Embodying conflict and social change in Latin America

Laura Montesi (University College London)
Sahra Gibbon (University College, London)
Jennie Gamlin (University College London)
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Short abstract:

Latin America is the site of political upheaval and conflict. These upheavals redefine gender identities as people resist, conform and revolt, embodying emerging political realities. What can anthropology contribute to body politics in times of crisis and uncertainty?

Long abstract:

Latin America is once again the site of diverse political directions, manifestations of extreme inequality and new forms of dissidence and resistance. In 2018, Mexico and Brazil - Latin America's biggest economies - elected their political leaders, claiming to offer radical societal change. While Mexico brought to power a veteran left-winger with nostalgias for centralised statism, Brazil opted for an ex-military with a far-right political agenda. These seemingly opposite political results mirror national power struggles and trajectories yet they also share some commonalities, such as people's wide and profound sense of dissatisfaction. In parallel to these radical political changes, extreme cases of state failure are evident in Central America and Venezuela, where apparently unsolvable contexts of scarcity, poverty and violence escalate, once more inviting military and political interventions from beyond their nation states. These upheavals mark the gendered bodies of men and women as they resist, conform, relent and revolt, embodying their political realities. This panel invites a discussion around social upheaval in relation to political contexts in Latin America, exploring what kinds of identities and subjectivities are emerging within and against these new political configurations, and how these are gendered and differentially embodied. How do men and women respond to political turmoil and strife? How does politics (en)gender bodies making them subjects of transformation and objects of contention? How does conflict play out on gendered bodies? And what can anthropology contribute to an understanding of body politics in times of crisis and enhanced uncertainties?