Between catholic and meritocratic Argentina: facing precarity, assessing inequality through university aid volunteer programs
Sebastian Fuentes (UNTREF)
Paper short abstract:
The exchange relations dispossessed people built with wealthier students help both of them to dream of a better society, so their bonds produce a political imagination, and foster the awareness of social inequality.
Paper long abstract:
The Global humanitarian trends and regional shifts in social policies and economies have triggered new ways, motivations and places to "discover" precarity, like aid volunteer practices. Class inequality is found by university and privileged students in their weekly movements to poor urban and marginalized communities. By moving (temporally) to the slums in urban peripheries, precarity is tackled as an unfair present and future. Based on an ethnographic research among university students from middle and upper-middle class families, I recall to understand precarity as a relational experience built also by people from privileged sectors. The exchange relations dispossessed people built with wealthier students help both of them to dream of a better society, so their bonds produce a political imagination. Their friendship, framed by a political, educational and/or religious commitment, allows people from the "up" (Nader, 1969) to cope with a social inequality otherwise they wouldn´t know or care about. Student mobility is not only geographical/urban, but also moral, since the encounters with people facing unstable living conditions produces a shock and awareness about social inequality and the self-need to help (Malkki, 2015). Although there is an strong sense of individual worthiness in the helpers explanations of their practices, catholic ideologies and meritocratism in Argentinian society generate a context of meaning where inequality is assessed while facing "others" precarity. Catholicism recreates a community that makes possible the gather of rich and poor people, since it radial spread all through Latin-American slums and private elite oriented universities.
Beyond precarity: the politics of hope, care, and solidarity under conditions of unsettling (im)mobility [Anthropology of Labour Network]