Disaster, Violence and State of Exception: Memories of Lootings in the Aftermath of the 2010 Chilean Earthquake

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Andrea ROCA, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
Chileans, a population used to earthquakes, woke up with surprise in the morning of February 27th, 2010 since right after the earthquake that hit Concepción, the third largest metropolitan area in the country, massive looting to stores came about. Fed by rumors about roving mobs, Concepcion residents formed their own neighborhood defense squads to guard their homes, whereas the Chilean government declared State of Exception to restore the social order. Drawing on testimonies of men and women I interviewed in Concepción two years after the disaster, the aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between earthquake, collective violence, and urban insecurity. Following a theoretical discussion about collective memories, I explore how silence and forgetting are active elements in the process of collective remembering. In addition, this project analyzes the sense of exceptionality that my interviewees, other scholars, and state authorities have assigned to looting in the aftermath of the earthquake; events that, as I shall demonstrate, were interpreted as a symptom of moral decadence of Chilean society under the neoliberal regime. By scrutinizing historical data about past earthquakes, I look at traces of social and political conflicts associated with the occurrence of natural disaster like the one I describe here. Concerning the 2010 facts, I make use of the framework offered by Charles Tilly and Javier Auyero to present, at a micro-scale level, looting targets, dynamics and repertoires based on narratives collected empirically (among them, testimonies of storeowners who were victimized by the crowd). Finally, to explore the displacement of fear—in particular, from the fear to earthquake to the fear of the “others”—I point out the need to pay attention to the ways in which different neighborhoods are conceived of as well as the role of rumors.