Transformative Political Spaces? Asambleas Populares, Identity, Alliances and Belonging in Buenos Aires
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This dissertation presents a feminist and postcolonial analysis of spaces of encounter and alliance across social difference by paying attention to asambleas populares [popular assemblies] in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. My work draws on scholarship related to space and identity, poverty politics and alliances, and citizenship to investigate the potential of these asambleas to challenge poverty and inequality both in their hegemonic discursive constructions as well as in their materiality. In my research, I pay close attention to the spatiality of the relationships in asambleas and investigate the ways their members negotiate coming in close proximity with difference - in terms of class, gender, and race - and with what effects. I argue that the socioeconomic and political crisis of 2001-02 represented a moment of rupture in the political imagination, creating a propitious context to overcome barriers to progressive politics for some sectors. The geohistorical context in which the asambleas emerged engendered the creation of spaces with potential for the disruption of middle-class class identities and political subjectivities. These changes happen through engagement over extended periods of time, and they require much work. They entail a profound critique of one's values and stereotypes about 'poor others.' They also spark increasing recognition of one's privilege and the workings of power structures that produce and re-produce poverty. At the same time, the characteristics of the asambleas in terms of organizing their work and building social relationships facilitate the practice of empathy, which I argue is a fundamental tool for the construction and maintenance of alliances across difference. Relationships of affections entangled with the work in the asambleas are deeply political, because they imply the recognition of difference in non-oppressive ways as well as self-awareness/critique in ways that contribute to re-subjectification and engagement with social change. Lastly, I argue that the non-hegemonic ways of organizing in these spaces as well as the work across difference disrupt normalized liberal understandings of citizenship, community and belonging, as much as they question the very foundations upon which the social order has been built in Argentina.
- Geography