but also on the difficulties of obligation and achievements of responsiveness.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95175-4
    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
    (pp. 1-28)

    We waited. In La Pincoya, the lights were cut to the sector and bonfires crackled on the main street, Recoleta. On September 11,poblaciones(poor urban neighborhoods) commemorate thegolpe del estado(the coup d’état) that in 1973 brought down the government of the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende and ushered in a seventeen-year dictatorship headed by Augusto Pinochet. It was 2005, and there was euphoria and expectation in the air, the atmosphere both celebratory and tense. Women helped children put garbage—wood, an old armchair, plastic bins—in a bonfire pile to be ignited with paraffin. Neighbors stood outside...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Symptoms of Another Life
    (pp. 29-53)

    “Pure nerves.” Sra. Flora crumbled a soda cracker in her hands. It was the afternoon of Easter 2004 in La Pincoya. She had invited me to help her prepare an elaborate Easter lunch for her extended family. But the festive plans had abruptly dissolved with the news that her partner, Rodrigo, had lost his job in a textile factory where he had worked for the past twenty-five years. Instead, bites of homemade bread and sips of sugared tea mingled with stifled conversation.

    Sra. Flora, Rodrigo, tío Ricardo, and Sra. Flora’s daughters and grandchildren lived together in a two-story house that...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Social Debt, Silent Gift
    (pp. 54-91)

    We sat in the living room on a couch covered with thick plastic. Paz’s two-year-old daughter, Felicidad, sat in the lap of her grandmother Sra. Ana. As she combed her hands through the child’s blond hair, Sra. Ana told me how Paz had begun smokingpasta baseagain two months earlier. Paz had started intermittentpasta baseconsumption six years previously. She had stopped consuming when she became pregnant after selling sex to a fifty-year-old neighbor. Paz’s return topasta basehad palpable effects within the home. She sold her daughter’s formula, received from the local primary care center, as...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Torture, Love, and the Everyday
    (pp. 92-128)

    In August 1999, I met Ruby. She knocked on the door of Julieta’s shack one afternoon to charge her for an unpaid debt. (We will meet Julieta in the next chapter.) Ruby did piecemeal sewing for a local workshop that produced sweatpants sold in Patronato, the textile sector of Santiago. A few months earlier, she had sold several pairs of sweatpants to Julieta, with the agreement that Julieta would make weekly payments on them. Julieta, in turn, sold them to various neighbors but was delaying her payments to Ruby. Ruby began to visit Julieta’s shack at least every other afternoon...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Neoliberal Depression
    (pp. 129-166)

    Depresión neoliberal” (neoliberal depression)—this is how Leticia describes her bodily pains, racing thoughts, and sleepless nights. It was June 1999, four years after Leticia had returned from exile in Buenos Aires, and four years into her state of “exile in my own country.” Leticia was fifty-two years old, a former communist militant who had been exiled to Argentina in 1987. She had returned in 1995 to La Pincoya, where she had arrived as a child with her mother as part of atoma(land seizure) and where her children had remained during her exile. Leticia called herself a “single...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Community Experiments
    (pp. 167-201)

    2001. I am taking the yellow-and-white city bus from Santiago center back to La Pincoya. The bus is stuffed full of people returning from work. A young woman invites an older woman carrying a large plastic sack to take her seat and rest. Tired bodies and sleeping heads bump against the bus windows for almost an hour. We cross Américo Vespucio, the highway that encircles the center of Santiago, and continue down Recoleta, the main road to La Pincoya. As we enter thepoblación, to our right is the old police building, widely remembered in La Pincoya as a site where...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Life and Death, Care and Neglect
    (pp. 202-230)

    In the streets of Santiago’s center, a white-and-green billboard sits atop a high-rise building. In the image, a woman speaks to a pharmacist. The pharmacist in her white coat smiles at the well-coiffed woman, handing her a prescription. The text underneath the scene reads: “Self-medication is dangerous; talk to your pharmacist. Cruz Verde.” Cruz Verde is one of the three pharmacy chains in Chile. The three chains, Cruz Verde, Farmacia Ahumada, and SalcoBrand, have a virtual oligopoly on the sales of pharmaceuticals in the Chilean market.¹ At the same time, they have developed partnerships with department stores to offer the...

  11. Conclusion: Relations and Time
    (pp. 231-238)

    When I returned in August 2010 and visited neighbors, their memories of Lalo interspersed with their accounts of the changes in the neighborhood and in lives. Neighbors now spoke of him as an “ethical” drug dealer: he stood up for hispoblaciónand only sold in thebarrio alto. When I visited Julieta, she spoke of the changes in thepoblaciónin the preceding few years, and Lalo wove into her memories. “He was something else, he was different,” recounting how Lalo had himself been a militant in the Frente, along with her younger brother. “I miss thatlocoa...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 239-254)
  13. References
    (pp. 255-268)
  14. Index
    (pp. 269-283)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 284-284)