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Latin America Today: The Violence of Accumulation

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Organizer: Juan Leal

Co-Organizer: Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott

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The main goal of our panel is to characterize the current articulation of violence and capitalist’s accumulation with the ongoing metamorphoses of sovereignty and modern political institutions, in Latin America as well as in its relationships to the United States. Far from classical approaches within Area Studies, we start by recognizing the deep impact globalization has had on traditional approaches informing social sciences and humanities, an impact also relevant to understand the current and ongoing crisis of the modern university and its historical division of labor. At the same time, we understand accumulation as a complex, multidimensional, process that cannot be reduced to economic practices, without neglecting its anthropological and philosophical dimensions. Those dimensions are also relevant to grasp the current forms of violence in what has been called neoliberalism’s second wave: gang violence, migration, poverty, ecological devastation, debt, exploitation, gender and other minorities’ discrimination, military and police abuse, and political oppression are not incidental but constitutive elements of the new pattern of capitalist’s accumulation, which takes us one step further from what Debord recognized in The Society of Spectacle, certainly, if the image becomes the commodity, war and violence are not only forms of the spectacle, but becomes forms of accumulation tout court.

By the same token, we intend to move beyond the somehow limiting debate regarding the centrality of the State to define political strategies of resistance, by emphasizing the current flexibility of sovereignty and its institutions, a flexibility very much in tune with the malleable character of current capitalist processes. In this sense, neither identity politics nor culturalist-hegemonic approaches seem to be able to deal with the factual, material, aspects of this ongoing articulation between accumulation and violence, which demands from us a review of the limits and potentialities of Marxism, Post-colonial studies, Cultural Studies, among others traditional approaches. In fact, we do not want to frame the discussion within any specific approach (post-colonial, post-hegemonic, infrapolitical, biopolitical, neo-communist, neo-materialist, etc.), on the contrary, by keeping the focus of the panel tied to the ongoing transformations of Latin American socio-political and economic realities (new right-wing governments, crisis of the classical leftist referents, intensification of neoliberal policies, etc.) we invite papers generous in ideas and able to interact beyond self-interest and dogmatism. We believe, and the panel emerged for this belief, that ours is a critical occasion to interact and to define long-term intellectual agendas able to understand the complexity of the current world, without conforming ourselves to the widespread practice of reviving important but insufficient traditions.

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