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Negotiating Uncertainty

Neo-liberal Statecraft in Contemporary Peru

Annabel Pinker and Penny Harvey

Keywords: affect; ambivalence; decentralization; measurement; neo-liberalism; politics; regulation; the state

In this article, we deploy the concept of 'affect' to explore processes of state formation in contemporary Peru. Drawing on ethnography concerning a controversial engineering project in the Sacred Valley, we show how the state emerges as an affective force in the ambivalent spaces opened up by the slippages between the stable certainties promised by regulatory frameworks and the doubts generated by the ambiguities they pose. Tracing the tensions, gestures, and tiny shifts in perspective that punctuate an encounter between engineers and local politicians, we complicate the notion that a pre-existing state induces affects in political subjects. Instead, we show how the state emerges as a virtual force—neither quite present nor absent—in an uncertain, highly political field of negotiation.

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