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Heterotopias of power: miners, Mapuche, and soldiers in the production of the utopian Chile

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Drawing from Foucault's notion of heterotopias, my dissertation identifies and examines three distinct but related events that resignified (re-imagined) Chile during 2010, the year of its Bicentenary, namely: the Rescue of the 33 Miners trapped in the San José mine,

Drawing from Foucault's notion of heterotopias, my dissertation identifies and examines three distinct but related events that resignified (re-imagined) Chile during 2010, the year of its Bicentenary, namely: the Rescue of the 33 Miners trapped in the San José mine, the Chilean Military Parade performed in celebration of Chilean Independence, and the Mapuche Hunger Strike of 32 indigenous people accused of terrorism by the Chilean State. My central hypothesis states that these three events constitute heterotopias with strong performative components that, by enacting a utopian and a dystopian nation, denounce the flaws of Chilean society. I understand heterotopias as those recursive systems that invert, perfect or contest the society they mirror. In other words: heterotopias are discursive constructions and material manifestations of social relations that dispute, support, or distort cultural assumptions, structures, and practices currently operating in the representational spaces of a given society. In addition to following the six heterotopological principles formulated by Foucault, these case studies have performance as the central constituent that defines their specificity and brings the heterotopias into existence. Due to the performative nature of these heterotopias, I have come to call them performance heterotopias, that is, sets of behaviors that enact utopias in the historical world, the place in which we live, the site in which "the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs," as Foucault puts it. Here, performance would act as the interface, the point of interaction, and suture between the conceived, the perceived and the representational spaces each heterotopia articulates. Thus, a performance heterotopia would be a particular type of heterotopia which is enacted through performance. A relevant aspect that emerged from my research is that heterotopic places not only mirror, contest, and compensate their own host society, but also refer to, and intersect with other contemporaneous heterotopias enacted in that society. In my conclusion I suggest that such interactions also happen between heterotopias that emerge in different countries and cultures. If so, the mapping of utopias enacted in the macro socio geographies of Latin American countries could offer new perspectives to understand the sociopolitical processes that are underway in the region.

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2011