This article is an ethnographic account of the politics of transparency in
Paraguay that focuses on the circulation of a particular binder full of
photocopies from the land registry during Paraguay’s embattled “transition
to democracy.” The concept of transparency posits a representational
relationship between documents and reality – i.e. governments are transparent
to the extent that they generate faithful and accessible documentary
representations of their activities. The article suggests that the difficulty of
creating a critical analysis of transparency has less to do with representations
than with contention over what counts as reality. The Paraguayan case
suggests that we might benefit from rethinking transparency through the logic
of populism, in which reality is itself created in the relationship between
leaders and their followers.
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