Accepted Paper:

Building an empowered community in the mist of legal uncertainty: social responsibility and housing conflict in Puerto Rico  


Janialy Ortiz (University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Building upon results from an ongoing ethnography in Puerto Rico, I will discuss how a communitarian development project was received in a contested terrain of legal pluralism, forging what was opposed to the foreseen.

Paper long abstract:

A decade ago, the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico purposely attempted to eradicate poverty while implementing an ambitious program called "Integral Development for the Special Communities" (2001). Concomitant with other development policies around the world, this program responded to an often-repeated claim: the necessity to promote community self-management, and to create both, a more participatory form of government and citizenship for conflict resolution. In order to accomplish such task, each Special Community had to plan, design and manage a significant infrastructural project, which not only will change their material wellbeing, but also increase their sense of social responsibility. Nonetheless, not every infrastructural proposal was received without conflict, even if the protagonists of these contested claims were also government agents.

Building upon results from an ongoing ethnography, I seek to discuss how residents from a poor neighborhood located in the San Juan Metropolitan Area, responded to what seems a paradoxical communitarian policy among an inherently contested terrain of legal pluralism. I will like to argue that despite the work of producing responsible subjects might despoliticizes citizens in their dealings of various issues, a public legal conflict between different braches of the state could force the citizens to speak about the possibilities of alternatives, or by the contrary, forge what was opposed to the foreseen: community segregation. Therefore, I aim to discuss how political-economic processes are simultaneously implicated, and yet elided, in social-interest housing development projects, and in these processes of producing orderly, empowered, responsible, development subjects.

Panel W077
Legal pluralism and the uncertainties of responsibility (EN)