Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Chavez, Latin America, Power, Public place, Space, Venezuela
My research falls within urban anthropology, as it examines how supporters and opponents of the Venezuelan government have manipulated symbols in attempting to control certain public places in Venezuela's capital city, Caracas. My thesis is that by using public places to advance their respective agendas, President Chávez' supporters and opponents have struggled for power and have exacerbated the country's social segregation, territorial division and political intolerance. My study reveals that despite its particular topography and socioeconomic structure, Caracas has a characteristic cartography of political segregation. This cartography has been created by groups of government opponents and supporters that want to present their political principles and values throughout the city. Both groups, claiming the exercise of their civil rights and ethos, attempt to manipulate symbolic places such as Plaza Bolívar and Plaza Altamira. Their purpose is to create a social space to exhibit symbols and ideas that belong to them, but need to be promoted to the entire city and country. By doing this, Caracas has been divided into two political areas: East and West. Neither corresponds to a geographic reference. In order to set apart the "other" from the "self," both groups -opponents and supporters- need to claim both territories physically and symbolically. In this process, Plaza Bolívar and Plaza Altamira have become common mental images carried by numbers of Caracas inhabitants to construct a political apartheid. Opponents and supporters have used, and re-created both sites, investing them with their ethos. Therefore, these places have become the setting where relations between both groups are performed and where the symbols of those relationships can be read. These symbols are physical and/or conceptual, and in both forms they have redefined the relationship between people and places.
Servigna, Ana, "Transforming the City. An Ethnography of Contested Public Space in Venezuela" (2011). Anthropology - Dissertations. Paper 90.