This article tracks the political effects of documents produced in relation to a public infrastructure project in the Peruvian Andes. By contrast with the recent focus on bureaucratic documents as aesthetic artefacts and instances of institutional form, I attend to the political processes enacted through project papers, exploring how their relational, material, affective and referential dimensions opened up spaces of political experimentation. In particular, I suggest that the power of documents to mediate the regulatory ambiguities incurred by Peru's ongoing decentralization lies partly in their capacity to espouse normative formality whilst always hinting at the possibility of its undoing.
Documents, Infrastructure and Political Experimentation in Highland Peru
Neo-liberal Statecraft in Contemporary Peru
Annabel Pinker and Penny Harvey
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.