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‘CIRUJEO’ IN THE CITY OF BUENOS AIRES: VISIBILIZATION, STIGMA AND TRUST

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Author(s): Mariano D. Perelman

Journal: AIBR : Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana
ISSN 1695-9752

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 94;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Buenos Aires | cartoneros | cirujeo | trust | shame.

ABSTRACT
During the late 90s and the earliest 2000’s, thousands of people who had lost their jobs began to be seen in the streets of Buenos Aires looking into the dumpsters, and searching for materials to be recycled, reused and re-sold again. This activity is known as cirujeo. In this article I analyze the way in which the people who began collecting garbage in the mid-nineties have made a living from this activity. I will show that these experiences are not based on a linear relationship between stigma and shame, but in a more complex and contradictory construction. While the cirujas want to be unnoticed in some areas and feel shame because of what they do, they also must get visible to generate relationships of trust with the garbage provider, and this involves a mutual recognition. In order to denaturalize the relationship between stigma, shame, and cirujeo- relation that is usually thought as natural- and to explain the collective, singular and experientially lived character of the activity and the feelings linked to it, I analyze the trajectories of people, the hegemonic discourses around work, the projections and differences between what the cartoneros are and what they would like to be in a complex and relational way. I argue that it is not only the subjective experience of inequality what contributes to the explanation of an specific action, but also what determines the way in which a certain the activity is structured.
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