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The Body as Wound: Possession, Malandros and Everyday Violence in Venezuela

AutorFerrándiz Martín, Francisco
Palabras clavedelinquency
social memory
social trauma
Fecha de publicación2004
ResumenDuring the 1990s, Venezuela saw both an intensification in the levels of everyday violence and in the ideological operations blaming the poor for this state of affairs, resulting in a large scale criminalization of shantytown dwellers, especially young men. This production of social stigma is of one piece with the implementation of repressive State policies. Based on a year long ethnographic fieldwork on the well-known spirit possession cult of María Lionza in the shantytowns of Caracas, this paper discusses one relevant aspect of the extensive social trauma taking shape in the shadow of these events. As an emergent form of popular religion where different styles of embodiment are constantly being produced, the cult quickly activated a type of spirits dormant in its populous pantheon: the delinquents –malandros. These spirits, which became an instant success among young spiritist mediums, diagram the tragic encounter of scores of poor Venezuelans with the change of the century.
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