Accepted paper:

Suspicious bodies: camouflaged legality and tactics of security on the Argentina-Paraguay border

Author:

Ieva Jusionyte (University of Florida)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the relation between the legal system and the human body becomes recast as a security issue. I focus on the idea of suspicion, which leads to discoveries of falsified identities in cases of illegal adoptions and human trafficking.

Paper long abstract:

When an elderly nurse, travelling with a 4-month-old baby in her arms, began giving contradictory answers at a security checkpoint, airport police became increasingly suspicious. They discovered that, although the documents belonged to a girl, the baby in the nurse's arms was a boy, allegedly Paraguayan, being taken to Buenos Aires. He was one more victim of venta de bebes, a reportedly widespread practice of the trade in babies flourishing in the peripheral border region. Based on my ethnographic research in the Argentine northeast, this paper examines how the relation between the legal system and the human body becomes recast as a security issue. More specifically, I look into what counts as evidence in situations, when the security apparatus intervenes on the basis of suspicion that the link between the law and the person is falsified. Cases of forged identity, such as illegal adoptions and human trafficking, present a dilemma to the state because the crime lies in the unauthorized appropriation of the law. Camouflaged identities work under the disguise of legal documents, including birth certificates and passports, until something betrays their fictitious nature. In this paper I focus on the performance of authenticity (including personal stories and alibi, clothing and make-up) and counterfeit mediation (primarily via official documents) between the legal system and the human body, and the security measures used to capture such forged claims.

panel P001
Bodies of evidence, experts, and intimacy in the anthropology of security (EASA Anthropology of Security Network)