The Spectacular City

Violence and Performance in Urban Bolivia

The Spectacular City

Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 23 b&w photos, 1 map Published: August 2004

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Andes, Theater and Performance

Since the Bolivian revolution in 1952, migrants have come to the city of Cochabamba, seeking opportunity and relief from rural poverty. They have settled in barrios on the city’s outskirts only to find that the rights of citizens—basic rights of property and security, especially protection from crime—are not available to them. In this ethnography, Daniel M. Goldstein considers the significance of and similarities between two kinds of spectacles—street festivals and the vigilante lynching of criminals—as they are performed in the Cochabamba barrio of Villa Pagador. By examining folkloric festivals and vigilante violence within the same analytical framework, Goldstein shows how marginalized urban migrants, shut out of the city and neglected by the state, use performance to assert their national belonging and to express their grievances against the inadequacies of the state’s official legal order.

During the period of Goldstein’s fieldwork in Villa Pagador in the mid-1990s, residents attempted to lynch several thieves and attacked the police who tried to intervene. Since that time, there have been hundreds of lynchings in the poor barrios surrounding Cochabamba. Goldstein presents the lynchings of thieves as a form of horrific performance, with elements of critique and political action that echo those of local festivals. He explores the consequences and implications of extralegal violence for human rights and the rule of law in the contemporary Andes. In rich detail, he provides an in-depth look at the development of Villa Pagador and of the larger metropolitan area of Cochabamba, illuminating a contemporary Andean city from both microethnographic and macrohistorical perspectives. Focusing on indigenous peoples’ experiences of urban life and their attempts to manage their sociopolitical status within the broader context of neoliberal capitalism and political decentralization, The Spectacular City highlights the deep connections between performance, law, violence, and the state.


“Daniel Goldstein’s recent study of ‘dramas of citizenship’ in periurban Bolivia makes important contributions across a range of ethnographic and theoretical issues.” — Mark Goodale, American Anthropologist

“Situated within one of the most serious economic crises of contemporary Bolivia, this ethnography relates the causes of urban migration to national and global neoliberal transformations.” — Gabriela Zamorano, PoLAR

"[A] path-breaking ethnography of Andean Bolivia. . . . The rich contributions of The Spectacular City will appeal to specialists of development, violence, state formation, indigeneity, and Latin America, and the book is suitable for both undergraduate and graduate training." — Bret Gustafson, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Vivid. . . . This is a thoroughly researched and well written work. . . . Scholars interested in neoliberal Latin America, urban studies and legal anthropology will want to read this book. The rich ethnographic descriptions, historical depth, transparent methodology, and well theorized comparison of the two seemingly different spectacles also make the book a very useful one for the classroom." — Douglas C. Hertzler, Journal of Latin American Anthropology

"Goldstein's perspectives on spectacle and violence provide an analytical framework that enriches the study of identity construction, development and marginalization in Latin America." — Juan Thomas Ordóñez, Anthropological Quarterly

"This is a beautifully written and thoughtful book. . . . This book will be of great interest to Bolivianists and to Latin American scholars in general, as it explores issues of interest across the continent, such as citizenship, social movements, and urban migration." — Nancy Postero, The Americas

"This is a superbly written and thought-provoking ethnographic study. . . ." — Dennis Rodgers, Journal of Latin American Studies

"This is a superbly written and thought-provoking ethnographic study. . . ." — Dennis Rodgers, Journal of Latin American Studies

The Spectacular City is a highly original contribution to the ethnography of law, violence, and the state. Goldstein explores the connections between localism and violence both as situated action and as genres of performance, resulting in a nuanced analysis of politics between state and nonstate forms.” — Carol Greenhouse, coeditor of Ethnography in Unstable Places: Everyday Lives in Contexts of Dramatic Political Change

“Fascinating and rich in ethnographic detail, The Spectacular City is particularly important at this moment because it examines the increase in common crime that has accompanied the consolidation of neoliberal capitalism in Latin America. Although it is widely appreciated that crime has gotten worse, there are very few anthropological studies that explore this phenomenon at the local level.” — Lesley Gill, author of The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Daniel M. Goldstein is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Becoming Visible in Neoliberal Bolivia 1

1. Ethnography, Governmentality, and Urban Life 29

2. Urbanism, Modernity, and Migration to Cochabamba 53

3. Villa Sebastian Pagador and the Politics of Community 90

4. Performing National Culture in the Fiesta de San Miguel 134

5. Spectacular Violence and Citizen Security 179

Conclusion: Theaters of Memory and the Violence of Citizenship 215

Notes 225

References 239

Index 265
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3370-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3360-9
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