MEDIATING INFANTICIDE: Theorizing Relations between Narrative and Violence



Much anthropological research on narrative and violence treats their relationship as immanent and performative, an assumption shared by many media, legal, medical, and other professionals and lay persons. This view is predicated on constructing the production, circulation, and reception of knowledge about violence in particular ways. In this article, I examine newspaper accounts of infanticide in Venezuela, along with interviews with reporters, detectives and legal professionals and focus groups. This analysis suggests that these articles, which receive widespread attention, become stories about stories—specifically narratives that recount how the story of the crime unfolded naturally and automatically from material and corporeal evidence, and the words of relatives, neighbors, doctors, detectives, defendants, and the vox populi. These constructions of discourse about violence create a very limited range of subject positions, generate standardized scripts for persons interpellated in each slot, and make it difficult to advance counternarratives, thereby inscribing the legitimacy of state institutions during a period (the 1990s) when the nation-state project seemed to be collapsing.