Accepted Paper:

Rooting life at the edges: squatter settlements, immigrants and political subjectification on the northern border of Chile  


Angel Aedo (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile )

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on immigrants living in squatter settlements in a border city of Chile. I argue that their experiences in the “in-between”, where urban margins and state borders are intertwined, have the potential to become pivotal instances where new forms of political subjectification are put to test.

Paper long abstract:

This paper starts from a paradox that people in squatter camps on the northern border of Chile made me notice during fieldwork. This is the widespread experience among immigrants living in squatter camps of feeling neither fully in nor fully out of the city. They live without basic services (water, electricity, sewage), constantly under surveillance by the police and threatened by the government institutions with the eviction from lands that they illegally occupy. Despite this situation, in their everyday practices, the diversity of lives inhabiting these zones, rather than assuming an attitude of passive submission and dependence, frequently express the force of the permanent reconstruction of self and the ambition of building a common world. The examination of these phenomena takes place through three key dimensions: event, situation and experience. In a nutshell: 1) the first one develops a genealogical approach of the irruption of squatter settlements in the border city of Arica. 2) The second one focuses on the interactions between settlers, state institutions and NGOs. Finally, 3) the third one examines how government and non-government policies - in the areas of entrepreneurship, humanitarian assistance and housing - make visible and treat a population of poor migrant settlers. Through this inquiry, I explore the ways in which internal borders produce the invisibility of precarious lives and how these zones of social abandonment can become critical turning spaces where the material existence and the forms of life of its inhabitants are played out.

Panel P090
Urban margins: new perspectives on the city