‘The Community’ as a Multivocal Concept: Everyday Urban Life and Grassroots Politics in Caracas’ Informal Neighbourhoods
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEthnos, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/00141844.2021.1906294
This article analyses the multivocal meanings of the concept ‘the community’ as embedded and employed in everyday- and political discourses in working class and shantytown neighbourhoods (barrios) in the capital city of Caracas, Venezuela. Set in the context of the late Hugo Chávez’ presidency (1999–2013), I explore how ‘community’ variously referred to socio-territorial space or to emerging and contested notions of political community, and how the different meanings were imbricated. I focus on how experiments with bottom-up democracy foregrounded popular sector communities as essential to the construction of ‘Bolivarian’ Venezuela, and trace contemporary notions of ‘community’ back to the Venezuelan state’s earlier nation building projects, particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century. Through engaging with anthropological debates about the challenges attached to the term ‘community’, I argue that valuable ethnographic insights can be gained through unpacking how ‘community’ is invoked in different contexts and by different actors.