Indelible Inequalities in Latin America

Insights from History, Politics, and Culture

Indelible Inequalities in Latin America

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 3 photos, 5 tables, 4 figures Published: October 2010

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Sociology

Since the earliest years of European colonialism, Latin America has been a region of seemingly intractable inequalities, marked by a stark divide between the haves and the have-nots. This collection illuminates the diverse processes that have combined to produce and reproduce inequalities in Latin America, as well as some of the implications of those processes for North Americans. Anthropologists, cultural critics, historians, and political scientists from North and South America offer new and varied perspectives, building on the sociologist Charles Tilly’s relational framework for understanding enduring inequalities. While one essay is a broad yet nuanced analysis of Latin American inequality and its persistence, another is a fine-grained ethnographic view of everyday life and aspirations among shantytown residents living on the outskirts of Lima. Other essays address topics such as the initial bifurcation of Peru’s healthcare system into one for urban workers and another for the rural poor, the asymmetrical distribution of political information in Brazil, and an evolving Cuban “aesthetics of inequality,” which incorporates hip-hop and other transnational cultural currents. Exploring the dilemmas of Latin American inequalities as they are playing out in the United States, a contributor looks at new immigrant Mexican farmworkers in upstate New York to show how undocumented workers become a vulnerable rural underclass. Taken together, the essays extend social inequality critiques in important new directions.

Jeanine Anderson
Javier Auyero
Odette Casamayor
Christina Ewig
Paul Gootenberg
Margaret Gray
Eric Hershberg
Lucio Renno
Luis Reygadas


Indelible Inequalities in Latin America raises many important questions. . . . for those who are serious in studying why extreme inequality still exists in Latin America, this book is a useful addition to one’s reading list.” — Richard Grossman, History: Reviews of New Books

Indelible Inequalities is an illuminating volume for scholars interested in innovative approaches to inequality, or for readers familiar with Latin American history interested in how inequality is perpetrated through less conspicuous means. Readers will gain from both individual chapters and
the volume as a whole.” — Ignacio Arana Araya, The Latin Americanist

“[A] highly worthwhile read. . . . The ideas of Charles Tilly are both usefully employed and considerably developed, and the result is a detailed, ethnographically rich text that not only lays bare the roots of Latin American inequality, but provides us with valuable suggestions for bringing about change. Readers from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds who have an interest in Latin America, inequality, or both will find ample sources of information and inspiration in this book.” — Emma O'Driscoll, History and Anthropology

“[T]his is an important contribution to research on inequalities in the region and should be read profitably by a broad range of scholars, including historians, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, social and cultural geographers, and cultural studies specialists.” — Paulo Drinot, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Based on extensive, methodologically different research conducted in countries like Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and the US, these essays help us understand a relational logic we cannot find elsewhere in the world.” — Antonádia Borges, Social Anthropology

"Paul Gootenberg and Luis Reygadas have brewed such a potent mix of perspectives and disciplinary approaches to the theme of inequality that one would expect, like an experiment in a chemistry lab, some kind of small explosion or effusion of purple smoke to signal the beginning of a chain reaction that transforms the field…. [The authors] bring together a broad range of approaches to inequality in Latin America that together provide a nuanced picture of it." — Gavin O'Toole, Latin American Review of Books

 “Together the collection provides a fresh and coherent look at the perpetuation of inequalities in Latin America and offers much to think about and build upon, for scholars and students of the Americas and beyond.” — Betsy Konefal, Labor

“Inequality in virtually all its multifaceted dimensions and in extremely varied surroundings does indeed appear to be an ‘indelible’ characteristic of contemporary Latin American society. Conventional literature tends to treat the issue either in strictly economic or political-economic terms, or in ways that suggest invariant deficiencies. This collection explores it in a more complex and intellectually satisfying way, by treating inequality as ‘relational,’ following the thought of the late Charles Tilly. This approach opens up the phenomenon of inequality to a much broader range of descriptive and analytical strategies, aptly illustrated by the diversity of approaches represented in this volume.” — John Coatsworth, Columbia University

“This book will remind readers that just as we cannot talk about democracy without tackling exclusion, we cannot make sense of justice without understanding inequality. In Latin America, hierarchies of many types have reproduced in many ways. The essays in this volume illuminate this plural past, where dichotomies coexist with challenges to them, where disparate relations persist despite their fluidity. It is a provocative and field-opening volume.” — Jeremy Adelman, Princeton University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Paul Gootenberg is Professor of History and Sociology at Stony Brook University and the author of Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug.

Luis Reygadas is Professor of Anthropology at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Iztapalapa, México. He is the author of La apropiación: Destejiendo las redes de la desigualdad.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Foreword: The Paradox of Inequality in Latin America / Eric Hershberg xi

Part I. New Approaches, Old Disciplines

1. Latin American Inequalities: New Perspectives from History, Politics, and Culture / Paul Gootenberg 3

2. The Construction of Latin American Inequality / Luis Reygadas 23

Part II. History, Subjectivity, and Politics

3. Health Policy and the Historical Reproduction of Class, Race, and Gender Inequality in Peru / Christina Ewig 53

4. Incommensurable Worlds of Practice and Value: A View from the Shantytowns of Lima / Jeanine Anderson 81

5. Inequalities of Political Information and Participation: The Case of the 2002 Brazilian Elections / Lucio Renno 106

Part III. Culture across Borders

6. Between Orishas and Revolution: The Expression of Radical Inequalities in Post-Soviet Cuba / Odette Casamayor 139

7. How Latin American Inequality Becomes Latino Inequality: A Case Study of Hudson Valley Farmworkers / Margaret Gray 169

8. Afterword: Funes and the Toolbox of Inequality / Javier Auyero 193

Bibliography 199

About the Contributors 221

Index 223
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4734-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4719-4
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