Accepted Paper:

Imagining the Venezuelan state from an off-centered perspective: political narratives and the place of emotions in the local political imaginary  

Author:

Beatriz Juarez-Rodriguez (University of Western Ontario)

Paper short abstract:

Following recent theoretical reflections about the role of emotions in the study of the state and political power, I describe and interpret local narratives that were woven around the state and its development discourses.

Paper long abstract:

Following recent theoretical reflections about the role of emotions in the study of the state and political power, this paper will explore how the ways in which peasants of Cuira River in Venezuela perceived and imagined the Venezuelan state were marked by emotions such as anxiety, impotence, and frustration. Focussing on the development project of the Tuy IV System that consists of the construction of a dam by the Venezuelan State in Cuira River, involving the displacement of 16 communities, I describe and interpret local narratives that were woven around the state and its development discourses. In this context of encounters between state agents and peasants, sentiments of anger and gratitude seemed to dominate the peasants' relations to the Venezuelan state… But what did the state mean to them? How they were imagining and living it? Was the state seen as a place or as an individual? I point out that the local narratives about the state were organized around emotions of anger, anxiety and fear, and the analysis of these narratives reveals some of the multiplicity of local conceptions about the state as a mythical-abstract power vis à vis powers of individuals configured in the political arena. I conclude that an ethnography of the state, stemming from the political narratives that are locally produced and circulated, offers a way to understand the role of emotion in generating bonds between the state and rural communities, and at the same time it accounts for the dialogical and dialectical relationship between practices of the state and socio-cultural dynamics of rural communities.

Panel RM-SPK08
Talking like a state: political narrative in everyday life