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Accepted Paper:

Migrating towards Confianza: Trust relationships, the good life, and Salvadoran migration  
Claire Moll Namas (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

Arguing for a focus on “the good” in studies of migration, I show how Salvadorans leave their home country, in part, in search of relationships of confianza (deep trust) lacking amidst endemic gang violence. Privileging confianza over violence theoretically allows for a migrant centered analysis.

Paper long abstract:

Theorization of Salvadoran migration towards the United States often privileges US hegemonic power (see Bibler Cutin 2007). Although helpful in tracing the effects of globalization and neoliberalism, such analyses render Salvadoran migrants as suffering subjects (Robbins 2013) lacking agency (c.f. Arnold 2015). In short, according to these studies Salvadorans are unable to live a good life as opportunity structures (Fischer 2014) do not exist. In this paper, given ethnographic evidence drawn from fieldwork I conducted in rural El Salvador from 2018-2019, I argue that a focus on “the good” (Robbins 2013) can nuance our current understandings of migration as sites of suffering and power.

I hold that Salvadorans actively seek ways to live a good life amidst violence through creating confianza (deep, mutual, transactional trust) with one another. Confianza has become international due to decades of migration away from El Salvador. Because confianza dictates what kinds of transactions one can take part in, the types of conversations one has, and how one can dodge threats of gang violence, Salvadorans remaining in El Salvador must decide where their strongest bonds of confianza are located and if they will follow them across borders. Through this focus on confianza and the pursuit of the good life amidst violence, my analysis relocates agency away from global structures back to the migrants themselves. By interweaving the good with the suffering, I hold that this paper may act as a bridge between past studies of Salvadoran migration and the anthropology of the good.

Panel P003c
Beyond the 'Suffering Subject' in Migration Research III
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -