Beyond the barricade : liberation theology in the development of resistance in a Chilean población to the military regime of Augusto Pinochet between 1980 and 1986
Murphy, David James
The general focus of the study is a shanty town (población) on the outskirts of Santiago in Chile during the military regime of Augusto Pinochet. The military coup of 11th September 1973 was the beginning of seventeen years of repression and violence. The specific focus of the research is the development of resistance against Pinochet amongst the people (pobladores) of that shanty town. The research is based on a six year period in the población where the candidate, being also a Catholic priest, had unique access through his role to the social and cultural life of the people. The implications of this role in terms of retrospective anthropology are examined in detail. The experience is studied in terms of the developments of attitudes and behaviour within a particular group especially in their movement from tentative protest and the creative use of ambiguity, to the use of barricades as the focus for direct confrontation with the authorities. The passing beyond the barricade is explored in terms of the expansion of the people's capacity to develop political agency. The thesis is a case study of Liberation Theology and its role in the development of resistance to the military regime. The street becomes a central focus as space of protest. A comparison is made between the private space of the house as refuge and the public space of the street as place of conflict and danger. It is suggested that the barricade may be understood as a dynamic boundary being partly constituted by the bodies of the protesters themselves. It is also didactic, insofar as the re-appropriation of physical space - the streets, the bridge upon which the key barricade is built, and by extension the entire población, parallel the occupation of the internal space in the minds of the protesters. The transformations of meaning being etched into the 'landscape' were being correspondingly etched into the 'inscapes' of the imagination. If space can be taken as analogous to language and the movement of bodies through the población understood, therefore, as an articulation of an alternative discourse, then the boundary/barricade can be seen as the focus for such a counter-discourse against the attempt by Pinochet to militarise civilian life. Liberation theology and the Basic Christian Community are explored in terms of the development of the potential of resistance to the military regime. It is suggested that these functioned by legitimating new public discourses, promoting new styles of leadership and empowering individuals and organisations. Here politics becomes part of the road to 'salvation' and religion becomes politics by other means. Finally the question of popular education is addressed in the context of an invasion of the University by the pobladores. A project of popular education is explored in its attempt to go beyond the question of protest against the Regime to addressing how political power is operated through appropriation of discourse. Power and knowledge are intricately intertwined. The focus moves to consider political violence as being exercised not just in military might but also through institutional structures. The conclusion recapitulates the main themes in the context of wider aspects of anthropology.