"Para que cambiemos" / "So we can (ex)change": Economic activism and socio-cultural change in the barter systems of Medellín, Colombia

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/228438
Title:
"Para que cambiemos" / "So we can (ex)change": Economic activism and socio-cultural change in the barter systems of Medellín, Colombia
Author:
Burke, Brian J.
Issue Date:
2012
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
This dissertation examines the work of alternative economies activists who have spent the last 18 years constructing barter systems and local currencies in Medellín, Colombia. Through barter, these activists hope to spark an ethical re-evaluation of production, exchange, and consumption, and to create an economy that serves Medellín's middle-class professionals, rural peasants, urban workers, students and the chronically under-employed. They also see barter as an important social and political project to repair a social fabric torn by decades of violence and economic exploitation. For these activists barter is a counter to capitalism, violence, and social fragmentation; it is a new proposal rooted in cooperation, collective well-being, and the development of local capacities. Previous researchers have thoroughly examined the emergence, organization, and impacts of these types of alternative economies, but they have neglected what many activists consider to be the greatest challenge: to cultivate the new social relations and subjectivities necessary to enact and maintain those models. In the words of Colombia's barter organizers, the goal is to "change the chip" and "clean out the cucarachas" of our capitalist mindsets in order to "create a new culture of solidarity." This research is located at precisely that sticking point. Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic research, I examine the nature and impacts of barter and the challenges that barter activists face as they try to recreate economies, social relations, and subjectivities. Medellín's barter projects, I conclude, offer extremely important opportunities for cross-class and cross-generational interaction in a city that is violently divided. They also provide material and social supports for traders who are seeking to develop alternative subjectivities, and they help active traders gain control over the means of production and the conditions of their work. However, their counter-hegemonic potential is significantly limited by three tensions within organizers' strategies: a tendency to prioritize socio-cultural forms of activism at the expense of economic ones, a focus on conscious and moral aspects of subjectivity rather than material and embodied aspects, and a stridently anti-capitalist stance that discourages economic articulations and thereby reinforces the material and socio-cultural power of capitalism.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
alternative economy; Colombia; non-capitalism; social movements; Anthropology; activism; alternative currency
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; Anthropology
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Greenberg, James B.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoenen_US
dc.title"Para que cambiemos" / "So we can (ex)change": Economic activism and socio-cultural change in the barter systems of Medellín, Colombiaen_US
dc.creatorBurke, Brian J.en_US
dc.contributor.authorBurke, Brian J.en_US
dc.date.issued2012-
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractThis dissertation examines the work of alternative economies activists who have spent the last 18 years constructing barter systems and local currencies in Medellín, Colombia. Through barter, these activists hope to spark an ethical re-evaluation of production, exchange, and consumption, and to create an economy that serves Medellín's middle-class professionals, rural peasants, urban workers, students and the chronically under-employed. They also see barter as an important social and political project to repair a social fabric torn by decades of violence and economic exploitation. For these activists barter is a counter to capitalism, violence, and social fragmentation; it is a new proposal rooted in cooperation, collective well-being, and the development of local capacities. Previous researchers have thoroughly examined the emergence, organization, and impacts of these types of alternative economies, but they have neglected what many activists consider to be the greatest challenge: to cultivate the new social relations and subjectivities necessary to enact and maintain those models. In the words of Colombia's barter organizers, the goal is to "change the chip" and "clean out the cucarachas" of our capitalist mindsets in order to "create a new culture of solidarity." This research is located at precisely that sticking point. Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic research, I examine the nature and impacts of barter and the challenges that barter activists face as they try to recreate economies, social relations, and subjectivities. Medellín's barter projects, I conclude, offer extremely important opportunities for cross-class and cross-generational interaction in a city that is violently divided. They also provide material and social supports for traders who are seeking to develop alternative subjectivities, and they help active traders gain control over the means of production and the conditions of their work. However, their counter-hegemonic potential is significantly limited by three tensions within organizers' strategies: a tendency to prioritize socio-cultural forms of activism at the expense of economic ones, a focus on conscious and moral aspects of subjectivity rather than material and embodied aspects, and a stridently anti-capitalist stance that discourages economic articulations and thereby reinforces the material and socio-cultural power of capitalism.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectalternative economyen_US
dc.subjectColombiaen_US
dc.subjectnon-capitalismen_US
dc.subjectsocial movementsen_US
dc.subjectAnthropologyen_US
dc.subjectactivismen_US
dc.subjectalternative currencyen_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineAnthropologyen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorGreenberg, James B.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberVásquez-León, Marcelaen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberSheridan, Thomas E.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberGreen, Linda B.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberGreenberg, James B.en_US
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