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Echoes arising from two cases of the private administration of populations

African immigrants in twentieth-century Spain and Indians in nineteenth-century Ecuador

Andrés Guerrero

The article simultaneously explores three lines of reflection and analysis woven around the comparative reverberations (in space and time) between citizenship and the administration of populations (states of exception) in the Republic of Ecuador during the nineteenth century and the Kingdom of Spain in the twenty century. The first thread tries to answer the question whether it is possible for concepts generated in a country of the Global South to be used usefully in analyzing a different Northern reality, inverting the usual direction in the flows of transfer and importation of “theory.“ The second theme of comparative reverberation explores a network of concepts concerning the citizenship of common sense and the administration of populations, that is the “back-patio“ aspect of citizenship, particularly its historical formation in the domination of populations in the Republic of Ecuador during the nineteenth century. It is centered on the process of identification in the daily exchanges between interpares citizens and extrapares non-citizens. The last section involves testing concepts forged in the author's studies of Ecuadorian history for their utility in analyzing the current situation of modern sub-Saharan immigrants in Spain (using concrete examples), and their reclusion to the private sphere in spaces of exception and abandonment. Here, the article concentrates on the difference between the public administration of populations and the private administration of citizens. The article uses documentary material relating to nineteenth-century Ecuador and twentieth-century Spain and Senegal.

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Andrés Guerrero

I begin with the commentary by João Biehl and Sebastian Ramirez. I don’t know which is the author, but I know that my article has not been read as a “signifying machine,” with openness toward “what it may tell,” or wondering “if it works or not” (Deleuze 1990: 3–21), or simply “with openness to the existence of a third” (Biehl and Locke 2010: 347). Of course there is a lack of fit between the positions I put forward and those defended by the authors of the critique. Although our positions may differ, they are not necessarily incompatible: at least one of their several “intersections and junctions” (Biehl and Locke 2010: 347) might be revealed through a reading that is open but not a-critical. The divergence between the positions adopted by the authors and those I defend is, for me, one of the fruits of the diversity that characterizes intellectual creativity, and in particular that of history and anthropology.

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Tristan Platt and Andrés Guerrero

Interviewed and translated by Tristan Platt

TP: Andrés, you have recently published a book which has provoked considerable interest, and which presents the results of your reflections over several years on the history and anthropology of Ecuador. Let me start by asking you what led you to these two disciplines, and how you think the combination has led you to understand better an Andean and Latin-American society such as Ecuador?