SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Residents of the Uspha Uspha neighborhood on the southern edge of the Bolivian city of Cochabamba live in permanent uncertainty as they grapple with a phantom state. On the one hand, when it comes to controlling crime the state leaves residents to resolve problems themselves. They develop creative strategies that can be considered self-help or vigilante practices to secure order in the face of the uncertainty and disorder in which they live. On the other hand, however, the state prosecutes them as illegal occupants of land and criminalizes them if they act as a ‘lynch mob’. Thus, rather than exist in a separate world completely forgotten by the state, residents of Uspha Uspha are outlawed. If on the one hand they do not enjoy the full benefits of citizenship in matters of security, on the other hand the state prosecutes them and requires them to comply with legal process in order to obtain other rights. This is one of the main arguments of Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a Bolivian City, an ethnographic study by anthropologist Daniel M. Goldstein, who focuses on the outcomes of conflicting views of security and rights on the edges of Bolivia's fourth-largest city.

The book is organized into seven chapters that address the existence of a phantom state, the conflicting relationship between rights and security that results from neoliberal policies, the notions of legal pluralism and community justice, and the emergence of a creative type of local justice in the urban environment. In addition, the author analyzes the positive and negative outcomes of attempts to pursue an engaged anthropology research practice, through the examples of the Rutgers Study Abroad program that he now leads and an access to justice NGO which he founded (chapter 2).

Central to his analysis is the relationship between security and (human) rights in the context of global neoliberalism, with violence at the center of tensions (chapter 6). The author argues that the Bolivian state has (in line with global trends) based its security politics specifically on citizen security, aiming only to protect citizens from crime. This abridged version of security has trickled down to become the basis of everyday life in Bolivia's neighborhoods. Individuals have begun to assume that they own the right to security, which sometimes overrides other human rights (such as that to life), especially if those rights belong to criminals. In Goldstein's analysis, this understanding of security has generated conflicting views about human rights among citizens, state officials and NGOs. Because they are profoundly concerned about their security, which they must sometimes creatively defend using their ‘own hands’, residents have come to see attempts by human rights NGOs and state representatives to protect human rights as protecting criminals.

The book continues by addressing the problematic nature of legal pluralism, the emergence of the concept of community justice at the end of the 1990s, and how since 2009 communities' judicial systems have acquired the same status as official justice (chapter 5). The author finds the notion of legal pluralism problematic when seen within the context of marginal urban areas in Bolivia, because neither state law nor community justice is fully consolidated. Rather than appeal to either of these judicial systems, Goldstein shows how residents develop a set of creative solutions ranging from alert watchfulness to reliance on neighborhood leaders to resolve conflicts and violence when handling insecurity (chapter 4). The author explains that the state and international organizations attempted to render legible a wide variety of particular forms of justice in rural areas under one overarching concept, that of community justice. The national constitution granted community justice the same status as official justice, bringing about a series of practical and conceptual contradictions in its implementation (chapter 5). Indeed, the law that sets the limits between official and community justice (Ley de Deslinde Jurisdiccional) stills leaves community justice in a subordinate position. Additionally, from a perspective that Goldstein calls spatio-ratio-temporal, it is possible to see how the state locates community justice only in rural areas, identifies it as indigenous and locates it in the pre-Columbian past. In this way, not only are the colonial and neocolonial experiences of ‘domination and resistance’ wiped from the history and reality of indigenous communities, but the state also does not acknowledge the presence of indigenous peoples living in urban spaces.

Finally, Goldstein closely analyzes the relationship between lynching and community justice. He shows that while academics and state representatives attempt to demonstrate that they are different, inhabitants of these urban areas do in fact sometimes define lynchings as community justice. They do it more as part of the creative strategies developed in the face of uncertainty and in their particular systems of local justice (where leaders are crucial in determining the level of violence), rather than following a script borrowed from tradition. Contrary to academic and media portrayals, he discards the notion of a homogeneous lynch mob by showing the disorder and opposing visions that residents themselves have about and during such practices. Grasping the uncertainty that these situations bring is a central objective of the author's work (chapter 7).

Throughout Outlawed it is possible to see that Uspha Uspha is an area where the state, whether headed by MAS (Movimiento Al Socialismo) or any other political party, does not provide peace and justice to its inhabitants. When considering Goldstein's work, however, caution should be exercised when analyzing the nuanced nature of the apparently ′ghost′ state in this area. If it is true that residents distrust the judicial system and the police, and that they are forced to resolve issues informally, it is also true that in many cases state institutions lack the means to impose order. This is true not only for the judicial system, but also for the police who are outnumbered many times over and lack the economic and physical resources to cope with crime, not because criminals are strong and organized, but because the state is itself poor.