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Manufacturing Modernity: Cleaning, Dirt, and Neoliberalism in Chile

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Abstract:

Since the coming to power in 1973 of the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, neoliberalism in Chile has been discursively tied to the goal of “modernizing” Chilean society. This discourse of modernization has relied for its articulation upon another important discourse, that of “cleanliness” as a marker of progress: clean spaces are seen as those of modernity whereas dirty spaces are taken to represent social and economic “backwardness”. In this paper, then, we explore how spaces which are considered emblematic of the modern economy—shopping malls, giant office complexes, university campuses—are maintained as clean spaces. However, in order for the discourse of cleanliness as modernity to work, it is crucial that the corridors of mobility—train routes, subways, city streets—which allow passage between these nodes of the modern economy also be maintained as sanitary spaces. The result is the construction discursively of an almost seamless nexus of hygienic spaces, one which stands in contrast to the dirty spaces of the “other” Chile. The paradox in all of this, however, is that the workers who are crucial to this project—janitors—have suffered greatly as a result of neoliberalism.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0066-4812.2006.00592.x

Affiliations: 1: Irving K Barber School of Arts & Sciences, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada; ; ricardo.trumper@ubc.ca, Email: patricia.tomic@ubc.ca 2: Instituto de Geografía, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile;, Email: rhidalgd@puc.cl

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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