Totalizing Violence and Experience in Mexico

Maya Aguiluz Ibargüen
Maya Aguiluz Ibargüen

Maya Aguiluz Ibargüen, senior research fellow at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), has been a visiting scholar at NYU this past semester. As a sociologist, she has published widely on the discourse of modernity and social theory. In 2012, she received the UNAM’s “Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz” Award.

Aguiluz-Ibargüen studies violence from historical, anthropological, and sociological perspectives following integrative streams for transdisciplinary fusions. She began to intertwine perspectives through the integration of social sciences with anthropological and cultural studies.

In the beginning of the nineties, Aguiluz-Ibargüen did her Masters in La Paz, Bolivia, during which she was fascinated with her immersion into Bolivian pluralistic society. According to her, the Andean identification processes are continuously built in a plural process: cultures, politics, projects, and ideas from different parts of the world mix together, and the Andean culture learns how to embrace them. In 2005, she conducted research for a collaborative project about the work of Arturo Peralta Miranda. Known under the pseudonym of Gamaliel Churata, he is a writer who was exiled from Peru to Bolivia in 1919, but became an acknowledged journalist in the 1950s. Aguiluz- Ibargüen’s first work on Churata used Quechua and Aymara narrative to express social experiences through mythical stories and parables.

She decided to come to CLACS because of the Center’s focus on her region of  main interest: the Andes. But another important reason that motivated her is that CLACS Director, Jill Lane, is an expert in Performance Studies, and Aguiluz-Ibargüen is currently focusing on social suffering, the politics of love, and the performance of violence.

At CLACS she gave a talk as part of the Working Group on Racisms in Comparative Perspective coordinated by Professor Pamela Calla. She presented her paper “Violencia totalizante y experiencia en México contemporáneo: algunos acercamientos en torno al cuerpo, la visualidad y la racialización.”

Aguiluz Ibargüen explained that in Mexico violence is a totalizing phenomenon. A new vocabulary is imposed by the escalation of predatory violence in the country. Violence includes the invasion and control of the territory by criminal organizations and drug transit routes, and by paramilitary groups that serve them or struggle against them. The display of dead bodies brutally murdered has become commonplace, and this has affected the relationship between the dead and the living. The daily difficulty of living the violence without being able to articulate the pain has given birth to visual and body languages, which have substituted the language of words.

The body is affected by circumstances that go beyond the direct effects of violence, by suffering and trauma. In her study, the sociologist analyzes how the body creates new kinds of thought and practices to endure. “Suffering is not a pacific nor passive state,” she said, “it is a state from which to learn.” Suffering can be an individual and social phenomenon. It can be physical and psychological, but also cultural.

Placing the concept within Mexican society, Aguiluz Ibargüen explained that when the generic violence subsumes particular violence, its totalizing quality does not assume an ontological and permanent condition that gives rise to social mechanisms that penetrate in the social body and transform violence into an all-consuming reality.

Download Maya Aguiluz Ibargüen’s paper here.

Posted by Camilla Querin – MA Candidate at CLACS / Museum Studies

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