Daniel M. Goldstein: Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a Bolivian City.
Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a Bolivian City
Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012, 327 pp.
In his new book, Outlawed, Daniel Goldstein examines the daily experiences of economic insecurity and fear of crime in the poor urban neighbourhood of Uspha Uspha in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Goldstein argues that, contrary to common assumptions that the state is absent from peripheral neighbourhoods of urban Bolivia, residents are in fact subject to a phantom state that places onerous responsibilities upon them but provides few benefits. At the same time, poor neighbourhood denizens are "outlawed": viewed by the state and urban elites as illegal residents, effectively non-citizens, who, out of savagery, carry out lynching of accused thieves. Throughout the book, Goldstein demonstrates that local residents in fact employ a great deal of creativity in developing practices for nonviolent methods of justice for confronting people they accuse of theft and violent crime. The book traces the ambivalence poor residents feel about violent and nonviolent methods of justice they use when the state fails to fulfill this responsibility. It places poor urbanites' dilemmas in the context of larger debates about human rights and community justice.
Concern about crime and the feeling of intense vulnerability it occasions has become one of the most salient features of daily life in Bolivia, as in much of Latin America. Many Bolivians have begun calling upon their governments for a right to "citizen security" (seguridad ciudadana)--freedom from crime. Goldstein emphasizes that, despite the rise to power of Evo Morales and the MAS party in 2005 on a platform of indigenous rights, an end to foreign corporate control over Bolivian natural resources, and the radical redistribution of wealth, the daily lives of the very poor in Bolivia have not markedly improved. Their only forms of employment--as itinerant merchants and underemployed tradespeople--leave them in an economically precarious situation, and the absence of government infrastructure, police, and other services in their neighbourhoods leave them subject to a pervasive anxiety about their physical safety and the sanctity of their hard-earned possessions and homes. As Goldstein argues, large swaths of urban areas in Bolivia, as in other Third World countries, are spaces of "organized abandonment," where residents can find neither government services in the form of road paving, sewers, streetlights, or a viable way to title the land they bought to build their homes. Nor can they depend on police to defend them from theft and violent attacks. At the same time, Goldstein highlights that these urban residents are subject to some of the most onerous and frustrating of citizenship responsibilities, required to navigate labyrinthine bureaucracies to legalize title to their house plots, to acquire identity cards, or to gain redress for crimes committed against them. Indigenous residents of Cochabamba's poor neighbourhoods have been "outlawed" by a state that is unwilling to extend full citizenship to them while requiring them to abide by citizenship responsibilities that are impossible to fulfill.
Part of Goldstein's project is to trace local debates in Bolivia over whether "rights" and "security" must remain mutually exclusive. The concept of "citizen security," in the parlance of the national government under Evo Morales and transnational development institutions, posits that rights and security are intertwined, rather than at odds with each other as they had been during the Cold War. Yet many poor Bolivians fear that human rights, defined by foreign institutions and Bolivian elites as the sanctity of individual life, contravene their own rights to live free of fear from criminals. In Chapter 6, Goldstein observes Uspha Uspha residents' intense frustration when seeking redress for crimes through local human rights institutions. While employees of human rights organizations are more accessible than are the notoriously unhelpful Bolivian police, poor residents are nonetheless turned away because their problems--having been sold a house with fraudulent deeds, or trying to recover stolen goods from their corner store--do not fit the transnational definition of human rights as state-inflicted harm upon citizens. Goldstein argues that, although poor residents employ a discourse of human rights when making broad claims for the redistribution of wealth and indigenous rights through social movements, when confronting their daily anxiety about crime they repudiate human rights as providing criminals with safety and security that they cannot obtain for themselves.
Outlawed also traces the ways in which local residents have become embroiled in debates over the meaning of "community justice" (justicia comunitaria) in Bolivia. The Morales administration has promoted the inclusion of purportedly traditional, rural, and indigenous forms of justice in the new Bolivian Constitution, passed in 2007. Yet Goldstein traces how the official notion of "community justice" is predicated upon a static and bounded idea of indigenous culture that limits "indigenous" identity to rural folk. When poor urban residents claim, meanwhile, that lynching is a legitimate form of "community justice," they are repudiated by more elite Bolivians on the basis that poor urbanites, by definition, cannot be indigenous and, therefore, cannot legitimately carry out "community justice."
While disputing that lynchings constitute community justice, Goldstein also shows that locally organized practices of justice-making in Bolivia have always been flexible and provisional. He further demonstrates that, contrary to representations of poor city residents as "savages" who participate in lynchings, most residents neither participate in lynchings nor condone violence against suspected criminals. He demonstrates how the residents of poor barrios have in fact creatively combined repertoires of action from various sources--detective TV shows, faint memories of their natal rural communities, and stereotypes of indigenous people--to create their own provisional means to avoid violence. Goldstein offers an astute and useful analysis of the eclectic way in which Bolivian urban residents employ bricolage, the use of different types of tactics from multiple sources, to deescalate confrontations between residents and accused thieves and rapists.
He convincingly argues that neighbourhood leaders and residents creatively respond to crime and fear of crime from multiple ideological, institutional, and media sources.
In summary, this book provides a thought-provoking examination of human rights, fear of crime, and the ways in which people create new forms of justice. Given that it addresses fear of and daily responses to crime, a central concern of many Latin Americans today, this book will be widely read by anthropologists as well as those interested in Latin America, inequality, and "post-neoliberalism." It should also be adopted in courses on criminal justice and inequality.
Miriam Shakow, The College of New Jersey
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|Publication:||Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2012|
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