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Migrant Residents in Search of Residences

Locating Structural Violence at the Interstices of Bureaucracies

Megan Sheehan

Latin American migration to Chile has increased exponentially over the past 20 years. As migrants settle in Santiago, they face numerous articulations of bureaucracy—at entry, in visa processing, in labor regulations, and in housing law. This article charts a central paradox of migrant experiences with two discordant bureaucratic entities in Chile. Migrants are frequently able to acquire residency documents, yet they are often unable to enter into formal rental agreements or easily access adequate housing. Drawing on data collected during 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Santiago, Chile, I explore migrants’ lived experience of bureaucracy. As migrants navigate the processes involved in attaining visas and in securing housing, their experiences expose the interstices of bureaucracy, sites of disjuncture between contrasting bureaucratic entities and realms. These bureaucratic interstices are critical sites where structural violence is fostered, normalized, and made invisible.