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LACWG: The Color of Modernity: Populist Aesthetics and Security Infrastructures in Lima, Peru

June 4, 2020 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
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The Latin America and the Caribbean Working Group invite to its last session of the academic year, in which we will comment and provide feedback on the text:The Color of Modernity: Populist Aesthetics and Security Infrastructures in Lima, Peru (see abstract below) by Adela Zhang, Ph.D. Student – Department of Anthropology – Stanford University

We will meet THIS Thursday, June 4 at 5:00 PM (PST).

Those who participate in this session are expected to read the text and offer comments and questions to the author. The Q&A will be in Spanish and English.

** Please RSVP here to receive the Zoom link and the text that we will comment **

How do infrastructures “do” politics? Although much is made of infrastructure’s political potency (Larkin 2013), less is said about how infrastructure acquires this capacity for politicking. By examining the aesthetic practices deployed by municipal government agencies online, this paper explores how political actors in Peru use color and social media to imbue material infrastructures with meaning, a practice central to their efforts to craft political credibility out of hashtags. Materiality has been central to the theoretical discussion of infrastructures (Anand 2011; Harvey 2005). This paper, however, explores the infrastructural contributions of distinctly immaterial forms in animating the ideological work that built infrastructures are said to embody (Khan 2006). I argue that these relatively non-material visual practices manifest both a populist aesthetics and an aesthetic populism. In the case of Lima’s municipal police force (called the Serenazgo de Lima), livestreams, hashtags, colorful photo albums, and creative captions are employed to parlay presumably transparent online representations of material infrastructures like security cameras into political and institutional credibility, albeit with varying degrees of success. I find that these very efforts to build up an imagined public’s trust may in fact undermine such aims. Claims to transparency may be read as too transparent, with skeptical citizen-commentors not only openly challenging the Municipality but offering unauthorized counter-interpretations of the agency’s motivations. By emphasizing the aesthetic and relatively disembodied processes through which infrastructures do politics, this paper points to the fundamental ambivalence that informs color and social media as infrastructures for politics.

Event Sponsor: 
Center for Latin American Studies