Representing the Barrios

Culture, Politics, and Urban Poverty in Twentieth-Century Caracas

We can’t understand Venezuela today without understanding the barrios. Representing the Barrios provides an imaginary topography of the barrios of Caracas as both object of anxiety and historical subject, a space for radical politics and for the territorial remapping of political life more broadly. Moving effortlessly from literature to film to politics and back again, the book is ambitious, erudite, elegant, and essential.
Geo Maher, author of Anticolonial Eruptions: Racial Hubris and the Cunning of Resistance

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Against a backdrop of rapid urbanization and the growth of a global economy powered by carbon, Rebecca Jarman argues that in Venezuela, urban poverty has become one of the most important resources in national culture and statecraft. Attracting the attentions of writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians from within and beyond the limits of Caracas, the barrios are fetishized in the cultural domain as sites of rampant sex, crime, revolution, disease, and violence. The appeal of the urban poor in entertainment is replicated in the policies of autocratic leaders who, operating within an extractivist matrix that prizes the acquisition of land and capital, have sought to expand their reach into these densely populated territories. Sometimes yielding to commodification, the barrios also have resisted exploitation by exceeding the terms of their representation in hegemonic culture and politics. Whether troubling the narratives that profit from poverty or undermining class-based stereotypes with experimental aesthetics, the barrio as a shifting set of coordinates consistently evades appropriations of disenfranchisement. Mapping the recurrent tensions, anxieties, conflicts, aspirations, and blind spots that characterize depictions of the barrios, Rebecca Jarman elaborates a dynamic cultural analysis of the history of poverty in the Venezuelan capital.

about the author

Rebecca Jarman

Rebecca Jarman is associate professor of Latin American studies at the University of Leeds. Her research is situated at the intersections between culture and history in contemporary Latin America, and examines the forces, aspirations, and tensions that forge places, communities, and shared imaginaries in postcolonial and decolonial environments.

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Rebecca Jarman