Pregnancy & Birth

 

Pregnancy and Birth: My Biomedical Experience

            Sita Venkateswar has written that “events which occur in the present often appear intrinsically different from events which occurred in the past” (2014).  Looking back a year later, I can recognize that my memories of giving birth have undergone considerable change, to the point where they have become hazy with time.  What has not been diminished, however, are the conflicting emotions which I felt.  These alternated between feelings of =trength and fear, and interestingly, each one resulted in my viewing of the pregnancy in a different manner.  These differing viewpoints are also visible within the field of Biomedicine, the West’s dominant form of medicine. Its success at understanding biology has lead to its treatment of many illnesses, however this has come at the price of extended suffering and the general fearing of our bodies.  On the other hand, its evolution has been a process which has today come full circle to include more humane practices which thus promote empathy and strength.  I experienced being pregnant and giving birth under the latter form of Biomedicine, of which shall be detailed at length in the essay below.

I fell pregnant in late 2012.  It came as a shock considering that I did not menstruate often, and after a number of tests doctors had told me I was likely to be infertile.  I was also taking a contraceptive pill on the off chance that I might fall pregnant while living and studying in South America. I have taken this pill throughout my life despite it causing me a number of side effects including dizziness and anxiety, of which my childhood doctor had assured me were the results of vertigo and depression.  His lack of interest in these symptoms caused me a great amount of distress in the past as I felt conflicted between trusting my body and trusting my doctor.  In a nutshell, I was left wary of my own reality because of my doctor’s refusal to validate my words (Cassell, 1982: 641).  This was not a personal fault of my doctor – instead it highlights the very issue with Biomedicine in its original form.  It is a philosophy that separates the mind from the body and then the body into distinct pieces that can be observed and classified (Gaines & Davis-Floyd, 2003: 40).  This segregating of the body continues until at its simplest it is a form of diagnostics at a biological level (Gaines & Davis-Floyd, 2003: 1). This bears more than a passing resemblance to the industrialization period in which it flourished; it removed any possibility of a connection between mind, body and spirit until Biomedicine had effectively reduced “the patient to a silent sum of mechanistic parts” (Mantri 2008, 4).  However, when I became pregnant it grew more and more clear to me just how intertwined these components actually were, and that it was paramount to have them working together in a successful partnership. If not, then the notion of suffering on a number of levels would not be an uncommon outcome of my medical care (Cassell, 1982: 639).  It was therefore necessary for me to find the right type of prenatal care for both myself and the developing baby.

First and foremost it was necessary for me to visit a general practitioner in Chile to confirm the pregnancy.  I was not a regular patient of this doctor and the surgery was a busy, private one.  He informed me that to do this an interior ultrasound would be performed then and there.  I agreed for two reasons.  The first being that I recognised that whatever prejudices I may have towards the field of Biomedicine, I could not escape the fact that I have grown up in a society which values the “scientifically supported explanations … grounded in science” (Mantri, 2008: 1). It is precisely this which lead me to my second reason: my inherited dependence upon modern medicine, its specialists and technologies which had resulted in my alienation from my own body.   This is the cornerstone of Foucaldian medical anthropology which concerns itself with the dilemma of the body being “an object to know rather than a knowing object” (Venkateswar, 2014: 6).  In other words, my ability to hear and then to understand the messages my body may have been telling me had become defunct after a lifetime of being silenced by Biomedicine.  I had effectively spent twenty-five years learning that how my body felt was not as relevant as how my body looked on the internal level, of which the only people qualified to see were the medical establishment (Venkateswar, 2014: 7).   As my ability to ‘know’ my body had became silenced, “power over the body had been transferred from the patient to the physician” (Mantri, 2008: 2). There are numerous repercussions that such power transferences have and as such Foucalt has defined us as living “in a biopolitical age” (Rose, 2001: 9).  One prominent issue is that medical science has become an “inegoliterian social organization through which a very small number of people have acquired tremendous power over the bodies and minds of a very large number” (Venkateswar, 2014: 1).  This is especially worrying given that much of Biomedicine “has not been based upon scientific evidence but on medical habits and tendencies, ingrained popular beliefs” (Gaines & Davis-Floyd, 2003: 4). At the time of my vaginal ultrasound, I felt strongly uncomfortable as though my body was being invaded (in a manner of speaking it was) and I felt this way because I had not mentally accepted my pregnancy.  I inwardly struggled against the doctor and as a result found the experience painful and conflicting.  For this reason, I made up my mind to return to New Zealand in the hope that I would feel stronger and thus better equipped to deal with situations of this kind.

This was not to be the final time I had to relinquish control of my body.  Once in New Zealand I was told by my childhood doctor to take folic acid supplements and a number of other vitamins.  I declined the vitamins but acquiesced to the folic acid.  I decided on a popular midwife known for her natural, empowering homebirths.  My doctor turned outspoken and borderline nasty at this decision because firstly a natural birth would be doubtful for my first baby, and secondly because this particular midwife was known for not vaccinating her own children.  This was a confronting experience because I felt as though decisions were being taken from me on multiple levels. Although we have the freedom to make many choices in New Zealand, this does not infer that such choices can be made quietly or independently.  Paul Starr explains this is because Biomedicine “spills over its clinical boundaries into arenas of moral and political action of which medical judgement is only partially relevant and often incompletely equipped” (1982: 5).  At every stage in my pregnancy my unborn child and I were to be examined and documented.  My family history was to be dissected, numerous bloodtests would be taken, diabetes checks would be done and ultrasounds would be performed. At this early stage of my pregnancy, the health of the foetus was paramount to all.  Nikolas Rose writes that pregnant women are subject to strict surveillance in order to gauge what risk group they and their child may fall into (2001: 9).  The second ultrasound was especially important, as it is “used to detect anomalies … associated with a disorder” (Rose, 2001: 12). I found this to be a worrying test ethically, as anything other than ‘normal’ was likely to be warranted a candidate for abortion.  However, Rose writes that these tests are themselves inconclusive and therefore raise the issue of “biopolitics [that] becomes ethopolitics” (2001: 12).  For this reason, I declined these tests.

The appointments with my midwife started mid-pregnancy. She was a midwife operating enough within the sphere to be considered Biomedicine, but enough without it to be labelled alternative and humane.  In other words, she did “not reject biomedicine but enlarged its scope to incorporate the patients psychological and social aspects” (Marcum, 2008: 393).  Within my town she is (mostly) well-respected, and has in fact been a university teacher of midwifery.  Her popularity comes from “the combined effects of growing consumer demand … [which have] provided the conditions for the entry of alternative practitioners” (Mizrachi et al, 2005: 38).  What I remember most distinctly about these meetings with her is that she encouraged me to embrace the numerous changes in my body as necessary to prepare me for birth.  These changes also meant that I felt I was being well-equipped to do what nature had intended me to do.  As such, I felt increasingly safe and strong in her presence and never once did I feel that my transference of power to her was invasive.  However, despite her efforts all around me I was given ample opportunities to be fearful. Many friends had difficult pregnancies with many medical interventions – some even had problems exacerbated by physicians. The general talk around pregnancy was fearful. On the television each week screened a hospital birthing programme that began to terrify me and cause me to doubt my abilities.  As time neared my due date I was torn between these two polarising emotions of fear and strength and as such veered among empowerment and despair.  Eric Cassell has written that this trend towards fear is typical of Biomedicine, as physicians fail to acknowledge that suffering can occur in a myriad of forms and as such Biomedicine treatments become “a source of suffering itself” (1982: 639).

Thomas R. Egnew writes that the humane physician evolves “from expert problem-solver and fixer to servant and companion” and nowhere was this clearer than during my labour experience (2009: 3). I laboured at home and was close to breaking point when my midwife appeared. She was instantly my pillar of strength and calmed me down. She drove me to a one-room provincial hospital where I alternated between a warm pool and the bed. I felt scared but at no point did I feel that I was not capable.  Perhaps the strongest sensation I had was that of my body overpowering my mind. Suddenly, my mind was quiet and my body was working of its own accord, which was challenging given that I had lived distrusting any signals my body had previously given me. This is a common conundrum during labour when women “feel out of control, when the pain is overwhelming, when the source of the pain is unknown” (Cassell, 1982: 641).  However this is not to say that my mind was redundant during labour because as the feelings intensified it became increasingly important for me to unite my mind with my body by focusing on each sensation within the moment.  I believe in hindsight that this is what enabled me to achieve a drug-free labour.  My midwife encouraged the strengthening of this bond by always encouraging, listening, supporting and validating the words I said, effectively creating “antibodies against illness and pain” (Egnew, 2009: 4). My experience therefore was healthy because this connection was allowed to flourish intact without being separated into “barely connected domains” (Mantri, 2008: 3).

I had a healthy, strong baby in September 2013, in a darkened room and in the pool.  I pulled him out of the water myself and lay with him for many minutes on my chest, before moving to the bed and feeding him. I look back to this surreal moment and can barely believe that it happened, let alone that I achieved it. After this experience with a holistic-leaning midwife I feel stronger than ever that when pregnancies are healthy the resulting birth can be equally as healthy without the need for constant intervention.  Biomedicine in its traditional form seeks to discern the cause of problems at its smallest level and to achieve this it often pushes away all of its connecting pieces.  Pregnancy and birth, in my view, cannot be judged solely on this level because it requires much more than just a functioning body to be achieved: it also requires a functioning mind.  Xavier Bichat said that “what is observation if we are ignorant of the place where the evil is seated?” and this quote sums up the fundamental flaw of Biomedicine with regards to pregnancy and birth (Mantri, 2008: 3).  They are not evil and regarding them as evil only births fear and then suffering.  Biomedicine is necessary, yes, but my experience has shown that positive results on behalf of all are possible when it does not exclude the fact that human beings at their core are holistic in nature.

 

Bibliography

Cassell, Eric (1982). “The nature of suffering and the goals of medicine”.  New England   Journal of Medicine. 306 (11): 639-645. Print.

Egnew, Thomas R (2009). “Suffering, meaning and healing”. Annal of Family Medicine.  7           (2) 17-174.  Print.

Gaines, Atwood D. and Robbie Davis-Floyd (2003).  “On biomedicine.” Encyclopedia of

            Medical Anthropology.  eds. Carol and Melvin Ember. Yale: Human Relations Area           Files. Print.

Mantri, Sneha (2008) “History of medicine”. American Medical Association Journal of      Ethics.  10: 3. Print.

Marcum, James A (2008). “Reflections on humanizing biomedicine”. Perspectives in         Biology and Medicine. 51 (3) pp. 392-405.  Print.

Mizrachi, Nissim, Judith T. Shuval, and Sky Gross (2005).  “Boundary at work: alternative           medicine in biomedical settings”.  Sociology of Health and Illness. 27 (1) 20-43.             Print.

Rose, Nikolas (2001).  “The politics of life itself”. Theory Culture Society.  18 (1).  Print.

Starr, Paul D. (1982). The Social Transformation of American Medicine. New York: Basic             Books. Pages 3-29, 420-449.  Print.

Venkateswar, Sita (2014).  Medical Systems of China, India and the West Study Guide.      Topic Seven. Massey University.  Palmerston North: New Zealand. Print.

Death Through The Ages: Journey with Grim Reaper

Death’s Diary:

A look into the mind of the Grim Reaper as he travels across years, cultures and spaces to assist departing souls.

399 BC Athens, Ancient Greece

Socrates had only been a blip on my radar.  I knew his time was near given his age (70) and I knew that his risk factor was slightly higher because of his public persona status, but I have to be honest and say that I hadn’t give much thought to him at all.  I’ve been quite busy in general over the last hundred years or so, although not so much in Greece thanks to their excellent medical advances (I’ve also been enjoying my rest time so that I’m alert for the upcoming Plague of Athens). When Socrates’ trial began the atmosphere was electric, especially because Socrates was a dynamic speaker and there was alot of emotion involved by the prosecutors. I enjoyed the trial immensely and am glad that Plato was there to note the atmosphere down – I’m looking forward to what he will write. However, I never really thought Socrates would die! I felt his convictions growing stronger and stronger as the trial continued, but when he willingly drank that poison I felt so in a state of shock that I was a bit slow to act!  Patriotic and true to his word until the very end, he came with me stoic, proud and oblivious to the feelings he’d left behind.

1870 Staithes, United Kingdom[1]

I thought I would include this sleepy Yorkshire village in my journal because a) the sea air always relaxes my soul and b) the women are a wonderful example of how death is not an individual phenomenon. Whenever I arrive and witness them in the midst of caring for their dying with vigour and then preparing the corpses, I feel both in awe and overwhelmingly tired. It’s always fascinating to me to see how humans dispose of the body afterwards, but generally I expect a bit of a show.  I remember the years before when even the Neanderthals left shells and tools and coloured their deceased with ochre! (De Spelder & Strickland, 1983: 35).  Now in Staithes they wash the body thoroughly, tie up the jaw and adorn it with Maltese lace and a pleated sheet. The women announce and prepare the funeral, often bear the coffin, and serve funeral food (of which the Madeira cake I would love to eat if I had physical form!)  In their black and white clothes and hats, these female bearers form an imposing V – virtuous and strong – before taking to their homes in solitude and mourning for as long as they deem necessary. Such team spirit!

1883 Munich, Germany[2]

During the last few years the world has changed rapidly. They are calling this time an “Industrial Age” and it has brought about many changes for me. Firstly, I seem to be taking many adults as a result of work-related accidents and secondly, death itself has been called into question. Do you know that I hear people asking when is someone dead?! I scoffed at first (of course I did – I’m Death personified) but then I began to wonder. Given that I am immortal and without corporeal form, this is something I have never really thought about before. People come to me when their time is up, plain and simple. However, I can see the confusion. Sometimes the body stops but the mind does not, sometimes the soul leaves but the body ticks on.  It’s a conundrum that has puzzled the world and in the process sparked some imaginations, as in the case of Edgar Allen Poe or the people of Transylvania who have begun encountering “vampires” among them (Kastenbaum, 2001: 36).  I am currently in Munich where the local death-houses have constructed the most unorthodox methods for determining whether death really is death. A guard will sit watch over corpses whom have a tiny ring on one finger which is then attached to a bell – should a person happen to not really be dead they will thus inadvertently sound the bell by moving (Kastenbaum, 2001: 36). Obviously I know when one is truly dead so my time there is brief, but I have stayed long enough times to witness the morbid waiting of the watchmen, his eyes like pallid lights in the gloom, quivering when the sudden clamour sounds (Twain, 1883 in Kastenbaum, 2001: 36)!

1970 Staithes, United Kingdom (update)

I try not to double up in my journal (think of how long it would be otherwise!) but I feel compelled to write of the change that has affected the world. Funerals are not quite the family affair they used to be and instead are becoming quite the money vehicle for professionals (Aries, 1974:99). Even in my beloved Staithes I have noticed a change over the past years! The women are no longer overseeing the preparation of the corpse or bearing the coffin – and worst of all they are not making more Madeira cake (Cline, 1995: 44).  I am unsure of how I feel about this, particularly when so much of the world is turning to cremation and the appointment of funeral directors to do everything.

1991 Winchester, United Kingdom[3]

I always find the United Kingdom a beautiful place to visit, but lately my trips there have not been very straightforward. The following is a good case in point.  I have had a woman named Mrs Lillian Boyes on my list for a while now.  To say that she has been sick would be an understatement.  Her rheumatoid arthritis was one of the worst British professionals had ever seen, and her condition was made worse by the presence of septicaemia, gangrene and body abscesses. When I arrived her screams were unlike anything I had ever heard before and it was so bad that even heroin (given as pain relief) offered her no comfort. I heard her begging – pleading – to be allowed to die and I have to admit that even to me her plight was distressing. I waited many days, my ears ringing with her cries. When she refused mediation five days ago, I readied myself to work -now, surely, my time had come to step in. But nothing happened! Mrs Boyes’ heart was beating as it was when I’d first arrived and I could see that Doctor Cox was at his wits end. He just did not know ethically how to proceed. On August 16 he entered the room looking calm, serious but tense, as a man who’d accepted a grave decision, and I knew then that he’d decided to give her what she was begging for. As the potassium chloride entered her bloodstream I drifted over to her, and her eyes met mine. I took her soul quickly and she came to me without looking back. Before I left I looked to her doctor, sitting on the chair beside her bed, exhausted. I nodded my head to him in acknowledgment of his act as I went, going past the nurse who was hurriedly leaving to report him for what he’d done.

2006 Kerikeri, New Zealand[4]

They say that variety is the spice of life and for me that is certainly true. What makes my job interesting is the fact that no matter where I go, mourning is never the same. Although human, there are so many influencing factors that determine this process like situation, life experience, gender, culture, customs, religion, society etc.  The New Zealand Maori always fascinate me – how I recall the days when I would eagerly watch their traditional war dance ‘the haka’ before my work would begin.  Their deaths are usually large, family affairs and the great wail “haeremai” that heralds their funerals will often linger in my ears for hours afterwards.  However in these years of global culture, the internet and weakening borders, sometimes it is difficult for me to gauge substantial differences between people in life. Death has thus emerged as a time to re-associate with one’s culture. In the case of the Maori, they harken back to creation beliefs that was overwritten during colonisation whereby there is a different connection between person and place to what is now accepted. The writer P. Beatson describes this as an umbilical cord with the land which connects the Maori to their ancestors in Hawaiki, their gods and demi-gods and the cosmos (1989). To them, I am called “Hine-nui-te-Po and they come to me with what I term ‘reluctant willingness’ (Beatson, 1989: 628).  When I am not working – which is rare – I read, and this line strikes me as apt to describe the Maori attitude: “I go but do not weep. No weeping, it is my time” (Mataira, 1984 in Beatson, 1989: 628).

Reflections

The above journal entries have been imagined in the voice of the Grim Reaper, a popular personification of Death.  Death is a figure that has taken many forms: from the feared and disfigured through to field labourer with scythe (Van Gogh), from the dancing skeleton to the harpies of Homer (Kastenbaum, 2001: 49). Here I have written Death as a gender-neutral conversational voice with a touch of loneliness. Through Death I have highlighted suicide, the biomedical approach, mourning and funeral rites, euthanasia and Maori ritual, because I feel that they provide an interesting overview of the many layers that are involved in a study of death and dying.  I shall now briefly look at each in turn, with my own reflections.

I chose to begin with the death of Socrates, who willingly accepted death by poison as one of the most famous acts of suicide in history.  I described his personal response as pride, not only because he stood by his convictions but because academics note that there was a general feeling of honour towards suicides amongst many Ancient Greek and Romans (Johnson, 1994: 253).  However, this death could also be viewed as a form of heroic death, which is affirmed by the understanding that society acts as a vehicle for symbolic hero-making through the use of customs and norms (Becker, 1973 in Seale, 1995: 597). The sociologist Giddens (1991) wrote that death upset the easy passage towards individual hero-making because of its anxiety inducing effect, however this was often eased by religion’s gift of a higher purpose (in Seale, 1995: 598). In modern times, the lessening of religious ties has prompted some academics to propose that death has become taboo (Aries, 1974) or even pornographic (Gorer, 1955). Others, such as Seale assert that there are ample opportunities today for individuals to create narratives whereby they rise above death after a struggle, thus showing great courage (1995: 602).  Although Socrates lived before the ‘modern’ time, he chose to die because his words were his beliefs, and therefore they were afforded more power as he died ‘heroically.’

       There are many ways to interpret Biomedical approaches but I decided to base this entry on Mark Twain’s writing because it seemed highly visual while also appearing somewhat comical. Michel Foucault sums up Biomedicine as a “new medical spirit with the discovery of pathological anatomy, which seemed to define it in its essentials” (1975: 124). In the scene I describe it is possible to witness that a) the corpse is no longer in the hands of the family and b) that death has become mechanized.  This last refers to what P. Aries explains as a “technical phenomenon (…) a series of little steps, which finally makes it impossible to know which step was the real death” (1974: 88).  Further, the passage demonstrates how the individual (or their family) no longer has any autonomy, for their return to life remains in the hands of the watchman, a member of the medical team and an outsider, and always on the lookout to obtain an ‘acceptable death’ and one that avoids any embarrassment to the living (Aries, 1974: 89).

       I included Staithes to provide an image of one of the many funeral and mourning practices in existence.  However I also included Death as being appreciative of their efforts given that their clinging to tradition and burials contrasted them against the vast majority of areas who were preferring “paid professionalism” (Cline, 1995: 44). For example, in the seventies funeral practices underwent sudden metamorphosis which saw men replace women in ritual, along with the inclusion of a funeral director who took care of the corpse (Cline, 1995: 44).  As years have continued to pass, Clines notes that Staithes has continued to bury their dead despite “the trend towards a more clinical impersonal standardisation of death (…) to which such moral matters have been placed in the hands of male professionals” (1995:44). I understand this point as directly relating to my paragraph on Biomedicine, in which power has been transferred away from the family and individual and into “the masters of death” (Aries, 1974: 89).

Euthanasia was not an easy topic to write, mainly because thinking about it too deeply was upsetting. I cannot even imagine being in the kind of pain or despair that would cause me to want to end my life. It was also a topic that the media consumes rapidly, so there were many vivid options to choose from. This is interesting as it brought to life the idea that the media latches on to images of death and sends it out widely as public discourse, while at the same time these topics are not referred to in the private sphere (Walter, Littlewood & Pickering, 1995: 593). It was this that made me think of Gorer’s ‘Pornography of death’ claim. Gorer refers to pornography as“shameful or absorrent, so that it can never be discussed or referred to openly” and this is a claim that applies to euthanasia, as shown in the case of Mrs Boyes (Gorer, 1995: 19).  Gorer adds that pornography is “clandestine” – which would apply to those committing the act (in this instance Doctor Cox) – however I am hesitant to say that anyone would have felt “pleasurable guilt or guilty pleasure” afterwards (Gorer, 1995: 20). For this reason, I described Death viewing the Doctor as tired and weary but also satisfied – the job was now over and there would now be no more “feelings of guilt and unworthiness” (Gorer, 1995: 20).

There were many modern day examples I could have written about next but I chose to look at the experience of Maori with death and dying because it allowed me to draw comparisons between worldviews, and how these shape our approaches to what death is.  It is interesting that Maori choose death as a time to assert customs which are slowly disappearing from practice, although Beatson writes that this is because death is the moment when one’s cosmic relationship becomes more visible (1989: 58). Death is the moment that causes people to turn to religion, spirituality or something of comfort, and for the Maori they remember that human life is part of a circle that wraps around both geography and the past (Beatson, 1989: 58). This idea allows the Maori to reconnect with their cosmic genealogy, in which they are connected centrally (Beatson, 1989: 59). Beatson believes that its purpose is not only spiritual but political: it “work[s] to confer a central position in the universal scheme of things upon the Maori, who have been marginalized in Western cosmology” (1989: 55). This would apply on numerous levels, the most paramount being that the Maori are trying to assert themselves independently from their European colonisers.

Each diary entry has been selected to showcase the pattern that attitudes towards death and dying has followed over the years. From the time when death was accepted and even welcomed by autonomous beings (suicide) through to its inclusion into Biomedicine and the movement of the deathbed; the strong ritual and public mourning exhibited by the living, through to the quietening of private discourse and the contradictory shouting of the media.  Finally, to show the use of death as a political agent to strengthen cultural and societal bonds which have been struggling against the threat of extinction. This has been a paper which has caused me to think about not only what it means to die but what it means to live – to be human – and it seems evident from the tightly interwoven nature of the dead and the living left behind that this relationship is not so different after all.

 

References

Aries, P. Western Attitudes toward Death from The Middle Ages to The Present, London:          Marion Boyars, 1974.

Beatson, P. ‘The Politics of the Supernatural’ in The Healing Tongue: Themes in           Contemporary Maori Literature, Palmerston North, Sociology Department, Massey     University, 1989, pp. 57-67.

Cline, S. Lifting The Taboo: Women, Death and Dying, London: Little Brown and        Company, 1995, Chapter 2.

De Spelder, L.A. & Strickland, A.L. The Last Dance: Encountering Death and             Dying, California: Mayfield, 1983, Chapter 2. ELIAS, N. The Loneliness of The     Dying, Oxford: Blackwell, 1985.

Foucalt, M. The Birth of the Clinic, London: Vintage, 1975, Chapter 8.

Gorer, G. (1995, 4th edition). “The Pornography of Death” in J.B. Williamson and         Shneidman, E.S. Death: Current Perspectives.  California> Mayfield.  pp. 18-22.

Johnson, M.J. Bioethics a nursing perspective, Sydney: Harcourt Brace, 1994 (second   edition), Chapter 12.

Kastenbaum, R.J. Death, Society and Human Experience, Sydney: Allyn and Bacon,    1995 (fifth edition), Chapter 2.

Marks, Kathy. Doctor’s dilemma of pain or death: Dr Nigel Cox will be sentenced   today for the attempted murder of one of his patients, 70-year-old Lillian Boyes. The      Independent. 21 September 1992. Retrieved 10 June 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/doctors-dilemma-of-pain-or-death-dr-       nigel-cox-will-be-sentenced-today-for-the-attempted-murder-of-one-of-his-patients-         70yearold-lillian-boyes-kathy-marks-looks-back-at-his-trial-1552676.html

Oppenheim, R.S. Maori Death Customs, Wellington, Reed, 1993, Part Two.

Seale, C. ‘Heroic Death’, Sociology, Vol. 29, No.4, pp.597-613, 1995.

Walter T.; Littlewood, J.; & Pickering, M. ‘Death in the News: The Public         Investigation of Private Emotion’ Sociology, 29(4), November 1995.

Additional Reading

1880’s. Wikipedia. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015 from:    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1880s

Euthanasia Cases (2006). Chris Docker (ed). Retrieved 10 June 2015 from:        http://www.euthanasia.cc/cases.html

Giddens, A. Capitalism and Modern Social Theory, Cambridge, Cambridge University             Press, 1974, pp. 10-15, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 14.

Plague of Athens. Wikipedia. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015 from:        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_of_Athens

Rachels, J. (1993). ‘Euthanasia’ in Regan, T. (eds), Matters of Life and Death, New York,         McGraw-Hill, Chapter 2.

[1] Case study by David Clark in S. Clines 1995

[2] Based on Mark Twain n Kastenbaum 2001

[3] Case of Lillian Boyes http://www.euthanasia.cc/cases.html

[4] Based on R.S. Oppenheim (1993)

Globalisation & India’s Middle Class

You may be wondering how this essay connects to a blog about Chile. On the one hand it doesn’t – I am just trying to empty out my overflowing hard drive and don’t want to press delete permanently. But as I upload this I can see that there are numerous parallels that can be made to the situation currently occurring in Santiago. Enjoy!

Effects of Globalisation Upon the Evolving Social Landscape of India’s Middle Class:

            Out of all the possible arenas one could choose to explore further, none (in my view) are more topically relevant than that of globalisation. It provides a good entry point towards understanding a culture that is not one’s own given that all the globe is experiencing it to some degree.  However, India is a nation so large and diverse that there are numerous factors effecting, and being affected by, the event of globalisation which make understanding it a convoluted lesson involving religion, history and socio-cultural constructs like caste. To help matters, I shall be focusing only upon the effects of globalisation upon the middle class strata of India’s mega-cities, and I shall be observing their present day state rather than their previous conditions.  Although there are many aspects to this issue, below I shall be examining only three and the part they have played in the construction of a new social identity.  I shall look at how identity is created, the changing physical environment including new work spaces, and the shared social anxieties that binds these people together.  I will use this data to make the claim that globalisation has evolved the middle class into a previously unknown class archetype.

I would like to begin by recalling my own memories from a trip to India in 2009. Before disembarking the plane I, like many other New Zealanders, envisaged an exotic land. My mind conjured up pictures of a ‘Jungle Book’ like world, with lush jungles, decorated elephants and small villages with women in saris balancing jugs on their heads. However I also pictured dense cities beneath a cloud of grey, whispers of terrorist activity and huge swarms of faceless people. In short, I hat two rather distinct sets of predispositions about India: the first being vivid and romantic and the latter dull and disconcerting. The India that was before me when I disembarked was neither.  As we raced through steams of traffic, I was terrified by begging children and transvestites, and by the cacophony of sounds, sights and smells that jammed my senses.  However when we arrived at my friend Swati’s apartment in a highrise block in one of Mumbai’s numerous outlying suburbs, it was cool and calm.  There was Big Bang Theory playing on the television and Swati’s husband Ashish was playing games on his iPhone (and this was before Apple became famous in New Zealand). I realised that there was a huge disparity between what I had imagined, experienced outside and what I was now seeing. As I soaked up the atmosphere during my month’s stay, it seemed as though there were multiple worlds existing simultaneously. There is no better example to visualise this juxtaposition than the case of my friend Swati, who would get dressed in jeans and labelled American tshirt before putting on her sari or salwar kameez over the top.

My friends Swati and Ashish represent Mumbai’s new middle class. I refer to it as ‘new’ because its current form has specific codes of practice that have formed over the last ten years or so (McGuire, 2011: 119). While it is not known whether the middle class has actually increased in number, what is clear is that their position is highly visible and thus it stands to reason that importance is placed upon appearance (McGuire, 2011: 119).  Its appearance in today’s India is due to economic liberalization that began in 1991 and prompted multinational companies to enter India in search of workers who could be hired at a fraction of the cost as elsewhere in the Western world (McGuire, 2011: 119).  The economist Gurucharan Das identifies these workers as educated English speakers who have thus been able to enter into positions of relative affluence due to the “the opportunities opened by technology and globalization” (2001, in McGuire, 2011: 119).  The new middle class includes multiple communities and values which are then brought together by shared educational and work backgrounds, and consumption patterns (Donner, 2011: 1).  Such rapid change has meant that actors are currently in the process of forming new identities based upon their class position, which is often expressed through modes of dress, language usage and choices of consumption (Donner, 2011: 2).  Anthropologist Meredith McGuire refers to these outward expressions of identity as a performance that is “constituted by consumer and entrepreneurial practices that are played out in public (2011: 120).  She gives drinking coffee in Barista coffeehouses as an example, whereby it is not the act of drinking coffee that constitutes membership to the middle class but the act of drinking there (McGuire, 2011: 120).  Status is then attributed. Further, the actor is attributed the characteristic of tenacity, of one who has worked hard,  as the popular notion is that being poor (or in poverty) is a choice made  by refusing to work hard (Gibson, 2011: 68).

The acquiring of status is not unique to India’s middle class – it naturally occurs during the process of social interaction.  Professor Robyn Andrews explains that social interaction forms the basis of ethnic identity and is “shaped through a dialectic between ‘similarity and difference’” (2010: 181).  Prejudices arise as status’ are judged – status’ regarding gender, age, ethnicity and occupation (Andrews, 2010: 181).  While Andrews uses the example of Anglo-Indians to illustrate her point, the claim that there is a “preconception of what others think of them, in turn, [which] helps them to form their idea of themselves” applies equally to the case of the new middle class (2010: 185).  While the Anglo-Indians use this to distance themselves from non-Anglo-Indians, the middle classes use it to separate themselves into a new group that is characterized by the weakening of traditional loyalties and obligations (Mishra, 2011: 175).   Numerous opportunities in the workplace allow the middle class to afford the plethora of consumption options available, therefore leading to the idea that more self-autonomy is possible through the avenue of class identity (Mishra, 2011: 175).  The acquiring of public status is known as a form of ‘social capital’ that thus allows for movement in the social sphere, trumping even caste-based distinctions that, until a few years ago, still held overarching importance in the balance of the social landscape (Gibson, 2011: 67).

It is precisely this indiscriminate nature of acquiring social capital that has lead to the dramatic urban migration that has taken place throughout India.  Mumbai is India’s largest population hub and the second most densely populated city in the world (Chalana, 2010: 1).  Its continued growth has been due to the appeal of mega-cities as a place to find more substantial employment, in order to increase one’s social capital, fund education or support family members that continue to live rurally. However, Mumbai has limited by buildable land so increased growth is impossible (Chalana, 2010: 2).  As such, a beautification process named ‘Vision Mumbai’ is underway that seeks to modernise Mumbai into a city of world-class distinction (Chalana, 2010:2).  The campaign is being lead by an American company that is following a global city model that has been followed by other mega-cities, such as Shanghai (Chalana, 2010: 2).  It requires the demolishing of entire dwelling areas to make room for shopping malls and supermarkets and, while including a housing plan for Mumbai’s lower classes, this plan fails to take into account how social identity has become intertwined with housing (Chalana, 2010: 3).  For example, chawls, which developed around the 19th century, allow for highly communal modes of living, while Jhuggi-Jhopri settlements allow for the successful merging of familial and economic responsibilities whilst having relatively a low environmental impact (Manish, 2010: 3).  Architect Manish Chalana describes these spaces as “defined by a complex realm of social practices (…) completely devoid of ‘the spectacle’ (…) these places are rich repositories of the city’s social meaning and cultural history” (2010: 5).  He further writes that “once the transformation is complete, a working-class neighbourhood with a rich history, sense of community, and vernacular architecture will be transformed into a space that reflects the culture of US-dominated global capitalism (Chalana, 2010: 6).  The areas of Mumbai where one could find certain trades, for example, will disappear along with cultural memories that were once traditionally allocated to architecture and temples, to be lost amongst a skyline of homogenous steel. I can attest that during my own time in Mumbai I could easily find a McDonalds or shopping mall – even in the more further located suburbs I visited – and then forget I was even in India.

This is made easier given that the format of employment is also changing. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Mumbai’s economy began to shift away from textile and industry to service-based roles (Chalana, 2010: 5).  This is nowhere more evident than in the rise of the transnational call centre. This work requires the metaphorical transportation of the employee from India, and are therefore “deliberately designed to assert the physicality of a new modernity and cosmopolitanism (read: Americanism) brought about by global technology, and to distinguish that modernity from the rest of the city” (Shome, 2006 in Mishra, 2011: 182).  Firstly, this allows for a distinction between the traditional and the modern, whereby the new is perceived as being better.  Secondly, on an anthropological level, it allows for the actors to be “temporarily in [a] foreign place while they still dwell in India” (Mitra, 2008 in Mishra, 2011: 170).  This has numerous repercussions upon the social landscape. Increasing levels of agency is contributed to by enhanced social position, less traditional restrictions and higher levels of economic power (Mishra, 2011: 173).  As individual autonomy is nurtured, the availability of choice allows for actors to choose for themselves what form their identity will take (Bauman, 2000 in Mishra, 2011: 175).  Thus, there is a considerable degree of privilege and glamour to be found working in a call centre that makes it particularly attractive for women, many of whom migrate to large cities looking for opportunities (Mishra, 2011: 181). This movement away from family, and the subsequent entering into employment, has allowed for gender-dictated norms and mobility to be affected by the entrance of global commerce (Mishra, 2011: 181).  Further, the ability for a woman to financially help or support her family introduces “a new discourse of honour” (Mishra, 2011: 181).

There are further areas which are impacted by employment in the call centre sector but most relevantly, the job itself requires an identity shift in the employee to function. As part of the job description, workers must undergo extensive training to neutralise their accents and to learn intimately American culture (Mishra, 2011: 182). They are given an anglicised name as part of their new “American identity” and work nights to “emulate the temporal rhythm of a different place” (Mitra, 2008 in Mishra, 2011: 183).  Knowledge of the United States comes to them via numerous avenues, however one notable way is from trainers who in some cases have never left India (Mishra, 2011: 90). Anthropologist Swati Mishra observes that America is labelled as “cool (…) the discussion is exciting and animating for everyone in the room” (2011: 190). Attitudes such as this, along with “mediated experiences of globalisation through American television serials and films (…) give rise to imagination of new possibilities in lives” (Youna, 2006 in Mishra, 2011: 195).  Amongst these possibilities are changes in dating and relationship patterns (including attitudes regarding sex before marriage), changes in attitude towards having friendships not based upon gender and changes in dress  – all of which are made possible given economic and physical independence away from their families (Mishra, 2011: 200-202).  Preferences for clothes that echo Western ideals of what is fashionable or ‘sexy’ shows how images and symbols of the West “are integrated into daily lives, considered as modern, desirable and thus defended as normal and part of a progressive life” (Mishra, 2011: 213).

With the growing power of status within middle class identity, comes a level of anxiety about losing social capital, and in many ways this is fuelled by the effects of globalisation.  Maintaining one’s lifestyle has taken paramount importance due to being adopted as part of their new identity (Donner, 2011: 2).  For example, Douglas Haynes highlights that financial responsibility to one’s family forces breadwinners to stress over their ability “to provide such unrelated products as life insurance, health tonics, and malted milk powders (Donner, 2011: 36). In this vein, it is possible to gauge the connection between consumption, class and the individual, which is increased by media and social interactions.  It is possible to witness this occurring on a number of levels across India, as detailed in the documentary ‘Nero’s Guests” which explores a recent phenomenon of farmer suicides that have taken place nation-wide.  In many cases, traditional caste-based employment has either disappeared or become too competitive, and so instead men have looked to farming as a viable option to make capital (Vasavi, 2009: 4). However, they are often inadequately prepared for the reality of farming (particularly using the Green Revolution international model) and so occurrences such as incorrectly using fertilizers and pesticides with adverse effects has become commonplace (Vasavi, 2009: 5 – 8).  As crops inevitably fail due to lack of support and education, debt mounts and many have thus been driven to suicide, which is particularly reinforced by the idea of losing social capital (Vasavi, 2009: 8).  Hayne’s argument that the “development of a consumer-oriented capitalism and the fashioning of masculinity [are therefore] closely intertwined” seems inarguably apt, therefore (Donner, 2011: 1).

The subject of desire for capital and consumption allows me to return to my friend Swati and the metaphor I alluded to at the start regarding the wearing of jeans beneath the sari. I remember wondering at the time why she did this, particularly on a hot day when she must have been so uncomfortable. I wonder what the point of it was, given that no-one around of us would have seen the jeans. I propose, finally, that perhaps the performance that McGuire alluded to earlier is perhaps not by definition always a public one.  Perhaps it gains strength just by existing at all, whether in the public sphere or privately, known only to the individual. Furthermore, its existence is one that is perpetuated and given strength by the actors who afford it power, which is made all the more easier given the environ in which it lives. Mumbai, like all of India’s megacities, is a changing metropolis that is evolving to meet demands from abroad and at home, from its residents who deem the modern and Western as progressive.  Identity and the economic landscape are therefore not mutually exclusive, as espoused by Marxist theory, and as such the effects of globalisation can be seen to impact cultural and social existences.

 

References

Andrews, Robyn (2010).  Chapter V: Social Interaction of the Anglo-Indians Within and             Outside the Community. 146302 Regional Ethnography: Asia Study Guide 2015.          School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Massey University: Palmerston North.

Chalana, Manish (2010). “Slumdogs Vs. Millionaires: Balancing Urban Informality And    Global             Modernity In         Mumbai, India.” Journal Of Architectural Education 2 25.    Academic OneFile. Web. 7 June 2015.

Donner, Henricke (Ed.). Being Middle Class in India: A Way of Life. New York: Routledge,          2011.

Gibson, Lorena (2011).  “Hope, Agency and the ‘Side Effects’ of Development in India and        Papa New Guinea”. 146302 Regional Ethnography: Asia Study Guide 2015.  School   of Humanities and Social Sciences. Massey University: Palmerston North.

McGuire, M.L. (2011). “How to Sit, How to Stand”: Bodily Practice and the New Urban             Middle Class.  In L.Clark-Deces (Ed.). A Companion to the Anthropology of India.     (pps. 45-61). Chichester, England: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Mishra, Swati (2011).  “Recasting Respectability: Habitus, Call Centres and the Modern   Indian Woman.”  146302 Regional Ethnography: Asia Study Guide 2015.  School of   Humanities and Social Sciences. Massey University: Palmerston North.

Vasavi, A.R (2009). Suicides and the Making of Agrarian Distress. In 146316 Visual        Anthropology Study Guide (2015). Massey University, Palmerston North: extramural.

An Essay on La Pincoya

Political Economic Theory in Clara Han’s “Life in Debt”

       ‘Life in Debt’, by the anthropologist Clara Han, is not the easiest read.  It is based upon three years of ethnographic research in Chile, a country with a long troubled past (including a dictatorship), and it is densely filled with information. Today Chile is one of South America’s most prosperous nations and has attracted considerable foreign interest.  Han’s ethnography is concerned with a specific area of Santiago known as ‘La Pincoya’, a low-class neighbourhood which locals label as dangerous and drug-laden.  In the following essay I shall analyse in close detail her use of anthropological theory in analysing her data, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of using this theory.

To first paint a picture of where this ethnography is set, La Pincoya is located in the north-east of Santiago, in the suburb of ‘Huerchuraba.’ It is bordered on one side by a small business sector that includes CNN and other prominent companies, and on the other by a trendy, residential area which it is separated from by a series of large hills.  La Pincoya is, however, of a different calibre to the above. It contains small streets lined with coloured houses and fenced patios; sometimes the yards are completely enclosed by tall gates or iron placed in a ramshackle fashion, while house windows are barred, the roads full of potholes and the pavements broken and filled with street dogs. People here know little of life outside of La Pincoya (except what they learn from the media) and life is communal as neighbours are both friendly and close. In the patio of some of the houses, at regular intervals, you can find stores which sell an assortment of things one might need such as garlic, batteries, tampons and coca-cola. This is a distinctly lower class neighbourhood and a world away from middle-class suburbs such as Nunoa, or the vast exclusive districts that resemble the leafy parks and stately homes of England. La Pincoya is dusty and full of concrete, but it also full of character, laughter and people like any other suburb.

Before identifying Han’s theoretical approach I would like to draw attention to the metaphorical spider’s web because it helps to visualise what culture is and why theory is used.  The theorists Clifford Geertz (1926) and Arthur Radcliff-Brown (1881) both use webs as a way of explaining how culture and society are dependent upon numerous strata, each with the power to affect the other.  The many strands of this web represent different aspects of society that together make a whole – a ‘social organism’ if you will (Barnard, 2000: 62).  This is a striking notion because (in my eyes) each theoretical approach appears to differ only slightly from another, making the choice of theoretical framework all the more difficult. Furthermore, the ‘living’ nature of society makes analytical observation impossible due to its tendency to evolve, however this does allow for small pockets to be observed depending upon what the anthropologist is looking for. In the case of Han, there are three areas which dominate her work. The first is kinship, which follows the path set by Bronislaw Malinowski (1884), Edmund Leech (1910) and Claude Levi-Strauss (1908). Han focuses her data-collection on the social visits she makes to families (specifically the family matriarch) in their homes.  She then explores relationships in this context while looking at the descent systems that are being passed on using participant-observation and interview as her modes of viewing. Her second theoretical approach is political economy, as she notices that many of these descent systems are the result of “centuries of social, political, economic, and cultural processes” (Roseberry, 1988 in Morris, 2015: 2). She chooses to highlight many of these political and economic processes and how they have created a social existence that has contributed to the consciousness of the inhabitants (Marx, 1971 in Morris, 2015: 2).  This is closely related to the third theory that I see evidence of, which is the search to see how power has become influential and then a part of a society’s epistemology as per Michel Foucault (in Morris, 2015: 1). In numerous ways Han has traced to those things which have the most power over the inhabitants of La Pincoya – whether that be credit cards or pasta base – and then links to how they have become embedded as part of the local discourse. She uses Foucault’s theory of ‘normalisation’ to trace how monetary spending and consumer habits have become linked at the micro-level in an effort to ‘fit in’ (Morris, 2015: 4).

It is thus evident that all of the above points appear to be related although many can be attributed to class and economics, for example the introduction states that Han will “explore how political and economic forces are realized in people’s lives’ (2012: 6). Accordingly, I shall focus upon Political Economic theory. The introduction defines the current system in place, which Karl Marx has defined as “the superstructure” (in Morris, 2015: 2). Han explains that it draws upon the University of Chicago’s economic theory, of which encompasses “all of human action and sociality, and economic science was the analysis of and intervention into this reality” (Burchell & Lemke in Han, 2012: 6). Chile, she writes,  became a testing ground for this theory in the 1970’s, with its “economic manifestation (…) as the structuring principle for life itself, the market became the primary mode of governance (…) actors made choices in their own self-interest” (Han, 2012: 7).  During the oppressive years under the dictator, Augusto Pinochet, many state-owned enterprises such as health care were privatised, banks were deregulated and “the economy was opened up to the global market by reducing trade barriers and passing new foreign investment laws” (Han, 2012: 8).  The eventual result of many of these decisions profoundly affected Santiago’s urban poor while at the same time Chile was celebrated across the globe as a shining example of neoliberal reform (Han, 2012: 9).  Macroeconomics has therefore divided Santiago into a city with obvious class distinctions:  the urban elites, who live in their isolated bubbles, the striving middle class, and those at the lower rung which the anthropologist Eric Wolf would label as ‘proletarian’ (Morris, 2015: 4). To be defined as proletarian, residents of La Pincoya must be alienated from any Means of Production except their own labour. Han follows Senora Flora and her family who have no ability to sustain themselves as they live in a property “scavenged from construction sites” that was furnished by “bank loans and department store credit” (Han, 2012: 28).   When Rodrigo, the patriarch, loses his job in a textile factory the family have no choice but to take all the odd jobs they can to pay utility and loan bills (Han, 2012: 29).  Their position is thus so far removed from the Means of Production that the only thing they have to exchange is themselves and their labour, or in other words “Only under capitalism does human labour become a commodity to be bought and sold” (Hands, 2000 in Morris, 2015: 4).

That which can be bought and sold is a tenement of the Capitalist Mode of Production.  Known as commodities, these are things which are produced for sale and judged according to its exchange value (Morris, 2015: 4).  It’s exchange value is dependent upon its use value to the consumer, and this use value has no relationship to the market (Morris, 2015: 4). How, then, do things receive use value and how can this be seen in La Pincoya? For starters, the far-reaching arms of the media have considerable power because it helps to create and adjust the narrative at large. As an example, Han refers to a 2005 newspaper article which stated that the number of Chilean households in debt have risen at elevated rates that are above the growth of their incomes, and that the highest percentage of these debts are owed to department stores (2012: 31). However, the media downplayed this as an issue by writing that “indebtedness is natural (…) the greater the development of the country, the greater will be persons’ debts (…) [it is] less than in developed countries” (Han, 2012: 31). In one report in 2000, a reporter says “they bombard us with offers to change the car, the television, the house, without caring” (Han, 2012: 32).  As political scientist Veronica Schild explains, now even “basic necessities (…) through credit has become ubiquitous” (2007 in Han, 2012: 33).

To enforce this, Han gives the relationship between house, individual and capitalism as an example. She writes that “the house is spoken of in terms of intimate kin relatedness – one’s ‘house of blood’’ and that one becomes committed to it (2012: 33).  This highlights how a commodity can be afforded kinship-level status, even more so when its function is to strengthen connections both within and without (Han, 2012: 33). Renovating the house, cleaning it with all manner of products and adorning it nicely has therefore become a way to maintain relationships and pull women into further domestic relations (Han, 2012: 34).  A further example can be found in Kevin, the husband of one Senora Flora’s daughters. Kevin was addicted to the drug pasta base, the derivative of the cocaine-making process and a highly addictive, very low-cost drug that plagues Santiago’s low-income neighbourhoods. While in the process of quitting drugs, Kevin dreamed of “buying myself [things] from here and there. And I had the desire to buy myself a car also (…) so I put myself to work” (Han, 2012: 35). This quotation shows that a) sobriety was viable if there were the option of commodities and b) that a certain commodity had the power to change his life. However, when a stroke gives him a bad hand and neurological damage, he opted to retire and his life became filled with panic attacks (Han, 2012: 35).  Han writes that this is due to the power commodities have over actors, for in Kevin’s case “the desire and the wonder for the car could not be disassociated from a desire to work and to have a working body” (2012: 35).  Further, pasta base has become “a pervasive concern, provoked by a general sense that the number of neighbourhood youth addicted to base is increasing” (Han, 2012: 35). The only reason Kevin and his wife Florcita began taking it was when “the family’s debts to department stores began to soar”, most likely due to improvements to the house and domestic relations (Han, 2012: 35).  During this period, they sold all their possessions and took to stealing even from their family members, further impacting relations and perhaps (in a vicious cycle) prompting more house renovations (Han, 2012: 36).  These improvements are not solely relegated to the home – any commodity may find a place in the social discourse. To deal with Kevin’s addiction, Senora Flora borrows her neighbour’s credit card (having reached the limit on her own) to buy him a stereo because she thinks music will calm his nerves, while his wife Florcita sells food from the house to pay for sleeping pills and alcohol to send him to sleep (Han, 2012: 37).  Senora Flora and her family are not an isolated case. All across the lower-income neighbourhoods of Santiago the relationship between commodity, market and self have become enmeshed, causing “cycles of theft, destruction, and debt in households struggling with addictions to pasta base” (Han, 2012: 36). Commodities therefore are not simply something that capitalism needs but something that the actors have come to need as well.  The above examples reveal just how far removed La Pincoya’s residents have come from Kin/Tribute-Modes of Production, and how the ripple effects of capitalism have entrenched themselves into the everyday narratives.

The benefits to Han’s approach are obvious because one cannot deny the invasive nature of capitalism.  “Look for connections everywhere” Wolf proposes and Han does this – overwhelmingly so – across some two hundred and eighty pages (1982: 2). However, critics of political economic theory argue that placing too much emphasis upon modes of production comes at the cost of ignoring other structures of influence, along with human creativity and agency (Morris, 2015: 7).  From my own standpoint living in a similar community close to La Pincoya, I would agree with this up to a point. I recall the theorist Alan Barnard who believed that “Societies have structures similar to those of organisms. Social institutions, like the parts of the body, function together within larger systems. The social systems, such as kinship, religion, politics and economics, together make up society” (2000: 62). There are numerous other strata which play a role in the construction of societal and cultural identity and it is this concern which I believe to be the most lacking in Han’s approach. For example, her analysis is limited to the years of Pinochet’s dictatorship until the present but this blinds her to additional influencing data, such as religion, geography, rural occupation, linguistics and gender division which all factor into this discussion. Han herself agrees: “the neighbours of La Pincoya may have very different ideologies to each other but this does not determine their identity” (2012: 20).  I wonder then what does – a superstructure based on economic modes? The question is unanswered by Han. The most pressing question which I would have liked Han to answer is why capitalism is being integrated at such a rapid pace in places such as La Pincoya in comparison to the rates found in other areas of the globe with a similar history. This is a particularly pertinent question because many of the ideologies in La Pincoya may be “experienced in some form or another by major sectors of any working class population experiencing rapid structural change anywhere in the world” (Bourgois, 1995: 29). This is an important question to try to answer as it pertains to the crisis’ currently occurring in the domains of diet and health: Chile’s children are growing up with a radically different diet to their forebears with increasing wellbeing and obesity issues (Bambs, Cerda & Esalona, 2008).  Within the realm of political economy, it would have also been beneficial to look at how the Modes of Production in Santiago differs from the rural areas of Chile, and how this change of pace may affect newly-settled people in the metropolis.  To assist with all these questions, perhaps the adopting of Foucault principles would be beneficial to gauge the different contributions of power which may have been lacking under a political economy gaze.

The road to Capitalism has not been an easy one for the residents of La Pincoya, however it is hard to imagine a time when it was not present. I have seen through my own experiences just how firmly entrenched it has become, as it is continued by habit, education and tradition which is strengthened over time until it is “self evident laws of nature” (Marx, 1967 in Morris, 2015 6).              Wolf wrote that the present cannot be understood without an understanding of the world market, and this cannot be achieved without a theory that can be applied to the unfolding processes (1982: 19).  In ‘Life in Debt’, Han uses the theory devised by Wolf and laid out by Marx to discover the multi-layered effects and affects in a low-income suburb of Santiago. She searches through the multitude of ways in which institutions and social and moral debts have impacted, and continue to impact, upon La Pincoya through specific interactions with people going about their daily lives (Han, 2012: 168). She identifies the decisions made by Pinochet’s government as the leading cause of foreign interest in Chile, which has lead to the privatisation of many of the nation’s resources and later resulted in a steeply tiered class system within Santiago. She recognises that, despite being on the lower rungs of society, many of the lower classes are still able to participate in much of the same consumer trends as the middle and upper classes but with the price of great financial and emotional debt.  Her ethnography is profoundly detailed and rich with information but what it includes blinds the reader to all that it excludes, namely other influencing factors that may form the superstructure of La Pincoya and Santiago. Regardless, there is truth to Han’s opening statement that “we can think of multiple ways in which the state is layered in people’s intimate lives” and therefore the use of the political economic approach was beneficial (2012: 17).

References

Bambs, Claudia, Jaime Cerda & Alex Escalona (2008). “Morbid obesity in a developing            country: the Chilean experience”. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 86: 10,   pp. 737-816.  Retrieved 14 Junes 2015 from:           http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/10/07-048785/en/

Barnard, Alan (2000). “Functionalism and Structural-Functionalism.” In Alan Barnard’s           History and Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Bourgois, Phillippe (1995). “From Jibaro to Crack Dealer: Confronting the Restructuring          of Capitalism in El Barrio”. In Jayne Schneider and Rayna Rapp (eds), Articulating Hidden Histories: Exploring the Influence of Eric R. Wolf. Berkeley: University of    California Press, pp. 125-141

Han, Clara (2012). Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile.           University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

Morris, Carolyn (2015). “Lecture 4: Political Economy”. 146.213 Anthropological         Enquiry. School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Massey University, Palmerston             North: extramural.

Wolf, Eric R (1982). Introduction. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley:   University of California Press, pp. 3-23.

Analysing Santiago

The Application of New Theory to Clara Han’s ‘Life in Debt.’

       ‘Life in Debt’ is an ethnography set in Santiago, Chile by the anthropologist Clara Han.  Han uses Political Economy theory to trace the influential trails that were lain down during the years of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990) and then furthered by increasing global economic interest in Chile. In my first essay I analysed how these economic and political decisions have become embedded in society over the passing years, along with a brief critique of the limitations of Political Economy theory.  The following essay is an elaboration of this criticism, where I will apply two contemporary theoretical approaches to Han’s ethnography in the hope of divulging a larger picture of understanding of the how and why behind today’s socio-cultural constructs. My first approach is ‘multiculturalism’ because the influences at work are not limited to politics and economics – instead there is an array of factors that have arisen due to the shrinking physical and metaphorical borders of nations. The second is ‘feminist anthropology’ due to the fact that Han’s data is thick with gender roles and distinctions that impact upon the societal structure.

Background

It is worth describing in more detail what life is like in La Pincoya, the section of Huechuraba where Han bases her participant-observations. To do this, I draw upon my own experiences in the field. I live in a suburb called Recoleta, which is joined to Huechuraba on its north-east side.  I visit Huechuraba regularly because it is the home of my partner Luis’ family, some of whom live in La Pincoya and others who live on its periphery. Huechuraba and Recoleta share many of the same characteristics, and some of these may be evident in other suburbs of Santiago or even cities of the world (Bourgois, 1995: 29). Unlike Recoleta which is uniformly the same, La Pincoya is like an island in the middle of two distinctly wealthier areas: the business sector which is comprised of tall towers, apartment blocks and  offices of international businesses, and Pedro Fontova Norte, a leafy residential section with gated and well-kept streets. Both La Pincoya and Recoleta contain ramshackle and badly-constructed houses, roads in ill condition and regular issues with flooding, water quality and electricity. Drugs are prevalent and many streets house dealers who sell cocaine and pasta base, the latter of which is a big problem but is relatively unheard of by those who come from wealthier backgrounds (I have met many people who were oblivious to its existence). Han points out that life in these areas is communal, with interconnectedness across a wider field of relationships, and this is correct (2012: 33). Neighbours can often be seen sitting together on their door steps and talking, or enjoying street parties during national holidays and football matches.  The small stores which pepper the streets every few blocks (and sometimes group together in friendly competition) become places of regular social activity for residents (and as a result the service is slow).  La Pincoya and Recoleta are generally considered to be poor and dangerous by other people, most notably because of the flaite[1] street culture that is typical of low-income neighbourhoods. This construct was unheard of a generation ago and its roots can be traced back to the economic conditions that Pinochet advanced. Much of Han’s research concerns it, however she does not expand on it much despite it being hugely relevant to a conversation about La Pincoya. The flaite world has many participants and it directly relates to multiculturalism, so it is here that I will begin my new analysis of Han’s data.

Multiculturalism

The anthropologist Arjun Appadurai stated that anthropology faces a “changing social, territorial and cultural reproduction of group identity.  As groups migrate, regroup in new locations, reconstruct their histories and reconfigure (…) ethnography [thus] takes on a slippery, nonlocalized quality” (1996 in Morris, 2015: 1). Actors now found themselves in a world that changed rapidly and, through globalisation, was filled with interaction and exchange (Inda & Rosaldo, 2002 in Morris, 2015: 1). Therefore, anthropology had to evolve to understand culture as something that was constructed and reproduced through unintended actions, both stabilizing and negotiable (Moore & Sanders, 2006: 17-18).  Appadurai began by changing anthropological terminology to suit the new requirements. Ethnography became an ‘ethnoscape’ because its link to the word ‘landscape’ evokes connotations of ambiguity (Morris, 2015: 1).  The influence of both high and low technologies was recognized as the ‘technoscape’ while ‘finanscape’ followed the hard-to-trace trail of economic capital (Morris, 2015: 1). The effect of these ‘scapes’ is known as ‘deterritorialization’ whereby detachment from location also detached the actor from identity (Morris, 2015: 1).  The theorist Ghassan Hage writes that his guiding philosophy as a multiculturalist theorist is “how do humans struggle to make their lives viable (…) understanding people from their point of view” without resorting to any politics (1998 in Morris, 2015: 2).

Hage uses the term ‘passive belonging’ to categorize the way people construct their identities through such things as nation and culture (Morris, 2015: 4).  Passive belonging refers to the feeling of belonging to a nation, rather than the idea that the nation is one’s own (Morris, 2015: 4).  The word ‘passive’ is interesting here, as it belies the idea of quiet acceptance, or that a person’s voice is not loud enough to be heard by control systems.  Its opposite is ‘governmental belonging’ whereby the actor feels entitlement and ownership over the nations (Morris, 2015: 4). Applied to La Pincoya, there are two types of belonging that are visible. Many people belong passively by accepting their position at the lower end of society, and an example of this can be found in Han’s introduction. It is the night of September 11 (the anniversary of the coup d’etat), and residents are waiting for the yearly confrontation with police (2012: 1).  Bonfires are ready to be lighted and the streets are lined with people waiting for the arrival of the police so that protests can begin (Han, 2012: 2). However, that year (2005) the police did not come.  The general feeling of disappointment permeated the air, as if the protest could not go ahead with the police audience.  This is an example of passivity, because the protest did not have meaning unless it was given meaning by the state. The protest was a “performance”, “fear was mixed with a sense of the formulaic”, waiting for the “choreography dance of bullets, tear gas” (Han, 2012: 1-2).

       The Flaites, however, belong in an aggressive way that is akin to governmental belonging.  These are people with little regard for rules, who embrace anarchy as their right after years of inflicted wrongs.  We get a glimpse of this when during the same September 11 commemoration, “a few youths began to laugh and fire pistols in the air” (Han, 2012: 2). As a result of these two conflicting belonging types, the feeling of deterritorialization is exaggerated, which then forces people to find some way of identifying themselves. Belonging to a low social class or a type of social construct such as the flaite phenomenon, becomes “a mobilizing concept (…) to define their distinctiveness within an increasingly global and globalized world” (Moore & Sanders, 2006: 18).

The passive nature of La Pincoya’s residents can be linked to the political, such as the devastating memories left behind after the dictatorship, and the economic, such as the push and pull of capitalism. People are held entrenched within class systems that are a direct result of both, as Han correctly observed, but globalisation, and therefore multiculturalism, had their part to play too. For example, much of Chile’s slang is borrowed from English (“did you catch that?” became “cachai?”) and there are certain elements of flaite culture that can be traced to European culture. For example, the standard dress includes sports labels, running shoes and tracksuits in a similar vein to Britain’s ‘chavs’, whom they also share similar social characteristics with. Further, the term flaite has been linked to the English ‘fly’, which in Spanish is volar, a word that refers to the ‘high’ of drugs, also a common denominator of of flaites and England’s chavs (Han, 2012: 243).

In Hage’s terms, borrowing from other cultures can be viewed as the process of enrichment (in Morris, 2015: 3). To illustrate, Hage gives the example of White Australians who, by placing themselves at the centre of Australian belonging, can “walk around and enrich themselves” with what they want from multicultural offerings (1998 in Morris, 2015: 3). The flaites in La Pincoya operate in a similar way, although against the other classes of Santiago.  They want to buy many of the same commodities, such as Kevin’s desire for a car or Senora Flora’s purchase of stereos and televisions. This enrichment through purchasing power reveals the overwhelming presence that capitalism has over the residents of La Pincoya, and this is furthered by what Hage labels as the “Crisis for Hope’ (Morris, 2015: 6). This arises from the effect of globalisation, which places the Western world as a modern, better ‘other’ for many of the residents of La Pincoya (Moore & Sanders, 2006: 18).   “Dreams of social mobility [are] one of the main modes of hoping” Hage writes, and this transfers into “cultural capital” that becomes embodied in identity (2000 in Morris, 2015: 6). Han notes that for the people of La Pincoya, commodities are linked with identities (‘domestic relations’, 2012: 33) or connected to labour capital (‘Kevin and the Car’, 2012: 35), or a driving push towards drugs (‘pasta base’, 2012: 35).  Acquiring status through commodities is also evident in uniform purchasing, with things such as clothes (see flaite dress above) or house-related items. Han points out that many of La Pincoya’s residents are in debt to department stores (2012: 31) while burglaries are a fact of life and often attributed to flaite culture.  Such examples highlight the fact that multiculturalism, globalisation and political economic approaches are not secular but interconnected, and this connection must be utilised to provide a more detailed ethnoscape of La Pincoya.

Feminist Anthropological Approach

One of the approaches that would be beneficial would be a closer look at domestic dynamics, particularly because Han devotes much attention to men, women and offspring in her ethnography.  Previous anthropological accounts have been labelled as considerably ‘androcentric’ or restricted to the gaze of the male anthropologist upon the male actors (Feminist Anthropology, Morris, 2012: 4). Han differs because much of her participation-observation occurs with the family matriarch, Senora Flora, and she includes in her gaze the relationships between Senora Flora and her spouse Rodrigo, as well as other couples within the wider family. This is an obvious foray into feminist anthropology because it takes into account how domestic relations can affect things like identity and culture, while also showing that it joins into a discussion of politics and economics in a web of connections.

Women, according to the feminist anthropologist Michelle Rosaldo, have traditionally been based in the home because a good portion of their adult lives is taken up by child rearing, thereby placing women in a domestic sphere more than in any other (1974 in Feminist Anthropology, Morris, 2015: 7).  The home, therefore, appears throughout Han’s work because, as the anthropologist Janet Carsten affirms, “Kinship is made in and through houses and houses are the social relations of those who inhabit them” (in Han, 2012: 15). Han writes that the houses are referred to as ‘houses of blood’ because the relations contained within anoint them with extreme importance (2012: 16).  Women in their roles as sisters, mothers, daughters and friends, sustain the house to strengthen the relationships not only within but outside the house as well – with neighbours – and the forging of these close bonds helps all the residents to “mitigate the forces of economic precariousness” (Han, 2012: 16). It was close connections such as these that allowed Han to integrate so successfully into what is generally regarded as a tight-knit, untrusting and wary community.  In 1999, Han was invited into the poblacion through a meeting with a “feminist activist”, and she then followed a trail of female relationships that ultimately lead her to Senora Flora’s family: “through her daughter I met Ruby, and through Ruby I met Susana (…) they introduced me to their intimate kin, friends and immediate neighbours” (Han, 2012: 16). She was accepted readily because each member before on the trail had trusted her, and this in turn allowed her to become privy to sensitive information. Han engaged in “everyday activities such as helping to sew, looking after children, doing the laundry, learning how to wire a doorbell or rig an electricity meter” (2012: 17).  She didn’t just participate with the women, therefore, but with the men also.  This is interesting because it allows one to speculate that the sway held by women in the community was strong enough for Han to be accepted by the men.

Henrietta Moore wrote that “feminist anthropology has gone beyond an anthropology of women in many ways” at the very least because by nature it included a whole realm of other strata (Lewin, 2006: 20). We witness this when Han introduces us to Leticia and the possibilities contained within the female role. In Chapter Four Han explain that under the leadership of Salvador Allende (in power before Pinochet), there “advanced a ‘double celebration’ of women’s class militancy and their unique roles as mothers” (2012:132).  Some critics have argued that this splits women into restraining categories, and Han writes that, while the advancement of women as mothers and militants is striking, it also highlights the limitations in place by sexuality (2012: 132).  Leticia, a woman who was exiled to Argentina in 1987 for being a female militant, and who was separated from her from her children until 1995, is a good case in point (Han, 2012: 129-131). She suffers from what she terms the “neoliberal depression” due to self-inflicted feelings of guilt towards her children, and this sees her “speak in a language that the others do not understand; not even my own children understand me” (Han, 2012: 130).  It is thus difficult for Leticia to reconcile her two roles as militant and mother, because she had chosen to take on both the traditionally feminine and the traditionally masculine role at the same time (Han, 2012:132). Han explains that men and women are defined by roles that work together to give life to the “sovereign in different, but conjoined ways” (2012: 133).  Men are the figurative heads of the households, while women are pulled towards both state and their husbands (2012: 134).  Her role also has the ability to directly affect the male because his role as head of the household is not always fixed, for example he may be prevented “from being a proper head of household by [the giving of] illegitimate children” (2012: 134).  Further, while reproduction is considered as the way to be a good citizen for a woman, for a man it is likewise, “the certainty of paternity becomes a crucial aspect of political community” (Han, 2012: 134).

The intimate concerns of Leticia from a mothers perspective allows us to come full circle and tie in with the previous sections. Due to concern with the negative connotations behind La Pincoya life and flaite culture, many mothers are praying for sons who are ‘caseros’ or homebodies, rather than men of the street, or caballeros Han, 2012: 16). A great degree of responsibility is placed upon the mother for how her children – particularly her sons – succeed. Leticia cries, “look at all my children (…) Julieta did not finish high school (…) Johnathan lost everything (…) there is no case to be made [for the little ones] they had to repeat a year in high school” (Han, 2012:136).  Rather than place blame upon factors such as public education which is admittedly of low calibre (and is frequently in the press as the subject for protest), or the push and pull power of things such as social pressure and media, Leticia blames herself: “the only thing that unites all the children is the mother, and I say, perhaps, it was I who the cause. I failed” (Han, 2012: 136).  These feelings of blame and guilt provide good opportunities for further study into identity constructs, and particularly how it ties into the Chilean views of the education system, thus proving that it is a multi-faceted issue and certainly not limited to gender.

Conclusion

       The above has been my attempt at reworking Han’s data in a way that helps provide a more detailed picture of life in La Pincoya.  Rather than approach her work with a radically different theoretical framework that would perhaps downplay the role of political economy, I have endeavoured to instead place further rungs on the metaphorical ladder, in the hope of bringing us closer to the top. It would be impossible to ignore the importance that the political and economical have had on the formation of the superstructure, but likewise the consideration of other impacts is necessary.  Multiculturalism and globalisation have been directly involved in the construction of identity, particularly for their role in the making of a new construct, flaite street culture. Further, this also relates to the political and economic landscapes in a way that can only be described as interconnected. Feminist anthropology, on the other hand, takes us into the home rather than the street, by helping us to know the inhabitants of La Pincoya and the domestic relations within. This is not a world separated from the state, however.  Instead, it impinges in “multiple ways (…) layered into people’s lives” as the case of Leticia highlights (Han, 2012:17).  Therefore, these two new theoretical approaches have only served to strengthen the bonds between capitalism and those structures which influence identity, culture, tradition and memory. I close here with the affirmation that ‘Life in Debt’ is an exhaustive treasure chest of anthropological insight, it’s only limitation being the same one that confronts all anthropologists, namely, how can one seek an answer to a question when it is hopelessly intertwined with a score of others?

References

Bourgois, Phillippe (1995). “From Jibaro to Crack Dealer: Confronting the Restructuring          of Capitalism in El Barrio”. In Jayne Schneider and Rayna Rapp (eds), Articulating Hidden Histories: Exploring the Influence of Eric R. Wolf. Berkeley: University of    California Press, pp. 125-141

Han, Clara (2012). Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile.           University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

Lewin, E (ed). (2006).  Feminist Anthropology pp 1-38. .Malden MA: Blackwell.

Moore, Henrietta L and Todd Sanders (2006). Anthropology in Theory: Issues in           Epistemology. Maiden MA: Blackwell Publishing, pp 1-21.

Morris, Carolyn (2015). “Lecture 11: Multicultralism-Hage”. “Lecture 12: Feminist       Anthropology.  In 146.213 Anthropological Enquiry. School of Humanities and        Social Sciences. Massey University, Palmerston        North: extramural.

Wolf, Eric R (1982). Introduction. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley:   University of California Press, pp. 3-23.

 

[1] Flaite is not a self-identified term. It is the general term attributed by the residential majority however it often has negative connotations  due to its association with drugs and crime. They refer to themselves as chorizos however this is little-used by outside actors. Due to the fact that flaite is the majority-used definition and given that the negative connotations are a necessary part of the identifiable construct, I will continue use the term.

Poblacion La Pincoya

‘Life in Debt’ is an ethnography set in Santiago, Chile by the anthropologist Clara Han. Han uses Political Economy theory to trace the influential trails that were lain down during the years of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990) and then furthered by increasing global economic interest in Chile. In my first essay I analysed how these economic and political decisions have become embedded in society over the passing years, along with a brief critique of the limitations of Political Economy theory. The following essay is an elaboration of this criticism, where I will apply two contemporary theoretical approaches to Han’s ethnography in the hope of divulging a larger picture of understanding of the how and why behind today’s socio-cultural constructs. My first approach is ‘multiculturalism’ because the influences at work are not limited to politics and economics – instead there is an array of factors that have arisen due to the shrinking physical and metaphorical borders of nations. The second is ‘feminist anthropology’ due to the fact that Han’s data is thick with gender roles and distinctions that impact upon the societal structure.

Background

It is worth describing in more detail what life is like in La Pincoya, the section of Huechuraba where Han bases her participant-observations. To do this, I draw upon my own experiences in the field. I live in a suburb called Recoleta, which is joined to Huechuraba on its north-east side. I visit Huechuraba regularly because it is the home of my partner Luis’ family, some of whom live in La Pincoya and others who live on its periphery. Huechuraba and Recoleta share many of the same characteristics, and some of these may be evident in other suburbs of Santiago or even cities of the world (Bourgois, 1995: 29). Unlike Recoleta which is uniformly the same, La Pincoya is like an island in the middle of two distinctly wealthier areas: the business sector which is comprised of tall towers, apartment blocks and offices of international businesses, and Pedro Fontova Norte, a leafy residential section with gated and well-kept streets. Both La Pincoya and Recoleta contain ramshackle and badly-constructed houses, roads in ill condition and regular issues with flooding, water quality and electricity. Drugs are prevalent and many streets house dealers who sell cocaine and pasta base, the latter of which is a big problem but is relatively unheard of by those who come from wealthier backgrounds (I have met many people who were oblivious to its existence). Han points out that life in these areas is communal, with interconnectedness across a wider field of relationships, and this is correct (2012: 33). Neighbours can often be seen sitting together on their door steps and talking, or enjoying street parties during national holidays and football matches. The small stores which pepper the streets every few blocks (and sometimes group together in friendly competition) become places of regular social activity for residents (and as a result the service is slow). La Pincoya and Recoleta are generally considered to be poor and dangerous by other people, most notably because of the flaite[1] street culture that is typical of low-income neighbourhoods. This construct was unheard of a generation ago and its roots can be traced back to the economic conditions that Pinochet advanced. Much of Han’s research concerns it, however she does not expand on it much despite it being hugely relevant to a conversation about La Pincoya. The flaite world has many participants and it directly relates to multiculturalism, so it is here that I will begin my new analysis of Han’s data.

Multiculturalism

The anthropologist Arjun Appadurai stated that anthropology faces a “changing social, territorial and cultural reproduction of group identity. As groups migrate, regroup in new locations, reconstruct their histories and reconfigure (…) ethnography [thus] takes on a slippery, nonlocalized quality” (1996 in Morris, 2015: 1). Actors now found themselves in a world that changed rapidly and, through globalisation, was filled with interaction and exchange (Inda & Rosaldo, 2002 in Morris, 2015: 1). Therefore, anthropology had to evolve to understand culture as something that was constructed and reproduced through unintended actions, both stabilizing and negotiable (Moore & Sanders, 2006: 17-18). Appadurai began by changing anthropological terminology to suit the new requirements. Ethnography became an ‘ethnoscape’ because its link to the word ‘landscape’ evokes connotations of ambiguity (Morris, 2015: 1). The influence of both high and low technologies was recognized as the ‘technoscape’ while ‘finanscape’ followed the hard-to-trace trail of economic capital (Morris, 2015: 1). The effect of these ‘scapes’ is known as ‘deterritorialization’ whereby detachment from location also detached the actor from identity (Morris, 2015: 1). The theorist Ghassan Hage writes that his guiding philosophy as a multiculturalist theorist is “how do humans struggle to make their lives viable (…) understanding people from their point of view” without resorting to any politics (1998 in Morris, 2015: 2).

Hage uses the term ‘passive belonging’ to categorize the way people construct their identities through such things as nation and culture (Morris, 2015: 4). Passive belonging refers to the feeling of belonging to a nation, rather than the idea that the nation is one’s own (Morris, 2015: 4). The word ‘passive’ is interesting here, as it belies the idea of quiet acceptance, or that a person’s voice is not loud enough to be heard by control systems. Its opposite is ‘governmental belonging’ whereby the actor feels entitlement and ownership over the nations (Morris, 2015: 4). Applied to La Pincoya, there are two types of belonging that are visible. Many people belong passively by accepting their position at the lower end of society, and an example of this can be found in Han’s introduction. It is the night of September 11 (the anniversary of the coup d’etat), and residents are waiting for the yearly confrontation with police (2012: 1). Bonfires are ready to be lighted and the streets are lined with people waiting for the arrival of the police so that protests can begin (Han, 2012: 2). However, that year (2005) the police did not come. The general feeling of disappointment permeated the air, as if the protest could not go ahead with the police audience. This is an example of passivity, because the protest did not have meaning unless it was given meaning by the state. The protest was a “performance”, “fear was mixed with a sense of the formulaic”, waiting for the “choreography dance of bullets, tear gas” (Han, 2012: 1-2).

       The Flaites, however, belong in an aggressive way that is akin to governmental belonging. These are people with little regard for rules, who embrace anarchy as their right after years of inflicted wrongs. We get a glimpse of this when during the same September 11 commemoration, “a few youths began to laugh and fire pistols in the air” (Han, 2012: 2). As a result of these two conflicting belonging types, the feeling of deterritorialization is exaggerated, which then forces people to find some way of identifying themselves. Belonging to a low social class or a type of social construct such as the flaite phenomenon, becomes “a mobilizing concept (…) to define their distinctiveness within an increasingly global and globalized world” (Moore & Sanders, 2006: 18).

The passive nature of La Pincoya’s residents can be linked to the political, such as the devastating memories left behind after the dictatorship, and the economic, such as the push and pull of capitalism. People are held entrenched within class systems that are a direct result of both, as Han correctly observed, but globalisation, and therefore multiculturalism, had their part to play too. For example, much of Chile’s slang is borrowed from English (“did you catch that?” became “cachai?”) and there are certain elements of flaite culture that can be traced to European culture. For example, the standard dress includes sports labels, running shoes and tracksuits in a similar vein to Britain’s ‘chavs’, whom they also share similar social characteristics with. Further, the term flaite has been linked to the English ‘fly’, which in Spanish is volar, a word that refers to the ‘high’ of drugs, also a common denominator of of flaites and England’s chavs (Han, 2012: 243).

In Hage’s terms, borrowing from other cultures can be viewed as the process of enrichment (in Morris, 2015: 3). To illustrate, Hage gives the example of White Australians who, by placing themselves at the centre of Australian belonging, can “walk around and enrich themselves” with what they want from multicultural offerings (1998 in Morris, 2015: 3). The flaites in La Pincoya operate in a similar way, although against the other classes of Santiago. They want to buy many of the same commodities, such as Kevin’s desire for a car or Senora Flora’s purchase of stereos and televisions. This enrichment through purchasing power reveals the overwhelming presence that capitalism has over the residents of La Pincoya, and this is furthered by what Hage labels as the “Crisis for Hope’ (Morris, 2015: 6). This arises from the effect of globalisation, which places the Western world as a modern, better ‘other’ for many of the residents of La Pincoya (Moore & Sanders, 2006: 18).  “Dreams of social mobility [are] one of the main modes of hoping” Hage writes, and this transfers into “cultural capital” that becomes embodied in identity (2000 in Morris, 2015: 6). Han notes that for the people of La Pincoya, commodities are linked with identities (‘domestic relations’, 2012: 33) or connected to labour capital (‘Kevin and the Car’, 2012: 35), or a driving push towards drugs (‘pasta base’, 2012: 35). Acquiring status through commodities is also evident in uniform purchasing, with things such as clothes (see flaite dress above) or house-related items. Han points out that many of La Pincoya’s residents are in debt to department stores (2012: 31) while burglaries are a fact of life and often attributed to flaite culture. Such examples highlight the fact that multiculturalism, globalisation and political economic approaches are not secular but interconnected, and this connection must be utilised to provide a more detailed ethnoscape of La Pincoya.

Feminist Anthropological Approach

One of the approaches that would be beneficial would be a closer look at domestic dynamics, particularly because Han devotes much attention to men, women and offspring in her ethnography. Previous anthropological accounts have been labelled as considerably ‘androcentric’ or restricted to the gaze of the male anthropologist upon the male actors (Feminist Anthropology, Morris, 2012: 4). Han differs because much of her participation-observation occurs with the family matriarch, Senora Flora, and she includes in her gaze the relationships between Senora Flora and her spouse Rodrigo, as well as other couples within the wider family. This is an obvious foray into feminist anthropology because it takes into account how domestic relations can affect things like identity and culture, while also showing that it joins into a discussion of politics and economics in a web of connections.

Women, according to the feminist anthropologist Michelle Rosaldo, have traditionally been based in the home because a good portion of their adult lives is taken up by child rearing, thereby placing women in a domestic sphere more than in any other (1974 in Feminist Anthropology, Morris, 2015: 7). The home, therefore, appears throughout Han’s work because, as the anthropologist Janet Carsten affirms, “Kinship is made in and through houses and houses are the social relations of those who inhabit them” (in Han, 2012: 15). Han writes that the houses are referred to as ‘houses of blood’ because the relations contained within anoint them with extreme importance (2012: 16). Women in their roles as sisters, mothers, daughters and friends, sustain the house to strengthen the relationships not only within but outside the house as well – with neighbours – and the forging of these close bonds helps all the residents to “mitigate the forces of economic precariousness” (Han, 2012: 16). It was close connections such as these that allowed Han to integrate so successfully into what is generally regarded as a tight-knit, untrusting and wary community. In 1999, Han was invited into the poblacion through a meeting with a “feminist activist”, and she then followed a trail of female relationships that ultimately lead her to Senora Flora’s family: “through her daughter I met Ruby, and through Ruby I met Susana (…) they introduced me to their intimate kin, friends and immediate neighbours” (Han, 2012: 16). She was accepted readily because each member before on the trail had trusted her, and this in turn allowed her to become privy to sensitive information. Han engaged in “everyday activities such as helping to sew, looking after children, doing the laundry, learning how to wire a doorbell or rig an electricity meter” (2012: 17). She didn’t just participate with the women, therefore, but with the men also. This is interesting because it allows one to speculate that the sway held by women in the community was strong enough for Han to be accepted by the men.

Henrietta Moore wrote that “feminist anthropology has gone beyond an anthropology of women in many ways” at the very least because by nature it included a whole realm of other strata (Lewin, 2006: 20). We witness this when Han introduces us to Leticia and the possibilities contained within the female role. In Chapter Four Han explain that under the leadership of Salvador Allende (in power before Pinochet), there “advanced a ‘double celebration’ of women’s class militancy and their unique roles as mothers” (2012:132). Some critics have argued that this splits women into restraining categories, and Han writes that, while the advancement of women as mothers and militants is striking, it also highlights the limitations in place by sexuality (2012: 132). Leticia, a woman who was exiled to Argentina in 1987 for being a female militant, and who was separated from her from her children until 1995, is a good case in point (Han, 2012: 129-131). She suffers from what she terms the “neoliberal depression” due to self-inflicted feelings of guilt towards her children, and this sees her “speak in a language that the others do not understand; not even my own children understand me” (Han, 2012: 130). It is thus difficult for Leticia to reconcile her two roles as militant and mother, because she had chosen to take on both the traditionally feminine and the traditionally masculine role at the same time (Han, 2012:132). Han explains that men and women are defined by roles that work together to give life to the “sovereign in different, but conjoined ways” (2012: 133). Men are the figurative heads of the households, while women are pulled towards both state and their husbands (2012: 134). Her role also has the ability to directly affect the male because his role as head of the household is not always fixed, for example he may be prevented “from being a proper head of household by [the giving of] illegitimate children” (2012: 134). Further, while reproduction is considered as the way to be a good citizen for a woman, for a man it is likewise, “the certainty of paternity becomes a crucial aspect of political community” (Han, 2012: 134).

The intimate concerns of Leticia from a mothers perspective allows us to come full circle and tie in with the previous sections. Due to concern with the negative connotations behind La Pincoya life and flaite culture, many mothers are praying for sons who are ‘caseros’ or homebodies, rather than men of the street, or caballeros Han, 2012: 16). A great degree of responsibility is placed upon the mother for how her children – particularly her sons – succeed. Leticia cries, “look at all my children (…) Julieta did not finish high school (…) Johnathan lost everything (…) there is no case to be made [for the little ones] they had to repeat a year in high school” (Han, 2012:136). Rather than place blame upon factors such as public education which is admittedly of low calibre (and is frequently in the press as the subject for protest), or the push and pull power of things such as social pressure and media, Leticia blames herself: “the only thing that unites all the children is the mother, and I say, perhaps, it was I who the cause. I failed” (Han, 2012: 136). These feelings of blame and guilt provide good opportunities for further study into identity constructs, and particularly how it ties into the Chilean views of the education system, thus proving that it is a multi-faceted issue and certainly not limited to gender.

Conclusion

       The above has been my attempt at reworking Han’s data in a way that helps provide a more detailed picture of life in La Pincoya. Rather than approach her work with a radically different theoretical framework that would perhaps downplay the role of political economy, I have endeavoured to instead place further rungs on the metaphorical ladder, in the hope of bringing us closer to the top. It would be impossible to ignore the importance that the political and economical have had on the formation of the superstructure, but likewise the consideration of other impacts is necessary. Multiculturalism and globalisation have been directly involved in the construction of identity, particularly for their role in the making of a new construct, flaite street culture. Further, this also relates to the political and economic landscapes in a way that can only be described as interconnected. Feminist anthropology, on the other hand, takes us into the home rather than the street, by helping us to know the inhabitants of La Pincoya and the domestic relations within. This is not a world separated from the state, however. Instead, it impinges in “multiple ways (…) layered into people’s lives” as the case of Leticia highlights (Han, 2012:17). Therefore, these two new theoretical approaches have only served to strengthen the bonds between capitalism and those structures which influence identity, culture, tradition and memory. I close here with the affirmation that ‘Life in Debt’ is an exhaustive treasure chest of anthropological insight, it’s only limitation being the same one that confronts all anthropologists, namely, how can one seek an answer to a question when it is hopelessly intertwined with a score of others?

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Word Count (inclusive of titles and references): 3239

References

Bourgois, Phillippe (1995). “From Jibaro to Crack Dealer: Confronting the Restructuring          of Capitalism in El Barrio”. In Jayne Schneider and Rayna Rapp (eds), Articulating Hidden Histories: Exploring the Influence of Eric R. Wolf. Berkeley: University of    California Press, pp. 125-141

Han, Clara (2012). Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile.           University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

Lewin, E (ed). (2006). Feminist Anthropology pp 1-38. .Malden MA: Blackwell.

Moore, Henrietta L and Todd Sanders (2006). Anthropology in Theory: Issues in           Epistemology. Maiden MA: Blackwell Publishing, pp 1-21.

Morris, Carolyn (2015). “Lecture 11: Multicultralism-Hage”. “Lecture 12: Feminist       Anthropology. In 146.213 Anthropological Enquiry. School of Humanities and        Social Sciences. Massey University, Palmerston        North: extramural.

Wolf, Eric R (1982). Introduction. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley:   University of California Press, pp. 3-23.

 

[1] Flaite is not a self-identified term. It is the general term attributed by the residential majority however it often has negative connotations due to its association with drugs and crime. They refer to themselves as chorizos however this is little-used by outside actors. Due to the fact that flaite is the majority-used definition and given that the negative connotations are a necessary part of the identifiable construct, I will continue use the term.

Essay: A Chilean Birthday

It was difficult for me to decide on a ritual to observe here in Chile given that there are so many religious or secular options from which to choose. In the end I chose to closely observe my son’s first birthday party celebration. I am in the advantageous position of being in a relationship with a Chilean man, which has meant that I am lucky enough to be intimately acquainted with Chile´s foreign customs and rituals, all of which were adhered to at the birthday party. The following is my observation as a participant, focusing on numerous aspects such as colors and symbols, in addition to an analysis of their wider cultural significance. I have also included how aspects of the New Zealand culture were included and received, as well as touching on the elements of Dieciocho which were also present.

The party was held in Emiliano Zapata in the Santiago suburb of Recoleta at the beginning of Fiestas Patrias (national celebration-see below). Recoleta is a working class area that is notable for its growing immigrant population, namely from Palestine, China and Peru. It is best known for the cheap shopping district of Patronato, which includes the La Vega central market, and the national cementary. It is a gritty, dusty area with few trees or grassy areas, but does have a large population of street dogs. In wider Santiago, Recoleta is located to the north, above the colonial centre with the Plaza de Armas, while to the east are the more affluent sectors. In these areas, one passes through what is affectionately named ‘Sanhatten’ because of its skyscrapers and shopping malls. The more east of the city one travels, the wealthier the people become, and there are gated communities and mansions. There exists in Santiago a high regard for hertiage: the wealthier inhabitants pride themselves on their German or Spanish ancestry to the point where a ‘classist’ attitude has evolved. Recoleta, which was traditionally an indigenous area, is generally regarded as a poor suburb. The houses on Emiliano Zapata are a mix of bungalows and apartment blocks, with barred windows, high gates, barbed wire and guard dogs. When I first arrived in Recoleta, I noticed only the smell and the broken footpaths and potholes, but after some time here I see the efforts the locals go to, to show their originality. Many paint their houses bright colours, or paint regularly to maintain its condition. Others plant cactus or palm trees in the arid ground at the front of their doors. Each morning I look out my window and see a lady sweep the footpath near her house. Furthermore, the houses generally give very little away on the outside as to what lies inside, I have observed many a central courtyard and quite sprawling interiors. To describe the house at which the party was located, it is a two-storey building painted brown with no front door, only a black gate. There is no way to contact the inside except by calling or banging on the gate. On the ground floor is a store selling cleaning products that rents the space, and out the back there is a large yard that is also rented out as car parking spaces for people staying in the opposite flats. Upstairs is our open-plan, two bedroom home that also has a small patio. Directly ahead from here is a very large hill that is green when not obscured by smog, to the right are flats and to the left are a number of houses on the same property, shared by families living together. Our house is located several metres from an intersection that has several general stores and a newly opened Chinese takeaway.

The party was held because my son Emilio was turning one. As a mother, I wanted to have a party to celebrate Emilio being with us. I also wanted to enjoy the company of friends as it was only a year ago that I had to experience giving birth. It was also a great opportunity to invite alot of other babies over at the same time to meet Emilio. Therefore for me, the party was a way to bring everyone together and to socialize. My partner was a little hesitant about the demands upon him as a host (see below). However, his mother convinced him that the first birthday was an important time, for Emilio but also for the adults to take the time to enjoy him. This is understandable from either a Chilean or New Zealand cultural standpoint, but in our case especially so given that Emilio spent his first nine months with only me in New Zealand. Regardless, birthday parties are celebrated because the sociable nature of human beings means that additional meanings are placed upon the biological process of growth (Davies, 1994: 1). However, from a further anthropological standpoint, it is possible to consider my mother-in law’s eagerness for a celebration as a way to “reduce the fears that often come when life’s events threaten their security and sense of well-being”, due most likely to Emilio’s particularly international upbringing (Moro & Myers, 2010: 83). Typically in Chile, a birthday party includes a light evening meal called once that is often held around eight, however I was reluctant to prepare food given the differences in cooking between New Zealand and Chile. Here, women are trained from a young age to prepare traditional meals that are rarely deviated from, and as such, the standards are high. I did not learn to cook until I left home, and certainly not Chilean food, hence my aversion to cooking for a number of people. Therefore, four in the afternoon was chosen as it made a suitable compromise.

We invited an American friend of mine and her Chilean boyfriend, the (separated) parents of my partner Luis, Luis’ older brother and his wife, Luis’ younger brother, a friend and his family, another friend and his family, a friend from university and a neighbour and their little girl. In total there were twelve adults, two children, one toddler and four babies around the age of one. Two of these babies are the offspring of two of Luis’ best friends, Andre and Felipe. Luis, Andre and Felipe were born and raised on the same street in Recoleta called Victor Cuccuini, and have been close friends since a young age. Together they have shared all the big moments in life, and along with several other people, have a group nickname, ‘Toxicuccuini’. Their three children, all around the same age, have been labeled ‘los bebes cuccuinis’ and are frequently banded together. This relationship echoes the process coined by Victor Turner known as communitas, whereby by moving through similar life phases together, these three boys “brings about a sense of community and camaraderi … [with] close bonds and will usually remain close friends throughout their lives” (Stern, 2011: 89). Today, most of the members of the Toxicocuccuini group of friends still live on Victor Cuccuini.

As a secular not religious ritual, a birthday celebration is a curious thing. While there are no rigid rules to adhere to, most certainly they contain the “fundamental beliefs, values, and social foundations of a group” (Mono & Myers, 2010: 83). The process is circular: a birthday is a rite of passage, which is an ideological ritual that dictates ones place in society, of whose place is determined by both society and rite of passage (Mono & Myers, 2010: 84). In the case of this particular birthday party, there was certainly an undercurrent of battle between the cultural forces of Chile and New Zealand, both of which were trying to make their mark. Symbolically, a birthday is an important time in one’s journey through life, however the very first birthday appears to cement the future of the child as it marks a stable condition that is recognizable by ones culture (Turner, 1967: 94). In other words, the rite of passage is a transitory period whereby one has “shed their previous identification and place in society but have yet to take on the mantle of their new status” (Stern, 2011: 89). In the case of this birthday party, Emilio lost his status as a baby the moment the party began and instead entered into one of liminality (Stern, 2011: 89). Of the features identified by Victor Turner as most often present, I can confirm that there was evidence of a transitory state, absence of property as well as the strong camaraderie of a communita and the inference of a sacred-like attitude towards Emilio (Stein, 2011: 90).

To detail the order of events, the party began with the first arrival of guests around four (the American). The Chilean family members arrived at five, and I was told that “they came especially early as they know foreigners are punctual.” The friends of Luis arrived around six. Upon arrival, each person greeted with a kiss and a hug, asked how the other person was and presented a gift to myself. All the gifts were placed under the table as there was little other space to place them. Everyone took a seat around the living area and the babies were placed upon the floor, mostly watched by Felipe and Luis’ parents. The mothers mostly talked amongst themselves, and several of the men went outside onto the patio. The older children, Martin and Ignacio, played often out on the patio as well, and I remember that it was an unusually hot day. Inside, refreshments were provided over two tables. On the first table there was a very large cake modelled upon the children’s story book “Dear Zoo”. It had two levels, was yellow and had animal figures made out of the icing. On the cake was the name ‘Emilio’ and underneath on the cake board was the words, “Feliz 1st Cumple.” This cake received much attention throughout the afternoon with many of the children unable to believe that the animals were edible. Also on the table were mini cupcakes with blue icing, biscuits in the shape of Trucks with the number 1, sandwiches, a potato salad, cut up strawberries and pineapples, and muesli bars. Above the table were two birthday cards pinned to the wall, some balloons and an owl bunting with the letters of Emilio’s name. On the adjacent table were serviettes with Feliz Cumpleanos written on them, plastic spoons, plastic cups, straws and paper plates, along with bottles of Coke, water, beer and homemade Strawberry juice. I observed that the guests were reluctant to help themselves at the tables, and remained seated until all the guests had arrived. Luis then proceeded to take each plate around the room offering to each of the seated guests. He said that this was normal custom in Chile and that it is not normal to ‘help yourself.’ As a host, his job was to ensure that each guest had plenty to eat and drink, and as a result, barely sat down. Myself, as the other host, felt quite uncomfortable with this. Of the food, the cupcakes were eaten rapidly and so were strawberries dipped in chocolate.

In terms of symbols, there were two strands at work. As we have seen above, there were balloons, cards and a bunting with the infants name. There was also music played with both English and Spanish songs. However, it is important to mention that there were decorations in the house independent of the birthday. Dieciocho is a national holiday marking Chile’s independence, and is celebrated as a week of parties known as Fiestas Patrias (patriotic parties). During this time, each house is legally obligated to fly a Chilean flag outside their home, symbolizing that they are a nation together. However, this time is typically a joyful time for Chilean families, who enjoy trips to fondas (fairs), watch military performances such as aerial shows, eat asados (barbeques food) and dance the national dance, the cueca, while wearing traditional dress. Throughout the week, houses are decorated in the colours of the flag: red, blue and white. At the party, there were garlands and wreaths in these colours across several walls. There were also traditional cueca songs played that attracted cheers and clapping. Therefore, the attitude during the celebration was considerably patriotic.

The afternoon was spent talking amongst each other, however people stayed generally in specific groupings, with the men and women separate. Conversation revolved around the children and also the house (it had been newly decorated). The outside area was very popular. Around seven, it was time for the cake. Everyone came inside, and the door was closed, lights off. The cake remained on the table as it was heavy and a candle in the shape of a number one was lit on the top. Luis stood next to me and I held Emilio, while everyone else were around us. ‘Happy Birthday’ was sung in Spanish: “cumpleanos feliz/deseamos a ti/feliz cumpleanos Emilio/que los cumplas feliz/” which is literally translated as “happy birthday/we desire for you/happy birthday Emilio/have a happy birthday”. It was sung loudly and there was much clapping and cheering at the end. The cutting of the cake marked Emilio’s entry into the liminal stage, of “transition or marginality. The individual is neither one thing or another, but ‘betwixt and between’” (Bowie, 2006: 149). After a slice of cake was eaten, we began opening the presents. This act represented the postliminal, representing Emilio’s successful pass through liminality into a new state as a one year old (Bowie, 2006: 149). What I note as striking is that in the preliminal state, Emilio played happily with everybody but during the liminal he was held closely by his parents, specifically his mother. During the opening of the presents he was again held but this time by his father. At the conclusion of the present opening, Emilio crawled away himself and spent the rest of the evening with the older children of Luis’ friends. This is notable because these actions appear as partnered to the symbolism of the rite of passage. When Emilio had completed his part in the ceremony, he was independent enough to move away as an individual who had been “reintegrated into society, but in a transformed state” (Bowie, 2006: 149). The presents themselves were particularly extravagant, consisting of a swing, toys, clothing and sports items. Everyone watched the opening of the presents with heightened anticipation, there was clapping and the whole process was filmed (rather than just photos, which were taken throughout). This rapt attention is fitting given it was the last stage of Emilio’s rite of passage.

After this stage had been completed, several people left. The immediate family stayed and partook in once. This is a custom unique to Chile and has ambiguous roots. One legend says a long time ago, eleven ladies used to clandestinely get together to drink alcohol and their code word for organising was ‘once’. Today, it does not involve eleven ladies or alcohol and instead is similar to breakfast but taken in the evening. In Chile, breakfast is typically light while lunch (at two in the afternoon) is the main meal, however as more and more families are apart during the day, once has gained more importance as important family time. Usually, freshly baked bread (preservative free) called marrequetas are served warm with ham, cheese and sometimes either stuffed tomatoes or avocado. Mashed up avocado with lemon and lots of salt almost always accompanies once, along with a spicty tomato mix called pebre. However, on the night of Emilio’s birthday we ate empanadas that were made in next doors garage. Empanadas can be fried or baked in the oven depending on what kind of filling they have, and we had either prawn and cheese, cheese or meat fillings. This was the culmination of the evening, as we all sat together and reminisced about the afternoon. Emilio was getting irritable at this point and was ready for bed, which appeared to dampen the spirits of the grandfather who could not fathom the baby being tired. At the conclusion of the meal, goodbyes were made along with the obligatory goodbye cheek kiss.

In terms of the broader socio-cultural significance, the first birthday celebration in Chile is equal to the Catholic baptism ceremony and is usually performed around the same time. The celebration has meaning for the adults as it is akin to ones affirmation within a family. In this case, Emilio’s birthday was a special one as his Chilean family were not present through his early life. It was especially significant to his grandmother, Viviana, who admitted that she was so emotional about finally having a grandchild. In South America, mothers are highly regarded and particularly close with their children. It is usual to live with ones parents until marriage, and then to live nearby and visit regularly. The birthday party provided an ideal time for bonding as the parents were busy hosting and attempting to socialize without needing to constantly attend to their child. This was especially obvious after the present opening ceremony when Emilio wandered off with a sense of new independence. Furthermore, this new stage appeared to have a dramatic effect upon Emilio, who finished the night by standing alone for the first time in his life.

Humans, when encountering danger, always respond uniquely, particularly through the use of symbols which include everything from pictograms to language. (Stein, 2011: 56). The symbols used during the party represented the slight power struggle between the New Zealand and Chilean cultures that were vying for equal footing. Spanish was only spoken, the majority of the guests were Chilean, the birthday song that marked the liminal period was sung only in Spanish despite English-speakers being present, and there were considerable displays of patriotic behaviour. In my opinion, the Chilean influence was certainly strongest, perhaps encouraged by the fact that many of the decorations were presented in Chilean colours. This then evoked a patriotic attitude because they were arbitrary symbols that provoked a similar agreement and response in the people that had been conditioned to recognise them as such (Stein, 2011: 57). The playing of Spanish music and traditional songs also set the mood of the event (Stein, 2011: 70). In terms of the broader significance of singing Happy Birthday, it is interesting and poignant that music during a rite of passage has its roots in religious ritual, of which it is a key element, as it helps to give birthday celebrations importance (Stein, 2011: 70).

It has now been several days since the conclusion of the birthday party. The sense of communitas is still strong thanks to the constant presence of the internet. Photos have been ‘shared’, ‘liked’ and commented upon along with much reminiscing. Inside the home, the decorations have come down except for the patriotic colours of red, white and blue. As we approach the day of the eighteenth itself, there is a heightened feeling of expectancy in the air. Emilio seems like a different boy, trying to walk and talk only after his rite of passage. It is evident that just as behaviours are learned so too are the meaning of symbols, all of which make an appearance during a first birthday party – from the power of the cake with its symbolic cutting, to the opening of the presents and the cheering that accompanies a national song. As a ritual, the birthday is closely tied to these elements but also to more tangible components such as a family. I observed the celebration as a bonding experience for the wider family unit (including friends formed during previous communitas) that also allowed the parents to spend time away from their child. The child himself responded to this with delight and embraced a strong sense of independence after the postliminal period had concluded.

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References

Bowie, Fiona. The Anthropology of Religion: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 138-         173. 2006.

Davies, Douglas. Rites of Passage. Edited by Jean Holm with John Bowker. London and           New York: Pinter, pp.1-9. 1994.

Mono, Pamela and James Myers. Magic, Witchcraft and Religion: A reader in the Anthropology of Religion. 2010. New York: Mc Grow-Hill, pp.83-86.

Stein, Rebecca L. and Philip L. The Anthropology of Religion, Magic and Witchcraft.       New Jersey: Pearson. 2011.

Turner, Victor. The Forest of Symbols. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, pp. 83-       111. 1967.

Food and Identity in Santiago

Food and Identity in Chile: the Relationship between Diet, Class and Economics

Attempting to generalise an entire nation’s diet and its impact upon one’s social and cultural identity is daunting, to say the least. The links between each factor are tangled like a giant spiders-web whose threads are small but sticky enough that they affect the others in multiple ways. It is when one steps back, however, that the greater picture can be seen. This essay called on me to make a choice between the type of identity I would focus upon but once I began writing I realised that there were no separate parameters upon which to focus, instead that many are in fact so related that they have become inter-connected. This is an idea that is supported by the theoretical framework suggested by French philosopher, Pierre Bourdieu, who pinpointed several locations from which to base a study around societal identity. This essay shall use his theories regarding field, habitus and capital to discern the relationship between gender, class and identity in Santiago, Chile. In order to narrow the scope, I shall be basing my findings around the general diet of the people, beginning with my chosen commodity, ultra heat treated milk (UHT), and the offshoots that it leads to.

Before beginning my analysis, it is necessary to first understand better the framework of Bourdieu. It exists as a certain way to ask questions and format our thinking during an investigation, and is a concept known as generative structuralism (Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990:3). The genesis of generative structuralism is to discern how much of an identity is the product of one’s social structure at large, known as structure, and how much is derived from ones autonomous, independent choices, known as agency (Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990: 1-3).  Given that human life today consists of “complex political, social and philosophical – that is, shared – concerns”, the questions are driven by investigating the direction of one’s subjectivity (Mansfield, 2000, cited in Morris 2014). To explain this further, Mansfield writes that “Etymologically, to be subject means to be placed under. One is always subject to or of something. The word subject, therefore, proposes that the self is not a separate and isolated entity, but one that operates at the intersection of general truths and shared principles” (cited in Morris 2014). Bourdieu’s loci for analysis consist of the following areas for consideration. The first is the field, which can be better understood as a “field of forces” (Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990: 8). These forces comprise of inner struggles enforced by actors who move around capital in order “to conserve or transform the field” (Bourdieu, 1983: 312). The actors entrance and subsequent role within the field is based upon ones knowledge, disposition and worldly understanding (Bourdieu cited in Mahar, Harket & Wilkes, 1990: 10-11). Positions in the field vary according to ones accrued capital which may be material or symbolic, and which gain status according to how sought after they are (Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990: 10). It serves as a “basis of domination” that can be exchanged or converted into other types of capital, the most auspicious being symbolic (Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990:10). Symbolic capital is regarded as the most important form of capital for it is here that all other types are recognised and accepted as legitimate (Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990: 10). The movement of capital could therefore be described as an interplay between the physical and material into energy and status.

By choosing the word ‘field’, Bourdieu has likened one’s social topology to the competitive world of sport, and this is a useful allegory to understand what is generally considered a complicated term. Here Bourdieu relates this concept closer to the social sphere: “People play different games, which are autonomous, but at the same time, there are homologies between different games and, I think, there are general principles of the functioning of these games” (1985, cited in Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990: 7). In simpler language, Bourdieu is suggesting that although one can and does make choices, in reality these choices are subjective structures which have pre-determined parameters. This directly relates to the food industry because, while it is true we can enter a supermarket or grow our own vegetables, what is offered is brought to us via an additional party. It is time to turn now to the situation in Chile, beginning with the trail set by the sale and consumption of UHT milk. UHT milk, as explained in my previous work, is the dominant form of milk drunk in Chile after replacing first raw then the pasteurised varieties. It has become a big business to the point whereby small providers are unable to compete, therefore making its field of sale very narrow. This field is driven by economic capital, as its actors seek to increase their monetary wealth. Of these, Nestle Chile and Fonterra-owned Soprole dominate the Chilean market and bring in billions of dollars annually. They sell a variety of dairy products from flavoured to diet, cheese to yogurt, all of which have been heavily processed using UHT while containing additives and preservatives. In addition, such methods of pasteurisation result in lowered nutritional value and, contrary to belief, remain at risk of contamination (Milk Facts, 2014, Harding, 1995: 118). Within this corporate field, therefore, very little consideration has been given into selling a product that is mostly beneficial to its consumers. Furthermore, Nestle Chile and Soprole have flooded the market with a multitude of options without any other competition. This has meant that the majority of dairy consumers in Chile have become entangled within the web of the economic field and as such are unconsciously forced into a limiting buying position.

Chileans have, in general, accepted this position and perhaps one reason for their complacency is due to the political field that has always been all-inclusive.  There has been political unrest in Chile since the arrival of the Spanish, from 1537 onwards (Wikipedia 2014). Before then, the land was inhabited by warring Mapuche, among others, who are known for their resistance to the Inca, who were much larger in number. There has been much difficulty in uniting as a nation under an accepted leadership. In the 1970’s, Salvador Allende became president and began to transform the nation using socialist ideals, for example by increasing worker rights and nationalising Chilean companies. This was opposed by the United States, who funded campaigns to destabilize the Chilean nation (Wikipedia 2014). This resulted in a highly conflicted society, which alternated between extreme political viewpoints, made all the worse worse by crippling economics. In 1973, a military coup led by Agusto Pinochet overthrew the government of Allende and over the subsequent years human rights violations took place on a grand scale while at the same time suffering further economic crisis’. It is not difficult to conclude that emotional trauma was and still is fresh in the minds of many Chileans. In fact, many people that I spoke to in Santiago blame the governments of these years for unsafe business dealings that lead to contaminated milk being imported from Europe, resulting in a widespread drop in milk consumption. However, I have been unable to verify this information. The growth of Chile’s economy to one of international importance and a successful movement into democracy has lead to a feeling of trust towards the political field in general, along with an unconscious acceptance of business endeavours.

Sidney Mintz wrote that it is the economic and political fields such as the above who determine what is eaten, what is prized, what is disdained and the people whom are doing the consuming (1986: 185).   This leads us now to a discussion regarding the social aspects that are affected by said structures. The question I asked myself is that there must be more to this story than the economic and the political, and there was. Researchers such as Ball (2004) explain that cultural, social and economic capital are at the apex of class structures, and its unequal access to them that maintains class distinctions (cited in Mellor, Blake & Crane, 2010: 118). Chile is a highly segregated society. My own research in the field has lead me to poorer middle class neighbourhoods such as Independencia, to upper middle class such as in Vitacura and finally inside the gated communities of the elite, who live in the outskirts such as in Lo Barnechea. There is a wide disparity between the economic capital available in these fields, however, the working and middle class attempt in a variety of ways to at least increase their social capital. This is achieved through a “particular set of social practices (…) [in order to] facilitate social and cultural capitals” (Mellor, Blake & Crane, 2010: 117). Increasing ones social capital is particularly serious in Chile because of its connection with other fields. Good jobs can only be given to those with degrees from certain universities, of which have fiercely strict entrance policies based upon the Pre-Universitario test taken in high school. This test is biased, however, because of the disparity between public and private education, the latter of which is exclusive and expensive. The elite keep themselves distinct from the other classes not only by economic and social capital, but by certain habitus perpetuated by said capital. For an example, the elite learn through the embodiment of certain habitus around them, such as by speaking a distinct form of Spanish known as ‘cuico’. In addition, because the elite have had sufficient capital to buy food they have had the option of choosing where they buy, and their drive for class distinction has resulted in them turning to places such as supermarkets for their options. Supermarkets have grown quickly in Chile and within them whole aisles are dedicated to processed foods such as UHT milk. As the elite began to support such businesses, so too did the rest of the social classes who turned to food as “a cultural realm where individuals can effectively engage in status displays” (Johnston & Baumann, 2007, cited in Mellor, Blake & Crane, 2010: 119).

Highlighting these practices allows for closer attention to be paid to gender. Chile was for a long time based upon traditional gender roles which saw the women remain at home to take care of the children and oversee the feeding of the family. The importance placed upon the woman to provide a food that does more than nourish infers that “it is an elaborate performance of gender, social class and identity” (Bourdieu, 1984, cited in Warin, Turner, Moore & Davies, 2007: 98). For this reason, the roles of men and women are kept strictly enforced, because “Feminine and masculine identities are not natural or given in biology, but must be constructed, and should be understood, therefore, as cultural achievements” (Moore, 1994: 42). Therefore, increasing ones social capital was made possible by emulating the buying practices of the elite, while at the same time enforcing one’s gender and status (Mellor, Blake & Crane, 2010: 116-117).

This then brings the cultural capital of Chile into the equation, particularly as food has always been “an important marker of identity (…) to demonstrate their cultural knowledge” (Mellor, Blake & Crane, 2010: 123-124). Today, many dishes and food habits Chileans consider as their own, incorporate these dietary changes. For example, one popular dessert are pancakes are laden with store-bought and artificially sweetened ‘manjar’, or condensed milk. Sugar has been replaced by artificial sweetener, while fizzy drinks have become are now among the top three items most bought today by Chilean families (Albala et al, 2008: 1). This rise of heavily processed foods has meant that a rapid nutritional transition has occurred across the board and resulted in a stark change in the nation’s general health (Bambs et al. 2008). In particular, said industrialization of food has been “associated with changes in lifestyle towards unhealthy dietary (…) patterns” and lead to a marked increase in health problems such as hypertension (Bambs et al. 2008). The Chilean identity, therefore, has become entangled with the results of their drive for different sources of capital which are “motivating their consumption, thereby entering intimately into the organization of their very personalities: who and what they think they are” (Mintz, 1986: 185).

Finally, I would like to return to the economic field. This is because, as Bourdieu himself pointed out, the formation of the social identity and its reality is dependent upon a dialectical fluctuation between ones personal economics and ones objective and subjective social structures – and this is complex (Mahar, Harker & Wilkes, 1990: 3). Mintz argues that “We are made more and more into what we eat, whenever forces we have no control over persuade us that our consumption and our identity are linked” and this has certainly occurred in Chile (1986: 211). However, these forces operate on a much grander scale than the Chilean class system – in fact, there is an international field that exists, moving around international capital and lead by an international team of actors. In the beginning section I pointed out that the leading suppliers of milk are Nestle Chile and Soprole, which is owned by Fonterra. Nestle Chile is part of the larger Nestle Group which is one of the world’s key international market players while Fonterra is the largest global processer of milk (Fonterra, 2014). In order for these companies to retain their position and continue earning economic capital, it is necessary for them to also convert this into additional forms of capital. One way this is achieved is through “a broad-sweeping, anonymous process that homogenizes various spheres (…) through spreading the basic principles of efficiency, predictability, calculability and control (Ritzer, 1993 cited in Illouz & John, 2003: 202). This allows big corporations to “establish monopoly over the species of capital effective in it (…) and the power to decree the hierarchy and ‘conversion rates’ between all forms of authority in the field of power” (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992, cited in Illouz & John, 2003: 205). The result is that this international field “is actively shaped and continuously constructed by the organization itself” (Fligstein, 1991, cited in Illouz & John, 2003: 205). All agents in charge of the direction of capital seek to preserve it (Illouz & John, 2003: 210). For this reason, in Chile, supermarkets are replacing street markets and processed foods are replacing home-grown foods, and the subsequent outcome is a transformed social identity.

It is more than confronting to realise how all social constructs, from culture and class to tradition and gender, are dependent upon a variety of influences pertaining to one’s sources of capital, habitus and fields. Bourdieu refers to this as a form of social conditioning (1998: 8) brought about by actors not “fully conscious of [their] motivations” (1977: 3). Within Chile, the acceptance of UHT milk is just the tip of an enormous iceberg that stretches from political concerns to economic, social and cultural ones as well. Bourdieu’s theory of generative structuralism has provided us with the base to frame this investigation and the result, to return to my leading metaphor, is a tangled, interconnected web of factors. In practice, there is no “mechanical reaction directly determined by the antecedent conditions” because there exists within the framework the possibility of one’s agency. Choice is therefore still possible, albeit limited, and it is this that allows me to point out that, despite all the fields that one may operate among, none of these are en statis. One’s identity, therefore, is malleable and subject to future changes.

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Lessening of global borders

Bibliography

Bambs, Claudia and Jaime Cerda, Alex Escalona, 2008. Morbid Obesity in a developing                          country the Chilean Experience [online],. Bulletin of the World Health Organization.                Volume 86. Available: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/10/07-048785/en/,                         accessed 31 August 2014.

Bourdieu, P. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgemenet of Taste. London:                             Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Fonterra. Our Companies [online], 2014. Available:                                                                          https://www.fonterra.com/global/en/About/Our+Companies, accessed 31 August                                     2014.

Illouz, E. & Nicholas, J. 2003. Global Habitus, Local Stratification, and Symbolic Struggles                     Over Identity: The Case of McDonald’s Israel. American Behavioral Scientist, 47 (2):    2          01-229.

Mahar, C., Harker, R. & Wilkes, C. 1990. The Basic Thworetical Position. In An                          Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu edited by Richard Harker, Cheleen                                    Mahar & Chris Wilkes. Houndmills: The MacMillan Press: 1-25.

Mellor, J., Banks, M. &Crane, L. 2010. “When I’m Doing A Dinner Party I Don’t Go For                        The Tesco Cheeses”: Gendered Class Distinctions, Friendship and Home                                             Entertaining. Food, Culture and Society, 13 (1): 115-134.

Milk Facts. Heat Treatments and Pasteurization [online] 2014. Available:                           http://milkfacts.info/, accessed 31 August 2014.

Mintz, Sidney, 1995. Food and its Relationship to Concepts of Power. In Phillip McMichael                  (ed), Food and Agrarian Orders in the World Economy. Westport: Praeger, pp.3-14.

Morris, Carolyn. 2014. Food and Eating Study Guide. School of Humanities and Social                           Sciences. Massey University: Palmerston North.

Power, E.M. 1999. An Introduction to Pierre Bourdieu’s Key Theoretical Concepts. In                            Journal for the Study of Food and Society, 3(1), 48-52.

Wacquant, L. 1998. Pierre Bourdieu. In R. Stone, Key Sociological Thinkers. Basingstoke:                    Palgrave.

Warin, M., Turner., Moore, V., and Davies, M. 2007. Bodies, Mothers and Identities:                               Rethinking Obesity and the BMI. Sociology of Health and Illness, 30(1), 97-11.

Wikipedia, Chile [online], 2014. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%ADder,                         accessed 31 august 2014.

The Milk Chain

Following the Milk Chain in Chile

The first thing I noticed about Chilewhen I moved here in 2012 was the absence of fresh milk, and I was not the only one. This topic is laboriously moaned about by expatriates new and old, who are confounded not only by the overwhelming presence of long-life milk (a treatment of ultra high processing known as UHT) but also by the general indifference of the Chilean populace. At some point in the last few decades, UHT milk has become irreversibly part of the stereotypical Chilean diet. When I began working on this essay and asking questions, I received countless different answers as to why the fresh milk had been withdrawn. Digging deeper, I found that there was no single reason. Instead, I have found that the relationship between corporate Chile and the national diet to be unavoidably connected. What anthropologists’ label ‘the Second Food Regime’ has resulted in a nation that has industrialized, homogenized and manufactured not only milk but all dairy products to the point whereby small producers are excluded (Friedmann & McMichael 1989: 106). I have attempted here to trace the chain of milk from its initial production on farms to its point of sale in supermarkets until it is bought by the average Chilean consumer.

To begin, let us understand what treatment processes can be used on milk. The International Dairy Federation (Harding 1995: 114) advises that all raw milk be pasteurised in order to minimize “possible health hazards arising from pathogenic microorganisms associated with milk by heat treatment (…) with minimal chemical, physical and organoleptic change to the product.”   The reason for this process is because raw milk is an ideal ground for the growth of microorganisms, some of which may be harmful such as Salmonella, Listeria and Tuburculosis (Harding 1995: 115). Pasteurised milk undergoes heating at a certain temperature to destroy pathogenic microorganisms, as well as ones that can spoil the taste, and thus its durability (Harding 1995: 115). Thermoduric bacteria is not affected by this process and needs to be removed via microfiltration, which also increases its shelf time (Harding 1995: 115). Sterilized milk is a further form of processing, most often used in hotter countries, however the “Maillard reaction’ spoils its colour and taste, as well as its vitamin content (Harding 1995: 115). UHT is considered by many to be the ideal treatment: it’s safer than raw milk, has a longer shelf life than pasteurised milk, and tastes better than sterilised milk. Processing plants use a closed system to heat the milk between 135-150C for 1-4 seconds, achieved in a continuous flow rather than by batches (Harding 1995: 116). It is preheated, sterilised, homogenised (the mixing of cream and milk together), cooled and then filled into sterile containers (Harding 1995: 116). With the pros, there are cons, however. All forms of treatment involving heat for periods of time causes a chemical reaction on some scale, and during UHT ‘heat denaturation’ occurs (Harding 1995: 116). This means that the temperature causes the protein to move away from their original chain or globular shape (Milk Facts 2014).   “Post-Pasturization Contamination’ (PPT) may also occur between processing and packaging, therefore strict monitoring, testing and sterilising is necessary (Harding 1995: 118). Gram-negative bacteria are very microscopic but can rapidly grow and develop into listeria, however there currently exists no testing that can effectively measure things of their size (Harding 1995: 118). This means that contamination and therefore illness is still possible with UHT milk.

To turn now to the situation in Chile, Marta Jimenez grew up in the 1940’s and remembers regularly consuming fresh (raw) milk purchased by street sellers direct from the animal. However, she remembers the general feeling of annoyance at the time when sellers began mixing it with water (and not always clean) in order to sell more. Meanwhile, Viviana Saavedra admits that she stopped giving her family regular milk in the 1980’s as prices soared. The consumption of milk generally decreased until boxed milk began to be sold everywhere from markets to street stores. The people little noticed this change, however, given that milk was not an important factor in their cooking or in their beverages (tea is always drunk without milk for example).

In the present, a paradox certainly exists. Street markets are still held daily where many families purchase their fruit and vegetables, and on every street in the cities one can find a general store selling everything from one slice of cheese to freshly baked bread. Often, sellers will purchase their items either direct from the manufacturer, or from other vendors to sell on – as is the case for the multitude of stall holders in ‘La Vega’, Santiago’s grand central market. However, supermarkets can be found in every suburb in every area of Chile and are a mega industry, despite the first one opening in 1995 (Wikipedia 2014). Business ChileMagazine reveals that there are more supermarkets per capita in Chile than anywhere else in the Americas, with sales reaching US$10 million a year – although interestingly, only 62% of all food sales come via supermarkets (Dowling 2008). The rise of the supermarket has resulted in a change in the general eating habits. A study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Albala et al. 2008:1) explains that the Chilean diet changed at a much faster rate than in other developing countries, due to rapid modernization and overall improved living conditions. The study furthers that the ‘nutrition transition’ resulted in a high-energy, nutrient-poor diet consisting of a marked increase in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (Albala et al. 2008: 1). In actual fact, sugar-sweetened beverages are among the top three items most bought today by Chilean families (Albala et al, 2008: 1). Overall, the stable condition of the economy has increased the potential buying power of the populace, in turn attracting the attention of large companies. Of the supermarkets, there are several groups: Cencosud (owns Jumbo, Santa Isabel), Falabella (Tottus) and the SMU Group, which owns Unimarc (Dowling 2008). Walmart Chile purchased D&S in 2009, which runs the leading Lider, Ekono and Bodega Acuenta discount stores (Walmart 2014).

Milk is sourced on farms such as Fundo Cantarrana in the south of Chile which processes some million litres of milk each year (Fundo Cantarrana 2014). It is then bought by either of the two leading distributors of dairy goods: Nestle Chile and Fonterra (New Zealand). Nestle trades directly with some 1, 200 milk producers while also supplying technical assistance and training in order to better their milk products (Nestle 2012). This includes pressure on the Chilean government to change health and safety standards, whose policies enable the fusion of agribusiness input/output, manufacturing/processing firms to enhance corporate capital (Burch & Lawrence 2005: 11). Nestle Chile itself is part of the wider Nestle Group, which in turn has a substantial profit margin: in 2011, the Nestle Group took in some US$90 billion (Nestle 2012). Some of the milk products Nestle Chile then sells on to supermarkets include infant formula, cream, manjar (sweetened milk spread), condensed milk, powdered milk, evaporated milk and ‘light’ options. Similarly, Fonterra operates in Chile through subsidiary companies notably Soprole. Soprole is Fonterra’s longest running offshore investment (twenty years) and in 2008. Fonterra increased their shareholding to 99.4 percent in order to “further develop Chile as source of fresh dairy” (Fonterra 2014). The result is that by placing themselves in between product and consumer, and enforcing specific requirements, Fonterra and Nestle share the title of being monopsonistic (Friedberg 1995: 20). Furthermore, as the market for milk grows more and more concentrated, farmers are forced to sell to a limited number of companies (Burch & Lawrence 2005: 1). This relationship thus excludes other (specifically smaller) producers who cannot compete (Friedmann & McMichael 1989: 106).

The question remains: why no fresh milk? According to some, the reason is due to the health scare of the 1970’s, when cheap milk powder was imported from Europe that was contaminated. Mistrust of milk (and a fear of the government resulting in ‘turning a blind eye’) has contributed to the rise of the UHT products. Others, such as a spokesperson for Nestle Chile, explained that it is because many people in Chile are without refrigerators. Flaherty Wines explains it thus: “The use of this process [UHT] is ubiquitous in the Chilean dairy industry because the chain of refrigeration is not reliable. The large dairies generally purchase milk from small independent producers, so the milk may not be properly refrigerated before it reaches the main dairy. Not all retail outlets have reliable refrigeration. Finally, not all households have a refrigerator” (2010). It is true that the nature of the country’s geography makes transportation of anything challenging. In the north exists the world’s driest desert, the Atacama, while in the south conditions are freezing and even inhospitable, such as in Patagonia. Furthermore, the extreme south of Chile is broken up by the sea making transportation even more difficult.

However, it is evident that Chile’s predilection for manufactured goods has meant that this is an extremely lucrative business. Within the realm of processed milk exists opportunity for expansion. Demand is steadily rising for fat-free and low-calorie options, which is being readily provided by the manufacturers. In fact, Euromonitor International has labelled this as the leading area for investment in Chile (2014). Proof of this is evident by the large-scale injection of funds by companies. For example, in 2012 more than US$140 million was poured into a new Nestle factory in Osorno that would “produce a range of milk products and ingredients with added nutritional value for domestic consumption and for export to the United States, Central America, the Middle East and Asia” (Nestle 2012). This factory can manufacture some 30, 000 tonnes of milk powder and is considered one of the most technologically advanced plants in the world (Nestle 2012). Nestle Chief Executive Officer Paul Bulcke explains that Nestle continually invests in Chile due to their increasing confidence in the Chilean market, with the desire to create products that can be used at every stage of their lives” (Nestle 2012).

The power held by this sector is known as ‘financialisation’, whereby “private capital markets have become a major source of influence and control over the (…) food system” (Burch & Lawrence 2009: 268). The general fear of mercantilism – of a static market – prompts the drive for increasing profitability (Mintz 1995: 162). For this reason, businesses are looking to expand their opportunities more and more. For example, Claudio Hohman of Cencosud admits that “We’re developing different formats to adapt better to the needs of different market segments,” something which could be beneficial if companies wanted to expand (Dowling 2008). Professor Claudio Pizarro of the University of Chile explains that “There’s a window during which no one is looking hard at Latin America… there are huge opportunities for Chilean firms in Peru, Colombia and Brazil.” (Dowling 2008). Peru is looking especially promising given that it has lower supermarket penetration. UHT milk, with its easy transportability and long shelf life, would suit not only exportation but also the variety of conditions found in other countries. This striving for constant growth is evident by the 2012 Market Indicator Report issued by the Government of Canada, which reveals “Latin America’s vigorous agriculture and manufacturing sectors were expected to boost the economy, starting in 2011, helping to drive rising levels of disposable income and increasing retail sales. This could encourage the mid-market consumer base to recover its confidence and its taste for luxury” (2012). This same report postulates that the future will see the hypermarkets looking to widen their reach to lower-income customers, most notably in second tier cities with populations of 50, 000 people and lower (2012).

UHT processed products are stringently marketed as having added health benefits, despite mounting evidence otherwise. For example, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention admits that outbreaks of illnesses have been connected with pasteurised milk, which through being treated also has lower nutrients and even missing enzymes (FDC 2014). The effect of these lost enzymes is not yet known, however the FDC maintains that the regular diet in countries such as the United States makes up for what is lacking in the pasteurised milk (2014). However, given that the United States is ranked as the sickest nation in the developed world by a report by the Institute of Medicine this raises some questions (Woolfe & Laudon 2013). In Chile, the World Health Organization explains that rapid nutritional transitions has resulted in a stark change of the nation’s general health (Bambs et al. 2008). It furthers that dietary change has lead to a 32.7% increase in obesity between the years 1960-2000, with approximately 205, 000 morbidly obese in 2003 (Bambs et al. 2008). The “progressive industrialization (…) associated with changes in lifestyle towards unhealthy dietary (…) patterns” has lead to a marked increase in health problems such as hypertension and diabetes (Bambs et al. 2008). It is for this reason that value-added products (such as ‘fat-free’) are growing in demand. However, many of these products contain sugar. An experiment conducted in Chile by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, in order to increase the health of children by getting them to drink milk, only flavoured milk would be drunk (Albala et al. 2008). This sugar-laden beverage resulted in no improvement whatsoever to their health at the end of the experiment (Albala et al. 2008). It is evident, then, that the Outside Meaning lies here with the manufacturing giants such as Nestle, “whose reach and power transcend both individuals and local communities”, at the risk of the nation’s general health (Mintz 1995: 6).

To a business, long-life milk offers easier transportability and easier storage, particularly if they are to be exported worldwide and across varying conditions. Entire aisles in supermarkets can be filled with numerous types of milk that can sit for months. Customers can safely buy and store cartons, stockpiling them in case of a natural disaster, such as the 2010 earthquake which saw entire suburbs become inaccessible. Most tellingly, a nation of individuals traumatised after the years of Pinochet can consume their milk without any fears that may lead them back to their government. However, it also means that Chile is entirely dependent upon the seedy world of corporations and capitalist gain. The result is a rapidly changing diet with varying health disadvantages. Children are growing up in a nation of the increasingly obese while becoming addicted to the very ingredients that make them that way. UHT milk, while perhaps not as at fault as aspartame laden Coca Cola, can be viewed as a symbol of this relationship. The reality this symbol denotes is that food is consumed not as a means to satisfy the hunger and needs of the many, but as a tool to make profits for the few.

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The rise of the supermarket, and processed goods.

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