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Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile [Hardcover]

Clara Han

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Book Description

June 5 2012
Chile is widely known as the first experiment in neoliberalism in Latin America, carried out and made possible through state violence. Since the beginning of the transition in 1990, the state has pursued a national project of reconciliation construed as debts owed to the population. The state owed a “social debt” to the poor accrued through inequalities generated by economic liberalization, while society owed a “moral debt” to the victims of human rights violations. Life in Debt invites us into lives and world of a poor urban neighborhood in Santiago. Tracing relations and lives between 1999 and 2010, Clara Han explores how the moral and political subjects imagined and asserted by poverty and mental health policies and reparations for human rights violations are refracted through relational modes and their boundaries. Attending to intimate scenes and neighborhood life, Han reveals the force of relations in the making of selves in a world in which unstable work patterns, illness, and pervasive economic indebtedness are aspects of everyday life. Lucidly written, Life in Debt provides a unique meditation on both the past inhabiting actual life conditions but also on the difficulties of obligation and achievements of responsiveness.

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“Thought-provoking, engaging, insightful, thoroughly researched and theoretically nuanced.”
(Deborah R. Altamirano Times Higher Education 2012-09-20)

“Brimming with insights and textures. . . . Han brilliantly, often quite beautifully, fleshes out the intersections between the existential and the economic.”
(Larisa Jasarevic Somatosphere 2013-02-01)

From the Inside Flap

Life in Debt will become, I predict, one of the classic ethnographies in the anthropological study of state violence, community responses, and the moral life of the global poor. Relating economic and political debt, financial and psychological depression, and caregiving by ordinary people and by social institutions, Clara Han maps our brave new world just about as illuminatingly as it has been done. A remarkable achievement.” -Arthur Kleinman, Harvard University

“In this highly sophisticated take on the ironies of neoliberal social reforms, the corporate sector, consumer culture, and chronic underemployment, nothing can be read literally. Han transforms underclass urban ethnography in Latin America by bringing readers directly into the intimate flow of relationships, experiences, and emotions in family life on the margins of Santiago, Chile." -Kay Warren, Director, Pembroke Center, Brown University.

"People-centered, movingly written, and analytically probing, Life in Debt deals with both the human costs and the changing structures of power driven by contemporary dynamics of neoliberalism. Combining a deep and nuanced understanding of Chile's history with a longitudinal and heart-wrenching field-based knowledge of the everyday travails of the urban poor, Clara Han has crafted an exceptional analysis of human transformations in the face of political violence and economic insecurity." -João Biehl, author of Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment

"During ten years, Clara Han has gathered fragments of biographies and moments of lives to recreate the experience of Chileans after Pinochet’s dictatorship. Her vivid ethnography plunges into the moral economy of a society entangled between memory and pardon, revealing the ethical work undertaken by those who accept the present without disclaiming the past." -Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, author of Humanitarian Reason

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