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CLAS Lecture Series: Neighbors and Thieves: Securitization, Social Transformation and Identity Politics in Urban Bolivia

Speaker: Helene Risør, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Professor Risør's talk focuses on people’s experiences of insecurity with crime and their everyday practices of seeking safety and generating security in the poor and mainly indigenous highland city of El Alto, and it situates these practices in the context of the major political and social transformation that Bolivia has underwent in the past decade. It describes the community residents’, or neighbors, efforts to identify and fixate dangerousness by engaging in semiotic analysis of minor signs in the urban landscape, and it illustrates how otherwise floating signifiers of danger eventually become fixed through violent and extralegal securitization of the alleged thief. It is argued that the recurrent events of securitization do not only serve to momentarily put a face to criminal danger, but that they also work to define otherwise fleeing definitions of community and the role of the state in the urban margins.
It is thus not only the identities of the thieves that are unknown to the neighbors, so is the definition of whom constitute proper citizens in the new Bolivia, and of what it implies to belong in a plurinational indigenous nation in the 21st century.
Helene Risør holds a PhD in Anthropology from Copenhagen University. She is assistant professor at the Anthropology Program at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and Post Doc fellow at the Department of Anthropology at Copenhagen University. At the Catholic University she participates in the Center for Indigenous and Intercultural Studies (ICIIS) where she is principal researcher of the Subjectivity, Indigeneity and Conflict line.
Her research focuses on political subjectivity and social transformation. Her regional specialization is on Latin America, and she has done extensive fieldwork in urban settings in Bolivia and Chile. In Chile she has focused on issues of civil in/security, violence, post-conflict and transitional society, and more recently on community policing and interculturality. In Bolivia she has focused on political activism, urban citizenship and generational politics in the context of the re-foundation of the country as a plurinational and mainly indigenous state.



Friday, April 8, 2016. 12:30 PM


Bolivar House, 582 Alvarado Row


Center for Latin American Studies


(650) 725-0383


Lunch Provided | No RSVP Necessary