CHARLES L.

BRIGGS
University of California, San Diego

Theorizing modernity conspiratorially:
Science, scale, and the political economy of public discourse
in explanations of a cholera epidemic

ABSTRACT
When some five hundred people in eastern
Venezuela died from cholera in 1992-93, officials
responded by racializing tbe dead as "indigenous
people" and suggesting that "their culture" was
to blame. Stories that circulated in affected
communities talked back to official accounts,
alleging that the state, global capitalism, and
international politics were complicit in a
genocidal plot. It is easy to attribute such
conspiracy theories to differences of culture
and epistemology. I argue, rather, .that how
political economies position different players in
the processes throug h which public discourses
circulate, excluding some communities from
. access to authoritative sources of information
and denying them means of transforming their
narratives into public discourse, provides a more
fruitful line_of analysis. In this article I use-and
talk back to-research on science studies,
· globalization, and public discourse to think about
how conspiracy theories can open up new ways
·for anthropologists to critically engage the
contemporary politics of exclusion and help us
all find strategies for surVival. [race, conspiracy
theories, narrative, health, globalization, indigenous
_ peoples, Latin America]

for Feliciana
Yesterday afternoon my wife, Clara Mantini-Briggs, and I
stopped by the supermarket on our way home to buy provisions
for a birthday party I was to host for her that night after a
meeting of the small foundation we run. The temperature was
over 100 degrees as we arrived at the wrought-iron entrance to
the supermarket- bakery run by a local Portuguese immigrant
family, the most successful entrepreneurs in Tucupita, Delta
Amacuro, Venezuela.
Our attention was arrested by several bodies out of place, a ·
woman surrounded by three children. The woman's bright
orarige, flower-print dress and her location, seated on the
cement floor of the passageway between two businesses,
seemed to place her in the local racial economy as an indigena,
"indigenous person," a category that is commonly contrasted
with "Venezuelan," criollo ("Creole," meaning "nonindigenous"), the "national society," "rational," and "civilized."
The sight of indigena women with infants by their sides became 1
commonplace after hundreds left the rain forest in the wake of
a cholera epidemic that killed some five hundred people in the
area in 1992-93. These refugees hoped to secure their constitutional rights to health care and economic opportunity. But
begging, collecting aluminum cans to sell, and (for men) the
occasional odd job constitute the only work available to them,
and death see~s to be just as omnipresent as it was in the
rain forest.
Two aspects s"e emed to dis-locate the four people. First, they
were in the middle ofthe passageway, whereas indigena women generally beg at the entrances to businesses and other public
sites. Second, the baby, some six to eight months old, was
severely dehydrated. His tearless eyes lay sunken in their
sockets, his tongue was dry and swollen, and his cry was hoarse
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114 'ft Zoo~

Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist

and barely audible. With only a rag placed
around his hips, it was easy to see that he
was seriously underweight, with tiny arms
extending from his washboard ribs. Even I, a
"fake doctor," an anthropologist, could tell
that death was not far away as I approached
with the "real doctor," Clara, a Venezuelan
public health' physician, herself of indigenous
descent: Just to the woman's right, a son, some
two to three years old, stood with his face to
the wall, like a statue in storage or a child
pretending to be invisible. A girl of about nine
or ten stood beside Clara and me in old,
tattered jeans and a deteriorating T -shirt, alert
and engaged.
I asked in Warao, the language spoken by most
people classified as indigenas in the delta,
what was wrong. The woman, whose name
we learned was Maria Perez, replied in Spanish that the child had been suffering .from
diarrhea but was now recovering. Suggesting
that the baby was seriously ill, I asked if she
had taken him to see a doctor. "We went to
the hospital, twice, and the doctor told me to
give him some vitamins," Perez said as she
held up a bottle. We seemed to be locked in a
Bakhtinian dance, iu which I, a white, middleclass North American and long-time resident
of Tucupita and the delta, spoke Warao, and
the woman responded in Spanish sentences
that seemed to pop like soap bubbles as soon
as they left her tongue, creating traces of
. meaning but leaving the communicative gaps
that separated us largely intact. Clara fed me
lines to translate, attempting to .elicit diagnostically crucial information. Perez began to shift
into Warao, bringing us closer to what felt like
understanding. Still, it seemed unclear whether hospital physicians had failed to respond to
the seriousness of the situation, whether Perez
had not understood the words they had
uttered in a medical register of Spanish, or
whether some other scenario altogether had
led to the present situ,ation. Perez gave the
child a breast to stop its crying, then withdrew
it when the child ~as comforted, only to
repeat the process with the other bie~§'t"
Another daily dilemma in Tucupita. Our fledgling organization, the Fundaci6n para las
Investigaciones Applicadas, Orinoco (Foundation for Applied Research, Orinoco), seeks to
improve health and other conditions for underserved populations in the region. We had to
get home to receive our fellow organization

members for the meetipg. But was the child's
life not a more pressing medical issue than the
items listed on the agenda? We could leave the
other members waiting in front of our house,
but it was not clear that sticking around the
supermarket would reveal a strategy for saving
the child's life. Perez was much closer to the
medical facilities that she had sought in leaving the rain forest, but medical justice-and
saving the life of her child-seemed to be just
as far away.
·
Just at that moment, another woman entered
the passageway between the bakery and supermarket. Her new, tightly fitting jeans, stylish blouse cut to reveal her bellybutton, and
carefully groomed hair placed .her in the local
racial economy as a criolla. She was pushing a
reluctant girl of about three years old toward
Perez, laughing all the while and taunting the
child, ''I'm going to leave you with her, tm
going to leave you with her!" The child, with
fair skin and light brown hair, dressed in new
jeans, a pretty pillk blouse, and bright white
sandals, struggled to retreat into the bakety,
crying out, "No, no, no, no!" Daily acts of '
racism can construct a mother with a critically
ill child as a monster, capable of filling ·one
member of the racially dominant sector with
terror and another with mirth. The scene went
by quickly as the criolla mother pulled her
daughter beyond us and i nto the supermarket,
leaving us just as dumbfounded as the medical
dilemma that was unfolding simultaneously.
Clara cautioned Perez against using the baby
bottle that she was about to give the child,
extolling the virtues of breast milk and pointing out that the smell of the bottle indicated
that it was not clean. I gave the woman some
money to help her get back to the hospital. We
walked away, wondering how any program we
. .inaugurated could measure up to the challenges that we had just, unsuccessfully, confronted. For us, yet another layer had been
added to the meaning of racism, health, and
daily life in Delta Amacuro.
his scene evokes the ghosts that lurk just beyond
the fringes of the small city of Tucupita. Some
24,000 residents of the delta of the Orinoco
River are classified· as indigenas, specifically as
members of the "Warao indigenous ethnic
group." 1 A recent survey of several ·communities in this
region found that 36 percent of children· die in the first
year of life (Servicio de Apoyo Local 1998). -Some 60

T

185

let alone scandal. The· same process of erasure that renders these deaths invisible also thwarts our awareness of the profound effects of infant deaths . During conversations with parents and participation in many funerals. 2003). I often wondered if I would be able to surVive the loss of even a single child. and problematic character of both nation and state. is ·a textually mediated experience. and the appearance-and smell. he could not understand their words-until Michelle's death.3 But the World Health Organi. Veena Das (1995). arbitrary. Vicente Navarro (1998). But it is part of a world in which you and I are intimately involved. but I also have trouble constructing him simply as an author here.000 liveborn children-would be scandalous. I often thought about Renato Rosaldo's (1989) powerful account of his own responses ·to-the death of his wife. The rage that he experienced then thrust him into a subject position that permitted him to grasp the force behind the Ilongots' words. -just as his{orians have pointed to the way that connecting race and a perceived lack of medical modernity-as a sign of a lack of civilizationconstituted a key part of many colonial projects (see.m:: percent of adults test positive for tuberculosis. some five hundred people died in the Orinoco Delta from \ cholera in 1992 and 1993. these ghosts hold the potential to reveal the constructed.d others suggest. Cholera can kill a healthy adult in as few as eight hours after the onset of symptoms. Michelle Rosaldo. just the sort of services that suffered from structural adjustment in the 1980s. and relations of established social orders. I knew that I occupied exactly the J. may seem 1GB I remote to many of you. one can say that delta dead become ghosts that ' are only visible at the boundary of the nation-state and its I modern citizens.4 percent. N!Y g<::>al in this article is to examine some of the ways that this erasure t~~s place and how people try to restore th~ir own visibility. 1999. and tuberculosis and the erosion of social security systems and sanitary infrastructures in Latin America (see Armada et al.3 to 1. As I watched so many children die and heard their parents talk and sing ·about their suffering. ap. Their invisibility helps to define the categories. an infant mortality rate of 36-that is. According to a survey of delta communities that Clara and I conducted in 1994-95. Richard Wilkinson (1996).of the cholera patient are not pretty. borders. It is not just that I know Renato. Anderson 2003. He suggested that. a .3 percent (United Nations Development Programme 1998).American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 •1!111 1 . The deaths add layer on layer of trauma. my readers.. 36 deaths out of 1.>Osition that Renato described-a fieldworker who f:ck~a'1he human experiences that formed the focus of the cultural_forms that he or she investigated. Hunt 1999). Paul Farmer (1992. As Jim Yang Kim et al. It is symbolically associated with dirt. By their lingering presence. Like many people. ignorance. One of the "reemerging infectious diseases" is chole~. Generally transmitted by contaminated water and -fooa. The neoliberal policies and practices of multilateral lending institutions. the governments of wealthy countries. Absent from Latin America for nearly century. Cholera is the classic disease of social inequality.2 For most of the places in which you. an epidemic began in Peru in January of 1991 and affected nearly all of the countries in tl1e region. Although only onefifth of the world's population lived in countries with tl1e highest incomes. not having felt so great a loss himself. From 1960 to 1991' the portion of the world's wealth enjoyed by the poorest 20 percent of its population dropped from 2. both between and within nation-states. (Forgive me for breaking academic convention in referring to him by his first name. The "reemergence" of such classic killers as malaria. and other medical anthropologists have powerfully revealed the political economy that renders the Jives of most people on the ~-~t expendable. reifying complex and contested networks of bodies and meanings as coherent systems. I can still remember who told me about her death and my sense of loss for an esteemed colleague-and how I pondered its impact on Renat. feelings of loss that undermine people's sense of meaning and agency. 2001) demand reflection on the part of people who live in the countries in which global economic policies are generated. premodernity.I zation (WHO) was only told about 13 of those deaths. live. on the lives of parents.g. Life in "the field. dengue. And it is scary. Both of the scenes I have described. Clara and I have interviewed many parents who have had eight or ten children and who comment bitterly that only \ one or two of them are still alive.) Renato writes that he never grasped what Ilongot men meant when ·they spoke of how the rage following the death of a loved one moved them to kill and decapitate another human being. these people accounted for 86 percent of expenditures for private consumption worldwide. Following Avery Gordon (1997). and the racial Other. and transnational corporations have greatly increased the gap between the rich and the poor. a woman sitting just outside a bakery with a dying child and rain forest communities in which so many babies die. But the daily struggle of Maria Perez to keep her children alive and the deaths of so many infants seldom provoke public comment.o and their children.." of course. it is easily prevented by adequate sanitary infrastructures and is treated by simple medical techniques. a )' form of discursive erasure that prevented an international outcry or visits from WHO officials. As I was surrounded by death in the : delta. e. social inequality has serious health implications. (2000). Arnold 1993. Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1992). the poorest 20 percent accounted for only 1.

the homeless are pressed into spaces in which more fortunate residents live or work.""'to>. for many. I shift_the focus away from notions of epistemological or cultural difference to think about the political-economic parameters that shape how particular accounts get placed within-or excluded from-the circulation of public discourse." My goal is not to characterize conspiracy theories as "paranoid" (Hofstadter 1967) -or as quintessential embodiments of Cold War logics or post- I ~ . Medical services in the area are limited. race.000 (Oficina Central de Estadistica e Informatica 1993). But in most urban areas. In claiming that the intractability of indigena mothers is demonstrated by their purported inability to mourn the deaths of their children. the delta thus provided an ideal locus for a cholera epidemic. Nevertheless. including means of turning people into· categories and numbers and then providing states with control over the production. rather. ) d 11/'f" J. very little was done. into newspapers. and. Few communities in the fluvial region received instruction on cholera or knew that treatment was required immediately. during the epidemic and in "normal" times. encompasses 40. it thus had even more time than other areas of the country to respond to directives from the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance (MSAS) to put anticholera measures in place. the country had time to prepare for the inevitable.. I focus on a sort of slippage or wiggle room that exists between seemingly contradictory means of constructing modern subjects. Venezuela The Orinoco Delta. These accounts turn the effects of a triple inequality of health (Breilh 2003). or planning documents. patients. responses to an outrageous situation can provide into developing critiq~es of "sp attered hegemonies" (Grewal and Kaplan 2002). Because cholera appeared in Peru in January of 1991 and Venezuela did not report cases until late November. radio and television broadcasts. guided by practices of looking and not seeing. In such spaces a more intimate politics of invisibility is needed. Each of these practices can be exploited in creating ghosts and then rendering them invisible. I am interested in what seem to be rather exuberant and sometimes even outlandish attempts to disrupt the normative operation of this economy of erasure. constructing a wide range of alternative explanations. providing a means of seeing how discursive economies operate and how people-including an~opol. C1ara and I focused on how state officials blame the deaths of indigenas in the delta. My focus goes back to Delta Amacuro. rain forests. The slak~s -ffeve high. One practice exploits the distinction between science and society. Gated communities try to shut poverty and violence outside.lf<'j />/o//t" I J / eJc""". The third practice has to do with a contradiction in how public discourses are produced and circulate.l' I f4<{-v-/' v . Or even.200 square kilometers and has a population of about 40. state officials demonstrated their own ignorance of daily life in delta communities.."4 In previous work.Iv<{ modern sensibilities (Marcus 1999). female relatives surround the corpse and I collectively compose ritual laments that express not only sorrow but also anger directed at anyone deemed responsible for prompting the death (Briggs 1992. During the epidemic and in its aftermath. 1993). and class-into· an immodest claim of causality (Farmer 1999) that purports to explain such deaths. Delta Amacuro was a cholera-free zone until August of 1992. what sorts of rights they enjoy. as the bakery scene suggests. Epidemiology provides powerful techniques of erasure.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist ) I/~-1C>v-~ 1 Techniques of erasure are varied. Medical supplies had not been stockpiled in 187 .ll ~ •. Official accounts represent a situation that is so depressing and dramatic and the techniques they use in suppressing outrage and making death seem normal are so productive that it can be as edifying as it is -alarming to see how little overt discursive work is needed to turn a medical nightmare fostered by racialized medical inequalities into something that seems natural and interpretable. and conspiracy theories.5 Unfortunately. involving how different populations are constructed by the state. on the purported failure of mothers to save their family members-or even to try (see Briggs with Mantini-Briggs 2003). I am. The second practice emerges from processes that seem to produce global versus local subjects.rf11 ogists-get interpellated in the process.and how people get interpellated in this process. interested in the insights that a set of conspiratorial . a fluvial region in eastern Venezuela with an estuarial coastline. and very few people had even heard of the disease. to the rain f~rest area and to adjacent urban spaces. and publication of these "data. / community members. much less to celebrate them as discursive acts of popular resistance.__ theJ!' ~~sion. not to make conspiracy theories strange but to reflect on features that such theories hold in common with words spoken -and written in other places. and transportation is difficult. people who live in worlds based on a global vision and those who do not seem to j be able to see beyond their own noses.fT". of making such sights seem unremarkable. In accounting for the seemingly strange character of conspiracy theories. This article identifies three practices of erasure that facilitated . When· even the smallest I infant dies. using such sights as a means of getting a laugh. and activists talked back to these accusatory images. few of the explanations ever · made it into public discourse. Some of the strategies that critique and challenge these practices and attempt to render the ghosts visible are often referred to as "conspiracy theories. I think that the implications extend far heyond epidemics... '~rrfr5 . circulation. between natural objects and social subjects. issues of life and death.of gender. focusing in particular on people who do not seem to know the difference. Cholera in Delta Arnacuro. reports.

and. From the OP. therapeutic touch. public health C. who worked for MSAS and had played a major role in attempts !O halt transmission of the disease. Given the lack of detailed epidemiological data at that point. 1987) . perched on stilts above the river. continuing the health education program and documenting the epidemic. Crabs become the rhetorical anchor for the emergenc~ranging attempts to link cholera in the delta to the "customs" and "culture" of indigenas. and healing 188 was to be of any value to the people with whom I had worked for years. the really "uncivilized" ind[genas. curing. and diV:inatory dreams are consulted frequently (see Wilbert 1972.to stay for a few weeks. when available. Articles tl1at appeared in the local pa ~ S_!:!g_g~~ted that crabs lie at the heart of indigena kinship patterns. including criticism by opposition politicians. I subsequently decided that 1\ if my research on culture. Even in the few communities that boast a clinic staffed by a resident physician. We created a pilot program in cholera prevention for Mariusa. When people brought their relatives to clinics. inadequacy of health infrastructures. and human rights and protesting land expropriation and environn:1ental degradation. economics. government. a dish containing uncooked fish. Many conspiracy theory narratives that resisted official i~terpretations still incorpm:ated some of the most crucial premises-especially the hybridization of medical and racial imaginaries tl1at identified cholera with indigenas. ~d mythology. And. I interviewed some ofthe hundreds of delta residents living on the streets of Tucupita. selling hammocks. providing health education and ~ establishing a nursing station. ritual. The stigma attached to the emergence of a disease that conjures up visions of backwardness. and government officials. predominates. Officials claimed that the epidemic had oiiginated in a religious ritual named the nowara. Persons who had been to town carried copies of Notidiario. In some small communities as many as a third of the adults died within the first night or two (see Briggs with MantiniBriggs 2003). communication. officials reacted to the exodus by rounding up the refugees and sending them back to the delta by military transport. I felt some degree of trauma for a couple of months. Both the cholera epidemic and its diasporic ~fte~a'tli prompted criticism of the regional . Puhlicity that focused on the epidemic threatened the legitimacy of public health institutions in Delta Amacuro. Along the way. played a key role in spreading cholera in Peru. I returned to Delta Amacuro in June of 1994. Most live in houses with palm lecif thatching.s tations in Tucupita transmitted public health announcements. I arrived in Delta Amacuro in November 1992. and other handicrafts. It was a terribly painful time for me. the crab motif seems to have been an adaptation of the widespread belief that £eviche. a range of vernacular healers who use chanting. activists. It also contrib· uted to the replacement. Official embarrassment was exacerbated when it became apparent that no serious efforts had been made to prepare for an epidemic. the ingestion of tobacco smoke. one of the areas heavily impacted by cholera and with the least access to health services. Even individuals who had not listened to the radio or read the newspapers heard these narratives as they were retold countless times. ~ans and administrators subsequently turned an even deafer ear to conditions in the delta. Deeming the Warao to be a political liability. crabs got thoroughly culturalized. ·One would be mistaken to posit some sort of insurmountable epistemological or informational hiatus between delta communities and those on the mainland. Although I was only able . and Clara and I worked together for 15 months. gathering forest products. and state negligence led to the dismissal of the regional directors of MSAS and the Office of Indigenous Affairs. and most people subsist fro m fishing. the capital. growing swidden crops. The epidemic thus compounded insecurity around iss'Ues of life and death in a region that has among the highest rates of malnutrition al)d infant mortality in Venezuela. lack of hygiene. now was the time to put it to use. wage labor. and I found it difficult to return to academic business as usual: In June of 1993. Radio . and physicians were absent when anguished voices on two-way radios announced the -lleglillli~g-of the epidemic. When the health refugees who left the delta drew the attention of reporters. I rnet Clara.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 the few clinics that serve the rain forest area. The major source of transportation is the dugout canoe. some people classified as indigenas assimilated the official narratives. and talked to commu·1 1 nity representatives. Community leaders and activists also reported official accounts in the course of political organizing.el)ing days of the epidemic. the regional newspaper. At fJist glanceJ residents _of the fluvi~ ~egio~uld seem to be the definitive premodern subjects. back into the delta. political representation. a product derived from the moriche . the cycle is still repeated fre'!ue?tJ~. poverty. feeling the impact of the 1 deaths of so many friends at once and seeing the continu1 ing suffering of their relatives. by voters. extending this "geography of blame" (Farmer 1992) to their neighbors. baskets. responding with a mixture of disinterest and contempt to petitions presented by ind[f!enas for improvements in medical services. The cholera epidemic continued to exert detrimental effects on living conditions after new cases had slowed to a trickle by June of 1993. to be sure. nurses and physicians imparted their views of cholera and why it was spreading.and no walls. an indigenous South American language. of the Acci6n Democratica with the Movimiento al Socialismo Party in the \state government in 1993. Warao.t"vS'"h1u o officials cited crabs as a key means of transmitting cholera. in which a Warao kin group consumed "a collective banquet" of crabs and yuruma.

7 Although Medina preserves a key premise of official narratives. In 1994. is killing you. Some accounts used . when you eat crabs they kill you.and biomedicine to challenge official inte!]2retations. a 189 .. ePidemiology.b assertion combined scientific with . Cholera fc. the epid!lrniC seemed to be the unfortunate result of the accidental ingestion of bacteria by a creature tliat lies at the center of a culture. I eat crabs. tor producing authoritat!Ye representations of indigenas for consumption by people who identify themselves as criollos. crabs. )'I' w~sJ>lan~d here by the ships that take products to the basic industries-that they detected cholera and then they were anchored on the edge of the shore. the ~egional Health Service soon prohibited the consumption of shellfish. This imaginative epidemiology was not troubled by the absence of the nowara in the affected area. First. and other materials~!_J." The "criollo" to whom Medina refers may well have been Blanca Cardenas. Rather than a failure of public health institutions. enviS'io"ning choler~ as poisontha. she proudly told me that she ate crabs in delta communities. these Warao aren't getting sick from eating diseased crabs. stee bauxite. I ate crabs. 6 Nevertheless.lraws on official narratives in suggesting that crabs became contaminated.e. _criollo~allenged the way th_aLthe. it-conformed closely to collu:non practi-. ~o~ ~ho cl~ 1:_2 have a degree in biology often worked & . the idea that stories about the epidemic are tales about racial difference. _T@ account of an actiYis_t who lives in the nearby city of San Felix in~inuates that offi ials_in_tentionally_geated the epidemic." The criollos say that "the fish are killing you. removes the dang. Guevara further c. Note that commercial fishermen-~ were hurt financially by lower sales prompted by official accounts that depicted fish as cholera vectors.· ment agencies and corporations was conveniently erased.Q_o_pular racial representations. he suggests that the failure of MSAS to properly inspect vessels ~ed to the discharge of a suspicious chemical_ into~er.. even raw. Thus. The crab story was undermined by its own success. We criollos eat crabs and we haven't died. your food.hv.~e_piderniological difficulty is that crabs are ordinarily boiled in t:ile""delta and~ooking crab. some people classified as indige.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist palm.. it serves other j hegemonic interests." He. conducted seismic tests. toldme in the midst of the epidemic. Salomon Medina. ·{DG!o in corrirnercial fishing camps. He refers to the crab narra1 tives a:s "something fictitious or something to. British Petroleum (BP) reopened old wells in the northwestern corner of the delta.ra. are hurting you. Notidiario quotes the "cacique" (or indigena leader) Juan Zambrano as saying that "even though we have stopped eating hairy crabs. thus producing diarrhea @d death. In the wake of a prolonged economic crisis. the "activist Jose Guevara is classified by some as indigena. accuses MSAS officials of placing boats with cholera-stricken crews just off the coast. although tl).e biologist's narrative may attempt to subvert the state's efforts to protect its political ba~k. The crab rhetoric offered a number of benefits to public health institutions." Commenting on the international carg_9 ships that J!:anS. submitting them to quarantine in an area that was not appropriate for this purpose. Some accounts use the language of scienctt. delta narratorspointed olittWo fatal flaws in these stories. and the National Guard confiscated crabs and fish. new cases of cholera have been reported" (1992b: 24). Raised in the delta and fluent in Warao.. thereby infecting residents of other parts of the delta. he challenges the racialization of crabs and cholera vis-a-vis a fixed racial border. He claims that the samples of the toxic liquid he collected from delta rivers were confiscated under orders of the 1 Regional Health Service. In this widely disseminated story. as many people stopped eating shellfish..r of infecti~eople who ate boiled cr~o became infecteQ. arguing that marine species had absorbed the contaminants that petroleum exploitation deposited on the river floor. the delta. Raised in the delta and fluent in Warao. The criollos tell us that "the water is infecting you.c. and anthropology.. An."as -~Q_ some as .. In short. and drilled exploratory wells. dicicai medicine. shortly after BP began working in the area. knowing that estuarial movements would spread the infectious agent along the rivers that provide drinking water for delta communities. who lived in Mariusa. It located the space of cholera death far from Tucupita. in both geographic and cultural terms." But we don't believe that .. during the time that MSAS had prohibited their consumption. Any possible responsibility for govern. The account had an initial credibility in Tucupita in that it conformed to the sort of cultural-cum-environmental stories told about communities racialized as indigena that combine scientific discourses drawn from microbiology. residents had ipcorporate_d _petroleum into cholera narratives. by <_>thers as~.. stop up a leak. crabs are angry at you.Sec"and.·Another criollo said the same thing: "No. director of the Regional Office of Indigenous Affairs.t was dumped into the rivers through oil exploration and dispersed by the explosions ignited in seismic testing.PQrt oil . epidemiological images of crabs and fish as vectors. epjQ_emiological narratives are thus recontextualized in such a way as to impeach the individuals who created them. !I '• .Guevara combines the biologist's reference to discharge from international vessels and the government's assertion that the causal agent was Vibrio I cholerae: "It isn't the case that cholera was born. the Venezuelan government entered into joint use agreements in the 1990s with transnational companies for oil exploration and production in the delta. have killed you..

"Criollo doctors say that crabs are to blame for this cholera. The peoJ?. and that water came from over there. When !he people refused to fill Trinidadian boats with crabs. a distance of some seven miles. It was the Americans. and it spread throughout the oceans. an 18th-century mission there attempted to convert delta indigenas: The Warao continue to be the focus of tales of identity for many Trinidadians (see Goldwasser 1996). . for infanticide (see Briggs and Mantini-Briggs 2000) ." But we Warao say." The missive never reached me.e call it. and they dropped their fire into-the water-that's what . Accordingly. many narratives told by delta residents imagined Mariusa as the front line of assaults on indigenas. for us Warao.n Go:r:nez. from the sea when their season arrives. In 1994." We think thatthe water is to blame. who at age 15 had been working as a domestic in Tucupita. It's because they dropped bombs. the authorities incarcerated the woman. all persons who could fight must have taken up arms. They fought and fought. by infecting the water. After the conflict ended. In January and February of 1991. and it took some doing to convince them that I had not been killed. for the crabs. And that poison made the fish turn bad.Uu 11 ' I i " Number 2 May 2004 Within the racialized space of the delta. . [Jhe_ poison] dispersed in the ~ater and s ame slowly. After "¥~ visitect the young W?man ·in prison. They get diarrhea and vomit and their soft bodies become rigid. they dropped bombs from the sky on ships. in the ocean? A gas or a microbe that somehow infected the water and. What sort of disease did the bombs produce there in the water. Tn. Now you can no longer eat them or you get diarrhea. This narrative is clearly in dialogl!. in Spanish they're called "bombs. And crabs come from the sea. a resident of the Arawabisi area who has been ~iated with botl1 the COPEI political party and the Regional Office of Indigeno~. It's just as if they were poisoned. 7 . He had requested NI' R ther th an our asststance m freemg h"1s 'fOJ)VI ~ece trom pnson. So [the Mariusans) in turn went and got crabs and ate them . a rumor then went around the In r~~ ~~'' ' Vol ume 31 110 delta that I had died in the war. They get really sick. rape. this cholera didn't come on its own. a investigate the possibility that she -had been the object of unfair labor practices. Although this narrative expands the dramatis personae. And ·that's how the disease began. I was IJlaced at ~e center Ltb_e co!!flicLin-the geqpo_!iticalimagi~~-of gl~ de!!a _residents. . One widely disseminated narrative claims that a strike by ~ans prompted the. Clara and I ·were working with )l. They have some sort of poison in tl1em that affects the fish. And so.e wi_!h the officia) accounts.. At the same time. Many of the people who reside there live in moriche palm groves and do not practice horticulture or engage in wage labor. So the Warao people think. I did not respond.American Ethnologist • ~IIIII• ~.It> Affairs. Mariusans frequently compfain about the miserly sums that Trinidadians offer them in exchange for the difficult work of digging crabs out of the mud. they also gg! th~ poison. Mariusa residents have traveled for centuries across the Caribbean to the southern.tha-t it targets both Marius~s and crabs in imagining-the ~pidemic.-govern: ment as Dokomuru aidamotuma. 0 • 0 0 When the river had reached its high point [two years ago]. one community near the mouth of the _M:ariusa River is seen as most fully embodying the "uncivilized" or " irrational" character of indigenas.ously related this narrative. They kept on making poison~ Then the black people left.amo. the water. it continues to imagine the delta as the border that . and the crabs. It doesn't kill them. Trinidadians have come regularly to Mariusa-generally several times a week-to buy crabs. then it must have been defending its own territory against a foreign invasion. the entrepreneurs responded: "'Okay. and when they eat crabs the same thing happens. it is small wonder that many of the etiological narratives located the beginning of the epidemic there. cholera ~ptdemic began nearly a year and a half later..le who were fighting dropp~~ elemeyit tllatmade the waterbad." They dropped th~m on the ground and they dropped in the water and then dropped them in the water. Gomez spontane..Other narratives disrupt the spatializing practices of official ·narratives more radically. quite a number of friends were shocked to see me. encompasses the cholera story ." Because many delta residents travel to the Mariusan coast in July and August to collect crabs. . but the crabs come to where the people live. and. "Charles's leaders. ~ecaU:se Mariusals pfaced at ground zero the -social space of race.S. When I returned to Tucupita in November of 1992. fine!' So right then they starting putting poison [in the water]. Gomez a_nd his wife came to our house to discuss the case. the disease was disseminated throughout the area. When they catch fish and they eat them. \¥ith Iraq. "Crabs don't have cholera. Locals described the U. they get diarrhea and vomit. very slowly. and medical malpractice. epidemic." If tl1e United States was so centrally involved in a war. During the 15 years that I have visited the area. we heard that a war was going on. the Uqited ~tates -and other "allied" nations bomb~d "fr_aq_... also infected the fish and infected the crabs.. thus. Gomez lives in Arawabisi and also rents a room in Tucupita. teacher Feliciano Gomez was asked to write me a letter. Since fh_e_ crabs_ ~s_9 live in the ocean. As news of the war reached· delta communities via copies of Notidiario and reports on Radio Tucupita.. News of the Gulf War was still fresh in people's minds whefith. In Warao we call it that. They are seen-even by those classified as Warao-as tOtally iillmersed in a "savage" world of magic and shamanism. From the time that they fought one year passed.coast of Trinidad.mg Kuw~t. "to see if you were still alive.

lack of political representation.With the support of national leaders of the "500 Years of Resistance" movement of 1992. The authority of vernacular curers suffered a serious blow. V = I'm going to tell you about my dream.9 The event formed part of the celebration of both fth anniversary of the National Guard and the the fifty-t i Columbian quincentennial. squatting behind a huge metal ice chest and next to piles of salted. The early days of the epidemic we•re catastrophic ror vernacular healers. thereby eliminating the major obstacle that stood in the way of criollos enjoying free access to the delta and its natural resources.Q_riated rights to areas used for palm ." is there [points toward Trinidad]. The house of this hebu. appeases them with offerings of smoke and palm starch.. the govenpnent. One -of the-firstattemp~ to uS~ the language of spirits to explain t:l1eepidemic invg1Y:!'<Q. people who had been given up for dead. Gomez's troupe was asked to perform a music and dance technique associated with the nahanamu cycle tl1at or_9. and people started dying in a rapid and horrifying fashion from an unknown disease... regained consciousness and were talking and sitting up within a few u&. and as many as half died in some communities. That "Poison" is a hebu. . took me aside before a health ~ducation meeting. Mter-thupid~mic subsided. I thus share in the responsibility for the epidemic. My dream is really powerful! 111 I - .ieading them to return to the delta and cause an epidemic. · When (returned to Mariusa in June oD_9~.8 A Tucupita activist. many healers who had initially been stumped o~-g~n began to.lar~~d an in~en~e Ian~~truggle. nearly unconscious ~tients. Patients did not respond to treatment. or all three were attempting to commit geno-/ cide seemed to make a lot of sense. Accepting the medicalization of the epidemic. cattle ranching. Esteban Castro.the military for use in tl. ~a_!!y 199Q_s _ f!.healer who played the sacred rattle ~t_ the ev~n_t_!!l_~ru:_acas died a month later.inarily calls lethal hebu spirits (oelieved to cause-diar.aft_er: People thus criticized Gomez for dancing for criollos and for failing to offer palm starch and tobacco to the spilliS. Venezuelan officials purportedly obtained quantities of the bacteria. just after j'my leaders" fought~ second war against lraq. D-uring the illitial months. economic exploitation. and that's what started it." corporations. Gomez seemed to have been looking for explanations ·that ·mrght get him off the hook. and the ingestion of tobacco smoke. pungent fish.._causal agent w~ a "superbacteria" that had been developed by. Articulate indigena leaders presented demands for an enq to land encroachment. unable to draw on specialized knowledge of invisible spirits in accounting for the facts that surrounded them. was called to Caracas in June of . after being hooked up to as ·many as three or four IVs. a dance performance in Caracas. he asserts. This poison that comes from up there is just like the hebu's poison. When the first cases appeared~cu~ tried -techniques commonly used to treat other diarrheal diseases-therapeutic massage. As we hid from the throng toward the back of the house. unprecedented protests were held in Tucupita.?/ ' '/' V "C~'IH' '/' .. which they spread at strategic points in the delta. his poison arose in order to exterminate the Warao. curers could tell only the ~ost fragmentary and hesitant narratives. In an !ll'~a_ w~e__§Qapjs rare an5t people eat with thejr hands. But ~ natives woye the epidemic ansi !he political movement closely toge~er. Rivera whispered. extended the Gulf War story in attacldng epidemiological narratives /that blamed Warao culture. singing.have the spirit dreams that infused tl1eir _!!~atives with authority. who told the story about cholera and the Persian Gulf War. This disease began when the sun arose and began to shine in the sky.le Persian . a citizen of the country that. The encounter seems to have been designed to counter these accusations by exhibiting "the close ties which exist between the [National Guard) and our principal settlers of Ute national border" (Guardia Nacional 1992:1)._ hours. social inequality was increasing. the nation's capital. the idea that "criollos. and the epidemic began shortly there. The National Guard had been criticized for failing to protect Venezuela's southern border from the illegal influx of Brazilian gold miners that had decimated "Yanomami" people as well as for violating the human rights of indigenas and other poor Venezuelans (see Coronil and Skurski 1991).\vhen people sought help at clinics. Ramon Gomez. "Poison. Fernando ~a..1992 to perform with his troupe in an " Intercultural Encounter" with the Venezuelan armed forces. _ as go~ent-backeqiovestors appro. nd agrobusiness. ~a!_ers became infec!ec. they witnessed tile miracle of rehydration therapy. The epidemic formed part of a master plan developed by government officials who wish to get rid of the Warao once and for ali."t>~l' )".i. and sends them awav. ~an rights abuses. t'. Other narratives provided eyewitness accounts of criollos dumping barrels labeled "poison " into the Orinoco. entertains them. By retelling narratives about the Persian Gulf War. the mQst gro_ min!nt curer in the community. B~cause social relations were marked systematically by racism. dropped the bombs. social movement leaders seldom placed cholera on political agendas. The <. Castro _specified that the. The dreams that reveal the source of pathogens and empowercurers to treat ailments did not COriie. This story seems particularly intriguing to me as I write these lines. cholera. to finish off all the Warao.heal-a~d othef"diseases) into the community.heart and timber extraction. that how my dream goes.-GIJ!LWar. an antiracist movement was visibly challenging the status quo.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist Gomez was well aware that I am a gringo. l:fealers' hands became contaminated by diarrhea.

living prin. and political economy. and transnational capitalism will probably still strike most readers as involving imaginative leaps and attributions of intentionality that they themselves would not make.Y!!al for co1?ni~. in serious need of rethinking in the wake of scholarship that argues that people are living in an age of postmodernity. ~­ ~~~ c~t<." which Richard Hofstadter (1967:37) identified·as a central feature of conspiracy theories.. uncivilized versus civilized In a move commonly seen in racist discourses (see van Dijk 199 1).. But Rivera's story resists this sort of appropriation.of_the people as contemporaneity" (1994:145).one that is generally used in characterizing narra- fo~~J' tives that seem highly implausible-le!_!!S_go on 1Q S!. even if those antecedents are thereby rendered invisible (Bauman and Briggs 1990). For most readers.... superbacteria. 10 I ------. By dreaming of med}Cint. Many of the dream-based narratives thus amounted to cha-~~ of"gen{.into-vern·acular rrierucaT practices ratifieS the statUs~f biomeaic al treatments as the cure for cholera. this popular label. preexisting._ Rivera proudly reveals the two most important facts about a hebu. its name and its place. I prefer-to thinJs. of origin. Number 2 May 2004 /JI'f'YI'. ---- ana Exposing official hybrids of science and society 172 'II t oJ ~ na- criollo indigena versus It would be easy to dismiss these accounts as mere conspiracy theories. My focus is on medicalization.L. characterized by the death of masternarratives and the proliferation of signifiers (Lyotard 1984). Nevertheless. This illusion of permanence provides a mode of constructing dominant. But. Because Rivera is an elderly wisidatu (a type of vernacular healer) who lives in the moriche groves near the Mariusa coast. first.h9W they might be placed within a larger discursive. re f~d..phenomenon and the consequent assertion of biopower as a means of knowing and "controlling" it. These splits ·are created in the gap opened up by a contradiction between a pedagogical process of projecting pre-given historical origins in the past and a ee!for_mative one. of the perfon"£1-ative a~Q~ft_ in Bakhtinian (1981) terms as involvigg a pro~e~jf r~conte_:x!t!~ization.l but a~ " new" disease that is associated with criollos ~cl Trinidadi~s. these pedagogical images are dehistoricized and depoliticized. Neve~. through their own vernacular practitioners.rappt_as a "tradition_al_ Warap" . a disease associated with premodernity "invaded" the regiOn.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 .. refused to place different ilierapeutic modes on opposite sides of a racial or epistemological divide.QEtbl.d _j .e~ion that ldentities . Believing in vernacular disease etiologies and receiving treatment from vernacular healers did not preclude indigenas from seeking institutional health care or following through with treatment. The dream thus becomes an act of divination that provides the basis for creating an effective form of treatment. Hofstadter's statement is. criollo identities in such a way that they share the stability of the indigena Other. not Warao. Rivera is aware that public health officials and politicians were asserting that ·t he epidemic might "exterminate" all indigenas. A number OfaCCourils. sexual. I identify the larger epistemological and political process that medicalization-:-and the other two practices of erasure-exploit..d ples. Cholera produced panic in the delta.----..lS gn<1_dr~~g:~n information gained asa pilient at the Nabasanuka clinic:Rivera lndlrectly iiicorporiltes blomedfcaf tfie-rapies. a series of racialized oppositions provide foundational pedagogical c~.tegories: l the national society Venezuelans . or other_scl'!. spirits... social.cid. as constituting conspiracy theories.emes of inegualitycover~ up a mode of "splitting" subjec!s. and of the predominance of practices of the imagination (Appadurai 1996).. In Delta Amacuro. connecting defecating delta bodies with the Persian Gulf War. the collocation of cholera in th e status of a biomedical .-a .l ~.-the epidemic became an important site for performatively extending criollo and indigena categories to preserve the illusion of modernity . and it did not undermine the success of biomedical interventions.---- . As. ---. and its secret name is Spanish. Bhabha defines the latter as "a process of signification that must erase any prior originary presence of the nation-people to demonstrate the prodigious. Nevertheless. of course. and stable whicb -is -.. He models it on the poisons used by criollos.suggested th~t criollos had.Here i take up the first of the practices of erasure that were invoked in normalizing the deaths of people classified as indigenas. the seeming stability of these categories is contradicted by the need to performatively reinscribe them in ways that render them useful for shifting economic arrangements and crises of state authority. fo r the purposes of argument. tional. But accepting. My point of departure is Homi Bhabha's (1994) su~o!l that tl!. •. that is. the narratives probably seem to embody a "curious leap in imagiliation that is always made at some critical point in the recital of events. ordered criollo hebu to come and kill all Warao so that the criollos could have the entire delta to themselves. of creating ne~ concepts and meariings in which prior 'invocations are embedded. _!'acjal. his narrative could be taken as proof that indigenas see cholera in terms of " magicoreligious" cultural patterns that exist apart from the modern world.

even if they implicitly construct hybrids." even though the term also refers commonly to diseases. 1993:146. If a cholera epidemic had emerged in neighboring Sucre state. placing cholera in the biomedical sphere (as having been caused by a bacteria) and at the same time granting a parallel etiological status to questions of national. which had previously reached a high of 5.J>er se that fueled modernity but.rn Venezuela commented on how physicians and public health ·officials were inconsistent in their de~cation to the work of purification. Nevertheless.rt.2 percent in 1990 (Marquez et al. Unable to distinguish natural from I social phenomena..rW!larratives seem to involve a category error. the constructio~ of cul9J. Indigenas are purportedly thus unable to realize that cholera is caused by a natural phenomenon. or both.r. involves two contradictory ways of relating these two re~s. If one thinks in m odern terms. one would collude with the state in covering up how the conspiracy theory narratives simultaneously reveal problematic dimensions of the hybridiZing work done by officiat narrativ~: Shrewd-~~._n of the indigena category onto ~te!!i!!_g . The work of "purification. ~nezuela was in the midst _of a profoun__d_ ctisis in 1991 -J)3.. it seem s clear that these formulations must be excluded from public discourse.:ather. as defined by Latour. Just as Venezuelan social and political relations were thrown into a deep crisis. One of the major thrusts of official eJg>lanati~s of the cholera epidemic is to suggest that bearers of "indigena culture" caniiot distinguish betWeen societYand nature._Science was deemed to bederived from a sphere of nature ~apart ~m humans. imbuing social and political-economic relations with biomedical meanings. In 1992. And it is not just narratives· told primarily by people classified as indigenas that violate these canons. the two major parties that had controlled political life since the restoration of democracy in 1958 were discredited. a bacteria. seeks to erase awareness of these connections to maintain the illusion that science and society .. some narratives 173 . Enlightenment thinkers viewed society. this stereotype contradicts th·e massive exodus from the delta to the \ mainland to be closer to medical facilities (and covers / up the way that government officials forcibly returned people t o the delta). once again.st. stood at 2. 155). Worse yet.Ethnologist · ~hich theyJ:. dropping from 4. on theOther hand. as responding to natural dictates. and Lt. because they explicitly conflate .." on the other hand. as constructed by humans.. upsetting models of citizenship and civility. clinics. indigenas reportedly rejected physi-{ cians in favor of "shamans".e.anscend _the norm~l boundaries of categories. transnational capitalism. Having purportedly failed to distinguish between nature and society. marks subjects as premodern.56 percent in 1991 Oaen 2001:95). and international politics.-. been a central preoccupation for societies that claim to be modern.new situati~ ~g1itted a _performative construction of criollos as possessin!Lthe _!!geng and · intelligence needed to adapt to changing national and global circumstances. why were residents of the fluvial area not warned about it? Why were clinics understaffed and understocked when the epidemic began? By pointing out \ that indigenas did not always ·get infected when they ate \ cni. desir~ to_!!. On the one hand. and government offices. Reporters and public health officials commonly assert that indigenas attribute the disease to hebu. in ~tour's estimation. The ideological and social wellspring of modernity. Failing to engage in the work of purification. joining Vibrio cholerae to military and genocidal strategies. A view widely held in Venezuela envisioned cholera as a political smoke screen invented by the gov. the creation of hybrids that conflate modern categories is only one aspect of conspiratorial narratives' epistemological effects. Public expenditures on health.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • Arnerican . Bruno Latour's discussion of modernity is useful here. If one were to attend to this dimension alone. Purification has. a position that is well exemplified in John Locke's (1960) political theory. the two are constantly linkedl} through networks of hybrids that join social with scientific and technological elements. according to Latour. Inflation ~ose.5 to 1 in 1983 to nearly 700 to 1 in 2000. official reports. Colonel Hugo Chavez Frias led two coup attempts.bs and that criollos ate crabs as well. drawing explicit attention to hybrids. The Bolivar's value against e dollar had slipped steadily. they mix up categories. Latour argues that it was not scientific thinking . ~~ p~rfo~ative _prg~!JQ. from newspapers. glossed as "evil spirits. j&ru"Q!. The percentage of the population living in poverty increased from 24 percent in 1981 to 59. Here they illustrate what Katie Stewart (1999) characterizes as a common feature of £Q_nspirac1 theQJies. ernment to keep people from thinking about political and economic problems.rald0ma!!ls of_~s9ciety" and "science" as sepa@!_e and autQ!!Q!!!2us. indigenas themselves get thrust into the natural category. projected as living like animals. Fluctuations in oil prices and the weakening currency complicated service payments on Venezuela's $30 billion foreign debt."2 percent of the gross domestic product. One locus of the wiggle room between pedagogical and performative modes of constructing subjects involved medicalization. binational (Trinidadian-Venezuelan). and race relations. Efforts 'to balance the budget and neoliberal reforms included substantial cuts in public services.are · autonomous realms. this conspiracy theory places a biomedical phenomenon in as explicitly political a realm as did the notion that the epidemic constituted an attempt on the part of the state to complete a 500-year-old genocidal land expropriation campaign in the delta. nature-science with society-politics.

He thus suggests that modern and premodern societies are in fact separated by virtue of "the premoderns' inability to differentiate durably" (1993:133. military activities on natural environments. Finally. If getting cholera demonstrates that individuals and communities lack scientific knowledge. These conspiracy theories seem to embody a premodern epistemology less than they confront social and material gateI<eeplli. Telling these conspiracy narratives would thus seem to shape the social position of the tellers.ged knowledge" (2003:26). Our supposedly premodern storytellers suggest that he was too enthralled with a hybridizing narrative that he played a key role in creating. Local. and other industrial commodities are transported through delta waters and in which a transnational fishing industry flourishes. and in closer touch with problems of their commullity tl1an are skeptics. and objects of ridicule. drawing attention to the regional epidemiologist's failure to investigate how the transmission of Vibrio cholerae was linked to the hydrology and ecology of delta waters. Suggestions that criollos dumped barrels of poison into the river or sent malevolent spirits to kill indigenas point to suppressed issues of environmental justice. to the way that race relations. reading the purifying claims of official pronouncements with sufficient subtlety to reveal their contradictions and to expose the im plicit hybrids that such accounts support. discourses to be critically analyzed. He challenges Rousseauian notions that "primitives" or "premoderns" live close to nature or that the social categories they use are automatically derived from natural ones. they call into question a key element of Latour's formulation. It would seem that official explanations of the epidemic involve no less of a "curious leap in imagination" between natural and social domains than conspiracy theories do. But these narratives demonstrate just the opposite. Revealing logical absurdities and callous claims of modernity is. these stories draw attention to the effects of U. At the same time that conspiracy theories challenge official hybrids. Leslie Sklair (1995) argues that scholars should not speak of "global" and "local" domains but of "globalizing" and "localizing" forces and agents. and cholera. national. national. gender. and human populations. and global: Scaling races and racing scales A second slippage between pedagogical and performative processes is evident in the construction of local. petrochemicals. These conspiratorial narratives reveal how quickly scientific claims to systematically pursue purification and denials that competing players purify fall apart logically when the constructions of race. bauxite. emphasis added) between hybrid social-scientific-technological networks on the one hand and the conception of society and nature as autonomous on the other. Note the parallel to Anita Waters's (1997) finding that African Americans who embrace conspiracy theories tend to be better educated. economic exploitation. diseases. These narratives outline the n etworks that cormected the complex ecology of the delta with national economic policies and transnational corporate enterprises that proliferate in a petro-nation and a region in which oil. and sexuality that sustain them are exposed. as did the assertion that the epidemic might have been started by fishermen from neighboring states or by the ballast of ships entering the delta. unfortunately. and populations. the work of purification is unknown in such societies. Other stories challenge the limits of official purification practices. Social fragmentation. indigenas. They were hungry for official information. given that race also shapes projections of scale.g mechanisms that exclude their narrators . telling conspiracy narratives further proves their premodern status by showing that they cannot distinguish scientific and social spheres. autonomous spheres. gender. thereby continuing to silence the constitutive role of race. Dorma Haraway (1997) criticizes Latour and other science studies scholars for leaving intact narratives that privilege white male constructions and deconstructions of nature and science. and land appropriation link environments. Critics have challenged received reifications of ''local" and "global" and the assignrpent of individuals and populations to one category or the other. Michael Bar-kun argues that conspiracy theories flourish in subcultures that -distance themselv~ofu authoritative knowledge and are "intrinsically receptive" to all forms of "stigma. Although few readers might be convinced that the 1991 Persian Gulf War caused the epidemic. delta !_larrators exposed the profoundly social constitu_?ono f a medical regime that distriilutes health services along ractal lines. more politically active. Latour draws on anthropology in arguing for the constructed nature of the categories of 174 science and society. politics. and global perspectives.from privileged domains of knowledge and communication. to systematically pursue the work of purification. 11 -~ goes on to suggest that anthropologists demonstrate that premoderns do not see nature and society as bounded.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 jl l ' 111 1 ·" challenged the official racial hybrid that relates crabs.S. the crabs-race-cholera story. not tantamount to disarming them. . rendering some bodies expendable. steel. possible hypotheses. Zygmunt Bauman (1998) suggests that globalization and localization shape the politics of inclusion and exclusion. which they incorporated into their own narratives in a wide range of ways-including as definitive evidence. Although this stat~ment m ay be true for tl1e narratives that circulate among the white North Americans with whom he is primarily concerned. and sexuality in making technoscience and shaping categories of difference. it certainly does not apply to people who sought alternative explanations for the cholera epidemic.

Public h ealth officials construct themselves as possessing global scientific knowledge that enable them to be national subjects and embody discursive frameworks articulated by such international bodies as the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). deriving their identities and ideologies from their respective statuses as representatives of the state and as Venezuelan citizens.J)J. national. as they connect the deaths of relatives and neighbors with racial conflicts. tndigenas got cholera because they were incarcerated by local knowledge. and the m~turalizing processes. and modes of production. whereas their unillfe ctecteounterparts embodied t. focusing on the "local" _culture and the geography of the delta. conspir.at se_ek. J.Theorizi ng modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist I differentiation. The scalar dimensions of these subject positions are seen as flowing naturally from the location of their attached bodies in terms of race. such that an firuigi'nation of one f~y's trip to the. diseased b~were then exf luded from the body politic. "is a sign of social deprivation and degradation" (1998:2).and iilstitutional nexus.coast to ·c~nsurne crabs in a rffilaffeast (see Notidiario 1992c) can place some twenty-:fo~~and people "at risk" for ch~.ceviche as cholera vector and of poverty. ~global commerce-:-Given their claims to global knowledge. Indigenas are described as incapable_of. Politicians and criollos in general contrastively become national subjects. showing how racialization fostered an \ epidemic that lay at the core of a sick racial project. ~gal narratives also create magical scalar effects. 7eem ---- i 175 ." in the words of the regional epidemiologist (Notidiario 1992a)and only them-that helps to make these hybrids powerful an~~r their p ocesses a! construction ii:wisible.. race.to .. the people classified as premodern subjects travel / much farther than health professionals in explaining the 1 / epidemic. Institutional accounts were informed by media stories of . health.• acy ~eories embody i!_~~s of cognitive l!!_aEP_!rg in which people attempt to relate local experiences to the giOlJalsYstemof late capitalism. But I do not think that one sh<. their accounts of the epidemic are lo~alized. thereby accepting they way they disconnect the epidemic from larger economies of narrative. and global spheres~ In_pfficial ~ccounts. to use "all angles of the scientific vision. as exc1lli. class. Roland Robertson (1995) suggests that localization is imposed.<Empire" and masks its biopolitical discipline. The classic locals thus took on the role of globalizing agents. national policies.mld spend too much time enjoying the humor of this apparent flip-flop-taking official narratives to be local would reproduce the· illusion that health professionals "discovered" them in the midst of the crisis.:D real. accordingly. People often characterized as quinte~sential exemplars of a localized. international relations. thereby producing a loss of agency and freedom and· creating passive local viewers of global actors and processes. I would argue that m~ <="'{-· ~es go beyond articulating links between localizin_g and globalizing processes to question the ways ~se domains are pmduced.F~ s ' leaps of scale. premodern. and inequality.. Public officials scaled impressive heights as they used a synecdochic logic in making individual bodies stand fo~al nodies.. the conspiracy narratives involve impressive 1. which Bauman sees as fundamental dimensions of globalization.-bound~ them. Here culture does explanatory overtime.heSanitary citizenship that represented the nation. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2000) argue that the production of local identities lies at the heart of the logic that organizes the globalized '. becoming the basis for what Farmer (1999) refers to as "immodest claims of causality. Without surrendering the right to include hebu spirits in their narratives. one might presume that public health officials would ·p~ace the epidemic in a global frame of reference. ]he cholera epider:llc provided an e~cellent Q_iscUJsive terrain in which to construct notions of local.appreciation of the crucial role of shifting modes of production and the organization of transna~onal capital is striking. adopting national or global ers ect'ves and. international I:elations. True.. aditional world tied cholera to national and regional political institutions. Conspiracy narratives read diseased bodies as signs of a diseased body politic. their imagination seldom extends beyond the con- -- fin es of the region or the temporal frame of the epidemic. getting localized while others get globalized. and social inequality. As Frederick Jameson (1992) suggests. Conspiracy theo ~arra!!ves di~rup__t the~~ autom_atic . symbolic capital (such as a medical degree). recent historical events and changing technologies. Nevertheless. tying the epidemic into broader discursive · and political-economic frames. delta residents quickly placed cholera within a global fr~erencetiedt. fix some people in space and restrict their access to the globally circulating capital and culture that others enjoy. eguations of race and class positionality with scalar affiliation. thus. Their. and works published in leading international journals by renowned epidemiologists (see Briggs with MantiniBriggs 2003).is the epidemiologists' claim to purity.ling themselves from these domains." Latour is right: It. state policies.. official publications of the WHO and PAHO.. and culture as causal factors lhal had already achieved a worldwide distribution through international press agencies. social relations. Thoro ughly embedded in their immediate natural environment. making the notion that members of "traditional" communities cannot see beyond local horizons or rigid cognitive patterns and fixed points of reference seem ludicrous.-the. In short.n@<e ·the. their knowledge base was limited to the information that could be derived from the environment in direct and corporeal terms. and ·transnational corporations.

S.industrial complex challenged some of my own purifying and localizing tendencies. who are inexorably embedded in )ocal environments.-m·become pasSive to be stigmatized as local-localization is a po. people demonstrated with their bodies the same scope of spatial imaginary they performed in their explanations of the epidemic. these performative violations of scalar positionalities and their epistemological presuppositions did not. military.American Ethnologist • I·'I I .al dichotomies by revealing the networks that localize seemingly decontextualized global science and that infuse global connections in the creation of minute particulars.g. highly historical. One might accordingly want to amend the view expressed by Bauman and Robertson.As critical geographers suggest.economic effects (see. they took the patient involved to Trinidad. Soja 1989). as it were. Conspiracy theory narratives reveal the thin imaginations and thick erasures that underlie the spatialization of race in the delta. contrastively. Racialized and _pogr ::. implicit in reproducing social inequality in his conception of scole just as he does in pointing to "the premoderns' _ inability to differentiate durably" (1993:133) between sci: ence and society. the opposition between traditional subjects. Like the challenge to scientific purifying and hybridizing practices. and their "localization by territory" (1993:133). a key feature of colonializing logics. Official accounts constructed indigenas as incarcerated by a "timeless" or " millenarian" culture. "including their anthropological inflections. ·and cosmopolitan subjects has been a cen!_ral epistemologicar-an-dPoiitical component of modern discourses since the 17th century. arguing that the Venezuelan state had demonstrated its inability to protect their health rights -and that they contributed to the Trini- -- i l t· ! . Here Latour accepts a key mode of constructing premodern peoplesthe notion that premoderns are limited to local perspectives as modernity becomes global in s.cale. The scope of the spatial imaginations of people classified as indigenas became quite apparent during the epidemic in protest marches that appropriated the local space of national identity. 12 Warner reveals ho\T the production of public discourse revolves around a number of fundamental contradictions. temporal imaginations are no less effective than spatial projections in reproducing soCial inequality. and the effects of neoliberal policies on health care. Conspiracy theories are. As cholera refugees took to the streets of Caracas. Latour argues that the terms modern and premodern or primitive refer to distinct social types that contrast by virtue of the premoderns' "obsessive interest" in nature-soCiety hybrids. As Richard Bauman and I (2003) argue. spatializing practices are crucial means of legitimizing social inequality and generating social and political. being confined to reproducing traditional patterns mechanically.fJ?Ii:J}eople ·whose own -pracfu.ybjects need I_!Ot g~t localized. cut-off from transnational culture-and capitat-.. "they" were supposedly unable to size up a changing reality and incorporate the new practices needed to save their own lives. who seem to turn their backs on history. Latour becomes . There they attempted to negotiate With the Trinidadian government for health care.economic effects. the Latin American epidemic. Nevertheless.-erfui imagination that can be impOSe<. were confronted with a medical emergency. As Dipesh ~hakrabarty (iOOO) has ~~cently suggested. the limits they impose on the scale of social relations. the national liberator. placing the eplclerriic in terms of events taking place as the epidemic was emerging. a group of politically · adept indigenas having attempted to negotiate an international treaty. .ar~-quite global. and in the trip to Trinidad. failing to link the epidemic in Delta Amacuro to the dissemination of cholera in Venezuela. e. Material limits to the circulation of public discourses I draw on Michael Warner's (2002a) discussion of public discourse in pointing to a third way~ tl1at · subjects are split through pedagogical and performative practices. the plaza dedicated to Simon Bolivar. the departure from Delta Amacuro and neighboring Monagas state of any body that looked indigena. fixed in ·space.i I: I f I Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 Latour (1999) suggests that one of the strengths of the field of science studies is the way it resists local versus univers. through military checkpoints. and other cities to ask for handouts and to call attention to their situation. The Venezuelan ambassador was called in as an international scandal erupted. Indigenas simply could not go public with this challenge. My imaginary does not connect cholera in the delta to the Persian Gulf War in as direct a fashion. In protest marches.. the capital. These cons_piracynarratives thus challenged the politics of scale that sustain racial imaginaries and naturalize their tremen_dQI}S socJal and political. When Mariusans. as Johannes Fabian (1983) suggests. . but others' attempts to link the epidemic to conflicts produced by the U. the government attempted to block. the purportedly most localized group. The demonstrators were quite aware that they were participating in a transnational indigenous social movement and that their action was linked to protests of the Columbian quincentennial that were taking place all over the Americas. too. the construction of technologies and epistemologies that embrace larger and larger populations and regions. This "denial of coevalness" is. Latour himself seems to buy into these problematic notions of scalar differences. He suggests that one of modernity's defining features is scale. in the growing urban presence of delta indigenas. Although he portrays the divide as constructed._ 118 dadian economy by selling crabs. however. Here. the joke is on the politicians and the epidemiologists.80fimaginatlon. tip the scales.

. thus marking themselves as the natural targets of the disease. Politicians must recontextuthese statements in the form of policies and material ·they are criticized wh en they try to produce on _the epidemic or resist the authority of health officials. ucuu and reception.that of recipient or interlocutor-because they are deemed to be incapable of understanding it.cu practices to ensure a healthy body politic. and reporters are generally pictured in government offices or places where meetings take place. specifiable commonalities. lifeworld of its circulation" (2002a:?2).. Unsanitary subjects.. must demonstrate that they lmowledgeable. in countless highly condensed ways. Indigenas are generally caught in the act. §anitary citizens..p. and community leaders.. populations in these terms. they are unable to escape. in Warner's terms.. must reproduce the official discourse bodily by adopting hygienic practices and demonstrating subservience to medical authority.... are cast as producers of public about cholera and as official mediators of MSAS. because indigenas cannot ~e~ome sanitary citizens. public discourses are..... by virtue of their reflexively circulating a social entity" (Warner 2002b:ll-12).Ju<u.. that is.. promodes of distinguishing sanitary citizens from onsubjects and new performative techniques for .primarily affective in content. they.. Never~ele:ss. This "autotelic::_ (Warner 2002a:Sl) process of reification..... notes. .. and its success depends on the interpellation of the discourse by persons who recognize themselves as members of a collectivity that is addressed._. rather..u••auu WHO messages. reporters. the idealized interpellation of every body by bio'PJ'~u. Public health officials. tl1ey seem to be passively awaiting either death or recovery but not actively absorbing information ·about cholera. middle-class indiwho are expected to engage in hygienic practices respect medical authority.. it must be imagined as real in the course of both . in the end. Public health . or in tl1e delta) that reflect an utter lack of rr awareness of what they should be saying and doing. State institutions cannot accurately predict the public that will receive a given message or how that public will be constituted-for llXCililple.is not accidental but constitutive: "The notion of a public enables a reflexivity in the circulation of texts among strangers who become. or read it and ihen engage it in some sort of way. This performative projection of hierarchically ranked roles is coded not only in what each party presumably says but also by virtue of the social and institutional space through which its occupants enter tllls imaginary process.. The participation of indigenas in public discourse is thus citational. through interest. "self-creating" and "selforganizing"-the public is actually created through the circulation of discourse as people hear._._. Nevertheless.. Neverthis ideologically construct ed image of the illl'-u. When their words appear in public discourse. as captured by reporters' questions and photographs.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist To become public..1"' in advance. including fishermen. that " there is no speech or :'Dertorman1: e addressed to a public that does not try to ... however. This classdefined position is further split in racial terms. and citizens all speak. Public health officials. The split between pedagogical and performative practices that emerges through the ideological construction of discrepant publics imagines illdigenas as doomed to extinction. indigenas are projected as incapable of reproducing the official discourse... a discourse must address a public as a collection of "already existing real persons" (2002a:82) with some known.. whereas . a message that officials often expressed 1n private. see.. that they can reproduce verthe rudiments of the public discourse. their bodies and faces reflecting the agency or passivity with which they are credited. 111 . The constant stream of public · discourse about cholera in newspapers and television reports is reinforced by visual images of these parties in their respective social spaces and roles. and high officials are doing the talking. ~h~ir rolej n tl1_e_ -~~agogical project is not. Narratives carried newspapers and television broadcasts seem to address in general and provide a space in which officials..uuu process performatively projects a hierarchical lldt~rinLg of distinct publics.. espethe director of the Regional Health Service and the epidemiologist. behaving in ways (whether on the · mainland ... become points of reference for performatively co~str~ting E_rioliiL0i~ens during a time of political and econon1ic crisis. state discourses on cholera constituted quintessential pedagogical projects.. project a common participation in a national _.. members of working-class and populations. many of which challenge these constructions. or protest. . workingclass criollos are deemed ignorant but educable. listeners..la. politicians. cast themselves as taking an active role in the circulation and often the production of discourse about the epidemic. The hegemonic model of discourse circulation suggests that one can only escape the premodern world if one thoroughly internalizes state discourse by · becoming a s~nitary citizen. Actors who lack professional and middle-class status... Working-class criollos are imagined as listening to lower-status professionals in less prestigious institutional spaces or on the street.. . they are . expressing fear of the disease or anger at official inaction or begging officials to save them.. either verbally or in bodily practices. ridicule. Conspiracy theory narratives construct the lifeworld of the circulation of information about cholera in multiple ways.. Since the 19th century. or viewers. activists. . Tl1is ideological construction of public" permits the illusion that public discourses out to all possible readers.. When pictured as· patients.

All public discourses are exclusionary. to sites for mastering technical vocabularies and discursive strategies (such as the university in which I work). gathering information as amateur scientists. and social and institutional positions led journalists to print the words of public health officials as the truth about cholera. even as he thinks substantively about questions of gender and sexuality. corporate. were seldom able to enter public discourse. Even when coiiiilllliiit}r representatives came to the offices of the newspaper or radio to criticize official efforts. as well as the social closure entailed by a genre. the social conditions of access to them-and by internal ones. these material inequalities must be hidden from view to sustain the idea that public discourses are "self-creating" and "self-organizing" or the notion that publics are created through the circulation of . Warner mentions these "material limits" and then moves on. that the question of such constraints does not become central to his analysis might be related to his primary focus on publics that are white. It is precisely the failure of cholera narratives to create a viable counterpublic that points to the need to rethink Warner's formulation. of narratives excluded from the media ~d from official institutional contexts. and to tl1e newspapers. Racial formations. including biomedical knowledge. The focus then b_ecomes less one of people's ability to imagine themselves as a public and the sort of reflexivity entailed in this collective act of recognition than of the political. The same process of erasure turned images of their bodies and evocations of their voices into evidence that confirmed the truth of official narratives.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 . court cases. websites and e-mail addresses. style. narrators cast themselves as possessing great powers of interpretation and evaluation. the authoritative languages in which they could be articulated. When the texts in question are circulated primarily by persons who are not white. the fore. and meetings that place narratives in public circulation. Their failure lies not in too much or too little imagination or. of picking up on facts and connections that others have missed. lies in what Warner identifies as the "material limits" on the circulation of public discoi. critically assessing clinical practices. radio and television programs. I . and media competitors. and so forth" (2002a:54-55). composite perspectives. middleclass. and mode of transmission ·affect who is likely to come in contact with and interpellate them. Some accounts cast discourse about cholera as a dialogic space in which different producers confront one another and debate their epistemological differences.:tphic images of dirty and diseased bodies or through brief quotes that expressed terror. and North American. For example. however-they largely failed to disrupt the . and people's exclusion from institutional power relegated the ideological models of discourse circulation associated with conspiracy theories to circulation 178 in the form of rumors. sometimes achieving . The political limitations of these conspiracy narratives thus seem to lie less in their epistemological content or narrative structures than in social and material constraints on their circulation.only as photogr. They spread rapjdly through both fluvial and mainland areas. shaping the sort of narratives that could be told. their words were ventriloquized as pleas by pathetic figures unable to obtain government assistance. idiolect. Most discussions of conspiracy theories presuppose a sort of discursive egalitarianism.use-"the means of production and distribution. Public discourse about cholera was thus defined vis-a-vis the biomedical authority of public health officials. or consulting spirits.. in constructing their own marginality by giving up agency to imagined loci of power. whereas racialized delta residents got onto the front pages of newspapers . about the creative capacity of texts to imagine publics and of people to bring multiple publics and counterpublics into being by exercising divergent ways of responding to them. <:. The unequal distribution of symbolic capital. following Mark Fenster's (1999) critique of the political limits of conspiracy theories.econ_omic barriers that prevent their reflexive discourses from 6ecoming public. The problem. the physical textual objects themselves. and what parts different players would be accorded. official reports. primarily through rumor. state. but they were not able to challenge official narratives in public discourse. the issue of material limits comes to. His essay is about possibilities. But some narrators enjoy greater access to the social and institutional positions that render people's words authoritative. Rejecting their relegation to the status of passive reproducers-of offic{al interpretations. biomedical authority. rather. including the need to presuppose forms of intelligibility already in place. ideological construction of how cholera discourse should circulate or ·t he performative projection of hierarchically ranked roles. some indigena patients recounted exchanges with physicians during which they challenged the crab-cholera hybrids and forced their doctors to admit that social and political factors complicate biomedical stories. address. (1978) term the "primary definers" of the cholera story.~7 They witness the key events in cholera transmission-by observing the movements of commercial vessels or clandestine acts of genocide.onspiracy theories. In the end. Let me not romantically celebrate the effects of these interventions. told by people not ratified as producers of knowledge about the epidemic and involving competing practices of purification and hybridization. Reporters cast public health officials as what Stuart Hall et al. or North American. because features of their content. discursive organization. middle-class. and passivity. confusion. as if such theories existed on a level playing field (to ironically invoke one of the most problematic neoliberal metaphors) with academic.

which I. out of the port.. several social worlds. And the departure of massive. 119 . Feliciana. Her fever hovered around 102 degrees. blond. I returned to this space often in my imagination following my return to California in September of 2002. We shared a beach cottage in San Diego. A former student of gifted writer J"obias Wolf. its distended stomach and tiny arms quite visible under a white tank top. I imagined that her life could be in jeopardy. Others just gave us dirty looks. wondering why I was talking in Warao to begging indigenas. and after worrying about that baby for nearly a week. 2002.. as my teacher Victor Turner put it. My mind went back to those times in the delta when I wondered if I could survive such a loss.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist discourse. symbolically jumping from the bridge that had marked the passage of those vessels of war toward Iraq. but I didn't see it coming. Some customers gave me puzzled looks. But he was smiling. And as racial and global inequalities become more acute. attention to the limits of publicity become increasingly important. abandoned during a torrential rainstorm. The infant was s till malnourshed. We were closer than ever. Perez was back-right on the edge of the bakery entrance. Perez's baby was still quite susceptible to a diarrheal or respiratory infection. making eye contact. induced by the mononucleosis. The midterm elections. came to spend a few weeks with me. Julia. I still feel blind. Having returned to the strategic space where customers were forced to confront h er outstretched hand before entering t11e bakery. friendship. We were still caught in uncomfortable roles and. Perez told me that in the five days since I had last seen her. But after hearing so many heartbreaking narratives in the delta. Perez redefined my role as that of a rich criollo who should give her a contribution. She was relaxed and smiling. whose legs were wrapped in a big piece of paper as protection against the cold air blasting from t11e bakery's air conditioner. Political and environmental activist. enjoying the power of the ocean. She contracted mononucleosis. on the border of a bakery.f~ . She was on her way to New York to begin her career. the physician declared that the child was well. My own daughter. ful of biomedicine than anyone I met in Delta Amacuro. and greeting -me alternately with smiles and looks of apprehension. a city in which she had lived. ·even if this was biomedically implausible. I was happy. My life. One visit came a few days after that initial encounter. She was so sick that she could only lie on the couch and watch television. heading for a war foretold. as I watched her sleep. running together along the beach. and Perez had thrown away the baby bottle in favor of her own milk. She was far more distrust./. communication. Feliciana became worried about the sort of world that lay ahead for her and for all of us. But feelings of guilt do · not even come close to the sheer impact of her absence. A physician had given the child medicine for diarrhea. She talked to me frequently about watching the ships pass under the Coronado Bridge. the child had nearly died. a thousand times since first encountering the mother and her children. liminal spaces. between life and death. she took her own ·life. refusing even to take aspirin. as I knew it. did._. On November 9. Her son was gnawing happily on a hunk of bread. Perez noted that during her last visit to the hospital. Experts tell me that her anxiety about tl1e future was exacerbated by a change in her brain chemistry. Return trips to the bakery I have returned to the passageway between the bakery and street. ended when she died. Stanford University gradmite. D. I was with her nearly constantly for six weeks. bellicose vessels for the Persian Gulf from San Diego military installations. as I returned to pick up my dilapidated bicycle. Twentyfour years old. and she had a near constant headache. ahd economic exchange. this possibility wasn't on my mind as I left for a m eeting about racial injustices in the criminal court system.C. I had raised her for many years as a single parent. · . I blame myself for every sign that I should have perceived. long before it was acceptable for men to be single parents of toddler children. every intervention that I could have made. I nursed her. I chatted with the daughter. We drank sodas. She left me a note that spoke of her deep love for me and how deeply she felt the pain of the world. Images of the sniper killings in Washington. and Feliciana was one of my deepest connections with the world. One night.

except in the event of a rare cancer or a freak accident. or. in which parents ask why they could not have died instead of their child-and if their own deaths will provide a reunion. Although·connecting my research and recent events in my own life has not convinced me that I better understand the experience of delta parents. helping me go on. He beautifully articulates the death wish that I share. fragments of these laments come back to me. Completing this essay constitutes a step in that direction. For years I had had to confront the grim fact that children die and that their parents suffer horribly. My first reaction has been a shift in my positionality in relation to what people have taught me about the death of their children. nonetheless.. that losing Feliciana has produced different effects in me than the ones that Renata describes. Important here was returning lO W. And that turning pain into memory is an active. I don't care-these voices sustained me that night. my sanity. But Du Bois goes on to suggest that all lives "are larger and purer by the infinite breadth of that one little life" (1990:153). His son's passing prompts Du Bois to reflect on the "unvoiced terror" of · his life. One of the most important contributions of anthropologists to understanding the increasing gaps between rich . I am sure that you will have guessed that another step consisted of digging up my copy of Renata Rosaldo's Culture and Truth and rereading the section on death. at least. a more general lesson here. I constantly heard the voices of women in Delta Amacuro. They sang the collective poetry that is performed after anyone dies. and poor has been to describe the political economy that distributes the incidence of infectious and chronic diseases and access to health care by race. wondering what it feels like and how people survive it. helping me remember. rage figures much less prominently. the members of my imagined aud~ence. turning his grief into a site for imagining that the world might "dawn some mighty morning to lift the Veil and set the prisoned free" (1990:154). Das's . E. I had lost my bourgeois North American sense that the children of good parents never die. I felt. Losing a child now proviue::. poetic process. Renata's essay helped me imagine how it might be possible to find a deeper engagement with my own work by connecting it with Feliciana's death. I find. gender. Feliciana's death has changed my subject position in relationship to the death of children in the delta-! longer look at this subject from the outside. albeit less acute than in the days that followed Feliciana's death. Arthur Kleinman and Joan Kleinman (1996) warn that representations of social suffering can evoke a politics of pity that ends up increasing the perceived social and political distance between people who face inhumane conditions and those who read about them. 154). Du Bui~ 's powerful reflection "Of the Passing of the First-Born'' in The Souls of Black Folk (1990). even the smallest infant. Whether differences in our socialization. the violence of racism." it has transformed my relationship to what people have taught me about the death of their children. natim. rage.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 During the longest night of my life. how our emotional responses to death were conditioned by Ilongot and Warcio friends is responsible I cannot say. Every moment of every day since that time has been filled with pain. Both the honesty of his essay and its assertion that one's own scholarship is linked to formative personal experiences aided me in rethinking my connection to the people in Delta Amacuro and to you. I think that this knowledge saved my life or. There is. no . a kaleiuu~cupe thaL casts my life into changing images. DuBois asks-like Toni Motri~P»i lP Belovedif his son might not be better above the Veil (1990:151. I had thought that the people of the delta were informing me about their own lives. My relationship to my research on death in Delta Arilacuro has changed a great deal since November of 2002. Du Bois uses the death of his toddler son as a site for reflecting on his own positionality as a man and a father as well as an ·African ·American. even if I qualify the term as "affective understanding. Du Bois challenged me to turn the most difficult moment of my life into a space for asking more critical questions of myself and my work and for imagining more clearly how I could contribute to a more just world. J h~d lost any sense of invulnerability. It has taken me a while to reconnect with its scholarly representation. for months. 180 during a time in which finding meaning in life and work has not been easy. and I had learned that the death of a child is one of the most powerful traumas that a human being can bear. My predominant emotion has been sadness. at least in part. When life seems unbearable. the sleepless hours that followed her death.(1995) moving account of how corporations and states excluded the voices of Bhopat survivors from legal venues in which their claims were adjudicated provides a striking example. personalities. as if all of my viscera had been ripped from my torso. he accordingly experiences "an awful gladness" that his son has escaped the color-line. It turns out that they were preparing me for my own. one that is crucial for survival. B. I think. and head-hunting. echoed in so many delta laments. as my struggles to face powerful emotions rotate the lens. They were singing for Feliciana. Friends in the delta debate whether I heard the voices of sisters who had already passed into the spirit world or whether I had internalized the verbal formulae and generated the verses in my own head.

only official statements. It is crucial to keep in mind the political. the potential circulation of 1 conspiracy theories was considerably reduced by the Ven-:. to convert cholera cases and deaths into statistics to send to Geneva. After Feliciana died. were carried on the Congress's national television channel.. and the m.-led war against Iraq began. only the nation-state is granted the right. both proximal and distal. institutional positions. I created a website in her memory. not those marked as conspiratorial. Less than two weeks before the most recent U. tying the preservation of her v('c.into public discourse. in Fabian's (1983) powerful phrase. the narrative location of Others in worlds that seem to occupy utterly incommensurate ternporal and epistemological spaces. control over the magical space of the laboratory-where discourse is converted into truth and statements regarding substances extracted from a few bodies become modes of explaining a regional crisis-is crucial. under the WHO Constitution . the Persian Gulf War. In her discussion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. this message was suddenly transformed for me into a powerfully visceral sense that I could not afford to place myself in a distanced position in relationship to the stories that Clara and I retold there.from delta parents. to suggest that all people are in the same boat. and the AIDS Memorial Quilt.J ~ \J(

j. And I am able to tell fragments of this story to you. established a graduate fellowship in her name. They can then construct their own authority by presenting their texts as a magical means of crossing these chasms. inequalities asso. I was invited to speak at an international peace conference that took place in the Mexican Congress. When debates get medicalized. Both the talk and the minute of silence that the organizers dedicated to her memory.eir narrative skills to ·transforming epidemiological statistics into human portraits that enable readers who enjoy more than their share of health and wealth to identify with the lives and deaths of people who get the short end of the stick.. those icons of biomedical authority. Similarly. I think that anthropologists might thus develop strategies that place our own efforts and those we describe within a broad range of practices for rendering visible the ghosts created by scattered hegemonies.e dia are rendered invisible precisely at the point at which they intersect with hierarchies associated with clinical medicine and public health. Being the possessor of a copy of the racialized pamphlets distributed in indigena communities conferred more stigma than authority. 2003). Because the corner of the Tucupita hospital in which feces are turned into cholera statistics is controlled by theregional epidemiologist. I am thinking here not only of the work of Farmer (1992. colleagues who communicate through the pages of the American Ethnologist.S. reached the hands of high institutional officials. and others but also of Clara's and my Stories in the Time of Cholera (2003). and our narrative was published in several newspapers. Anthropologists have turned th. can pass through it. fJu j'-"<' memory to the struggles for justice and knowledge that she advocated. My own survival seemed to depend on being able to place my own experience in intimate relationship with the narratives that I had heard-and partially internalized.s. whereas the powerful narratives told by relatives about death in the delta get erased. Scholarly stories of the social suffering of poor.mourning continue to grow in relationship to what people do in the delta. ~ my own practices of .that Feliciana had similarly imagined global social suffering and her own geopolitical positionality vis-a-vis vessels of economic and military power and U.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist and class. I connected the implications of the War on Terrorism and the impending war against Iraq with Feliciana's death. 13 · My point is not simply to urge a politics of identification.' constraints on literacy skills and access to educatio. not the producers of consniracy narratives. Similarly. the manuals written in Geneva by WHO's Global Task Force on Cholera Control. \cr. San Diego. and immigrant populations can effect a denial of coevalness. r ezuelan state's ab~lity to reduce some 500 deaths to 13. I was struck by the obvious connection. And this brings me to the broader implications of conspiracy theories. 14 Jodi Dean (1998) may be correct in suggesting that conspiracy theories can gain autho. Scheper-Hughes (1992).nal institutions similarly restricted the ability of people who lived in delta communities to use such texts in infusing their narratives with authority.. all victims of global capitalism. A second reflection on my experience of Feliciana's death and the way that people in the delta respond to their' children's deaths provides me with an equally visceral sense of a key difference that separates the two. To communicate with others who mourned her.economic parameters that shape how some narratives are admitted to / official regimes of truth and how others become conspiracy theories. In concluding my remarks. My colleagues in ethnic studies at the University of California. racialized. I ·was able to collaborate with my father in writing an obituary for her.l. wars _ directed against Iraq.rity and currency by virtue of being marginalized or suppressed. and for challenging the political economies that produce them. As the field of science studies suggests. When Feliciana died a week after the first copy of our book arrived.· ciated with access to symbolic capital. Racial and class i(~ (' . We argue there that the Latin American cholera epidemic demonstrates how deeply people who live in privileged . 181 . and this observation might be particularly pertinent to conspiracy narratives told by white North Vlf5. a figure that prevented any sort of international scandal. sectors of wealthy countries are implicated in these increasingly fatal health inequalities.S. ~arita Sturken (1997) points to how practices for turning death into memory can open up critical spaces for examining the politics of erasure and inequality. I am struck by the privilege that enables me to turn my representations of Feliciana's death.

medical treatment. for example. What may seem paranoid to middle-class whites is unfortunately often realistic for racialized and oppressedpopulations whose everyday lives are patterned by structural viq!ence and strategies for dealing with it. and environmental degradation associated with global capitalism. I'· /1 The economy of race that shaped accounts of cholera in Delta Amacuro suggests that the question is not simply what people can understand but what they can get publicly acknowledged for understanding. Fenster . tuberculosis. On the other hand. Henry Louis Gates Jr.. Bhabha argues that "counter-narratives of the nation that continually evoke and erase its totalizing boundaries-both actual and conceptual-disturb those ideological maneuvers through which 'imagined communities' are given e ~s entialist ideas" (1994:149). one may not accept these curious leaps of imagination. and violence. and sexual economies wherever they are told (see. My point here is not a functionalist claim that conspiracy theories are a daptive strategies used by oppressed p~_ylations. gender. and widespread death from both unknown and altogether too familiar diseases. . 1997) documents the success that middle-class. campaign against Haiti. wealth. the availability of state funds to bury poor children but not to provide them with food.. When people's lives are threatened by land expropriation. dialogically engaging official narratives and exploring other epistemological and political possibilities provide sites for exploring strategies for survival. Conspiracy theories attempt to unravel official hybrids and challenge purifying practices whenever disease burdens and access to public discourse are inversely correlated. (1988) and Patricia Turner· (1993) argue that African American narratives and other genres provide means of articulating the dangers associated with being black in a racist society. arbitrariness. community that do not look to the state/citizen as the ultimate construction of sociality" (1992:26). rather. Fine 1992. e. economic oppression. smallpox.---. much like those concerning organ theft and transplant (see Scheper-Hughes 1996. Kane 1998.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 Americans.t he case of the cholera narratives. these hybrids were articulated through claims that firemen were vam. they are of potential significance to communities that do not get labeled as indigena or cholera ridden. Luise White (2000) illuminates the purifying work performed on the racializing hybrids of colonial medical and political regimes in Africa. increa~ngly. I am. He details how rumors enabled Indians to disentangle the logics and disrupt the medical and military tactics that held this ideology in place. Nevertheless. But the stories told by members of communities that face structural violence on a daily basis underline the need to think about the syinbolic economy of conspiracy theories in relationship to the broader political-economic conditions that shape their production and relegation to particular routes of circulation.15 Rather than exoticizing narratives that focus on sorcery.g. As in . which have enjoyed less success in gaining access to public AIDS debates (see Turner 1993). this is a web (and. Farmer demonstrates how these accounts enabled both Haitians and Haitian Americans to connect AIDS deaths with the economy of racism and the global economic exploitation that had placed them "at risk" for HN/AIDS. pointing to important ove~laps between . Insofar as they can challenge the pedagogical and performative projects of governrnentality. and attempts to obtain and critically evaluate information regarding social and political crises. Histodan David Arnold (1993) documents British attempts to legitimize colonial rule by claiming that only the Empire could save Indians from cholera. systematic violations of African American rights. political intrigue. new strategies of governmentality. and violence and of the circulation of public discourse.(1999:112) ~uggests that the paranoid quality of conspiracy theories 182 emerges from a sense-that the narrator's every~ life is vulnerable to danger. 2000). and other infectious diseases (see also Farmer 1999). Scheper-Hughes (1992) examines how women living in Brazilian favelas and how government officials construct infant mortality. or potable water. Some of the stories that I have summarized would seem to he1nrime C'sv "'""""~II candidates for such counter-narrative status. A politics of rumor and distrust enables poor women to grasp the political economy of infant death and to deconstruct the official hybrids that rationalize. pires who drained African bodies of their blood. and representation as the epidemic progressed. Kroeger 2003). one would be wrong to chalk up discomfort with them simply to cultural or epistemological differences or. Conspiracy theories about HN/AIDS provide another lesson here. white. or accusations that AIDS is a U. and plague.S. Chakrabarty similarly points to the political importance of "narratives of self and . Other studies suggest that globally circulating conspiracy theories regarding HN/ AiDS and its transmission become intimately inflected with racial. gay activists achieved in gaining access to debates about research. conspiracy theories continue to flourish in African American communities. to paranoia. Fanner (1992) explores rumors and speculations that shaped how people coped with the beginning of the HN/AIDS epidemic. treatment. Latour does not seem to appreciate that racialized subjects do not get the same credit for their purifying work. Waters (1997) urges an assessment of African American conspiracy theories on the basis of the experience of racism.t he political-economic underpirmings of the distribution of power. class. an electronic web) in which everyone is Wti\e~hgd. Steven Epstein (1996. conspiracy theories became less and less central. Goldstein 1992. as gays entered public discourse about AIDS. as does Hofstadter (1967). Moreover.

And the accounts that we produce have circulated on the radio. / here_from the politic~ Q. Gayatri Spivak (1981). voices.~.f!Qm_the_same . at academic meetings. In assembling our own narratives of the cholera epidemic and attempting to imbue them with authority. influence over the circulation of public discourse abo~t the eptdemic. and through university presses. Caracas. its underpinnings and effects. missionaries. enabled us to produce texts in each of these places by recording interviews. . and imaginary qualities in view. that have been the focus o a great-·deal of debafin n anthropology and cultural studies during the past two decades. nurses. They are particularly useful to me in that they expand my ability to think about the epidemic. directives. My .arrative practic~ not have ~ to confront exclusion from sites in which authoritative knowledge js produc~d. and Geneva expanded our authority for representing the circulation of discourse about the epidemic far beyond what would have emerged from the oncestandard confinement to what indigenas in.. often keeping their fragmented. perspectives. in newspapers. and styles into their writing. an important lesson here for anthropologists who seek to confront growing ·inequalities. ...own privileged position with respect to the circulation of . and other delta residents. We thus derive tremendous privilege .Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist 61 . Washington: D.C. . interested. missionaries. . my confidence in my representational power is· not exactly at its peak right now. . But our .. stored. I think. and officials in a wide range of government agencies. JAJ"Ao c. Geneva (WHO). The reason. Donna Haraway (1992). administrative offices. I think. At the same time that it may qualify our claims to epistemological authority. letters. I see no easy es~~ . Conspiracy theories are excellent objects for reflection.f r~resentatiOn~that~re artic-ulated by James Clifford (1988).' f~~ J0 'j )v \) u d_t V s-oC 1 !J. taxi drivers. pamphlets. medical and anthropological. My strategy has not been to insert voices that I ·can easily translate or identify with but. the authority of their own texts by pointing to their fragmentary and positioned nature is thus contradicted by -- f \. ---interested. rather. In our case. the delta said about it. and Dhaka (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.IVI. (PAHO). many researchers strive to bring multiple texts. 183 l . perhaps. research in Tucupita. This is one of the goals that have shaped our research from the beginning-to ---------- --- -- -- <t>( "'( -- make more space in public discourse for the deaths that have been erased. manuals. I have attempted to use them not as direct reflections of life and death in the delta but to draw attention to the discursive boundaries that allow SOille accounts to enter public discourse and keep others ~ut-:. is not simply cognitive..C. D. published and unpublished statistics. and circulatea-=-Iaboratories. to rely on narratives that evoke tension and. f'• ro. I think. former cholera patients. this move greatly extends our capacity for inserting ourselves into an extremely broad range of sites in which discourse is produced and circulates. The notion that anthropologists have challenged . Bangladesh). This research took capital of the financial sort. I am more interested in doing what little I can to challenge those discursive boundaries./ J ''\ .rrod&:~d for distribution to members of "at risk" populations. in professional journals. VFf ¥' ·. o!Ie:elaying ti!e v~ices of those gen~aliy ? //[ excluded from 2!. To b~~ure. and other cities in Venezuela we also spoke with politicians. Our symbolic capital. · relatives of individuals who had died from cholera. In response to critiques of the objectivist claims of past generations and the subjectivist self-positioning that followed. and newspaper articles-docmp. lay and institutional medical practitioners. In the delta we spoke with physicians. By collecting narratives and _creating_qw:_own. and the like-or relegation to the least authoritative texts-pamphlets ~. at public and closed-door sessions in which policies are debated. community leaders and government officials. disbelief on the part of readers who enjoy more privileged access to symbolic capital. merchants. entrepreneurs. at the same time that my lingering discomfort with them makes it harder for me to think that I have revealed truth or uncovered the real site of resistance by retelling them.. public discourse about death in the delta did not begin when Feliciana died. and many others. Atlanta (the Centers for Disease Control. because they raise important questions about officia! practices of purification and hybridization and constructions of scale and.My goal is not to gain the right to speak for people in Delta Amacuro-or billions of people who similarly are faced with abominable health conditions and practices of exclusion that limit their participation in public debates. journalists. We also interviewed officials in New York (UNICEF and other agencies). and positioned than an body elSe's official or ~nspifiltorial. it does not revolve around cultural or epistemological differences. Th~­ ratives that Clara and_ I tell are no less fragmentary..J./ global discursive eccg10my that erasesthe narratives told ~ ~p~ople -~ delta about the deaths of their family members. or CDC).-f. fishermen. draw 1 attention to their own interpretive limitations.lblic debates. archives.-1 J Conspiracy theories can offer anthropologists insight into their own imbrications in the contemporary world and how to attempt progressive interventions. Caracas. we exert some . Washington. Clara and I conducted nearly two hundred interviews. Indeed.. In Tucupita. There is. at the same time. We were able to obtain copies of textslaboratory and clinical reports. ~ \('u(J\L .ents whose possession conferred social power. this involves processes of ventriloq1Jl§ !n. I have made it clear from the start that the conspiracy narratives I report here are not the stories that I would construct in "explaining" the epidemic.

medical and otherwise. Charles Rosenberg. I have argued that a hegemonic vision of how public discourse circulates legitimizes both inequalities of access to information and of ifghts to transform one's own story into public discourse. Ludmilla Jordanova.C. Paul Farmer. And we cannot leave ourselves out of this process. and gender). Ramon Gutierrez.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 their efforts to gain access to an even greater range of sites . But the conspiracy theories that I have retold here suggest that people who are poorly positioned vis-a-vis these same inequalities are alreadv CC\NWN' r hard at work on this process. These conspiracy theories suggest that in the case of discourses that speak of structural violence and l!e~o/' . If anthropologists are truly concerned with questions of power and representation-and wish to do more than watch deadly inequalities · proliferate-this focus must move to the forefront of anthropology's agenda. particularly in relation to people who possess more authoritative epistemological and institutional positions and greater control over the media. I was afforded an ideal environment in which to write about the epidemic by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Second. transporting them across the boundaries that define publics. D. . Following Warner. . I have argued that a crucial dimension of ·anthropology's imbrication in this politics and poetics of social life lies in the practices that anthropologists use in locating and appropriating discourses and .ited the manuscript with skill and kindness. class. Patricia Marquez. My investigation of the ' cholera epidemic was undertaken jointly with Clara Mantini-Briggs.and recontextualization can contribute to redefining the boundaries and relations between publics and counterpublics.. and Linda Forman ed. ones that affect the rights of other participants. cide-or attempts to mask them..D. Yolanda Salas. criollos. I want to stress that we are inserted in these power relations regardless of the content of our writing. Attempts to place suppressed stories about social suffering into public discourse and reveal how state and corporate officials legitimize their imaginaries do not necessarily challenge hegemonic constructions of the circulation of public discourse or change the rules that structure control over this process.the human stakes in the struggle to shape what makes it into public discourse are high indeed. they are italicized throughout this article.. and Warao do not refer to bounded. Rather than attempting to project the 184 voice of the Other In public.('If" Notes Acknowledgments. James Trostle. indigena and criollo are particularly problematic terms. I am deeply grateful to delta residents for articulating terribly painful experiences and to public health and other officials in Delta Amacuro and other places in Venezuela. intervene more critically and reflexively in this process. I wish to thank Frank Bergan. If. one of the goals of a progressive anthropology must be to challenge the if1equaliti~s_2! disc. Documentation and publication thus constitute interventions into these processes. ro. We must go on to grasp the social and political-economic inequalities that produce these discursive cartographies. discrete social \ groups. · .. we can say that each act of de. To remind readers that . Anthropologists who are attempting to exert stronger voices in media and policy debates cannot take for granted that they are automatically talking back to power. we exploit the privileges we enjoy in this process-and attempt to increase them-without critically assessing and challenging these discursive economies. 1. and elsewhere for thinking critically about their own practices . All of the names of delta residents that appear in this article are pseudonyms.. A conversation with Sue Gal on Warner and publics was helpful.. I think that it thus behooves practitioners to ask themselves where their work-and not just their good intentions. in the mediated societies (Martin Barbero l91FJ of the present. Steven Epstein. What can we do? First. Geneva. lain Boa!. it was funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial }loundation. and Luise White for comments on the cholera project.. because their efforts draw on the po:wer that they enjoy by virtue of their social positions (as differentially structured by race.Qur~ circulation that exclude vast classes of interlocutors-or that transform their words into pathetic statements that confirm their speakers' inability to participate in public life. My analysis suggests that dividing delta residents into discrete and nonoverlapping "indigenous" and "nonindigenous" categories is less a reflection of a pervasive and elementary social difference than a tool for imposing racial categories and the forms of social inequality that go with them.. The population figures are taken from the 1990 census of Delta Amacuro state and the 1992 Censo Indigena (Oficina Central de Estadistica e Informatica 1992. But I have gone on to argue that such participation both presupposes and reproduces the political-economic inequalities associated with the power to decontextualize discourse and recontextualize it across public boundaries. as it were. It would be foolish to think that anthropologists possess unlimited powers to disrupt these inequalities. 1993).V. M. we become more deeply complicit in reproducing inequality. Inc. Washington. as researchers. in which discourse is produced and travels than can be had by any other participant in the process. the National Endowment for the Humanities. Greg Urban.~. the National Science Foundation. Randall Packard. I ask readers to bear in mind that the terms indigenas.place them in re'tationship to struggles for access to and control over public discourse. this process provides an important component of contemporary governmentality and a crucial mechanism for producing and sustaining social inequality. the Social Science Research Council. and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. as did Virginia Dominguez. Reviewers for the American Ethnologist provided exceedingly useful comments on previous drafts. we need to critically and systematically study how knowledge gets situated by virtue of its ideologically and materially constructed location(s) in the circulation of public discourse. Veena Das.

This figure is. Literature. and Treichler 1989 on the role of conspiracy theories-and their . Anderson. Jacobus de Waard conducted a study of tuberculosis in the delta under the auspices of the lnstituto de Biomedicina in Caracas. Jaime 2003 Epidemiologfa crftica: Ciencia emancipadora e interculturalidad. Armada. 12. and Charles L. culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Briggs. Health. Bakhtin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zygmunt · 1998 Globalization: The Human Consequences. Clifford. 2003 Voices of Modernity: Language Ideologies and the Politics of Inequality.. We visited every part of the delta during tllis period. and Clara Mantini-Briggs 2000 "Bad Mothers" and the Threat to Civil Society: Race.Poetics and Performance as Critical }>erspectives on Language and Social Life. American Anthropologist 95(4): 929-957. and this performance elsewhere (Briggs 1996). Warner's essay is. James 1988 The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography. Dr. lexical register. only an estimate. Representations 37:1-26. the World Bank. 9. Austin: University of Texas Press. the way that the Brazilian and Ecuadorian states also placed cholera within a geography of blame and efforts on the part of people stigmatized by the health education program to resist denigrating stereotypes. Dipesh 1992 Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for Indian Pasts. Calhoun. Carlos Muntaner.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist 2. ·u . Francisco. and Vicente Navarro 2001 Health and Social Security Reforms in Latin America: The Convergence of the World Health Organization. I Will Chastise My Relatives" : Gender. and the Institutionalization of Social Inequality in a Venezuelan Infanticide Trial. Berkeley: University of California Press. trans. Appadurai. Reported Speech. 3. part of a much larger discussion of public spheres. 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accepted August 22. Notidiario. patrimonio. ed. Rosaldo. van Dijk. 1993 Censo indfgena de Venezuela. identidad y cigarro. Renata . Seattle: Bay Press. .Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist America. New York: Zorie Books. August 8:1. · · 1997 Conspiracy Theories as Ethnosociologies: Explanation and Intention in African American Political Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. In Paranoia within Reason: A Casebook on Conspiracy as Explanation. Nations. CT: Yale University Press. Waters. 31. 1992b Continua avanzando el c6lera en el estado Delta Amacuro." Unemployment. S~rvicio de Apoyo Local.224.!bert.1024. Peter Furst. Daniel Mato. New York: Praeger. 1989 Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. Edward W. C. 1998. Luise 2000 Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa. Martin Barbero. 1996 Unhealthy Societies: The Afflictions of Inequality. White. Robertson. Anita M. Wilkinson. New Haven. London: Routledge. Taylor. . Stewart. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Caracas: Oficina Central de Estadistica e Informatica. and the Welfare State. Vicente 1998 Neoliberalism. 2002b Publics and Counterpublics. Nancy 1992 Death without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Pp. Scheper-Hughes. Ethnography..172. London: Routledge. Anthropology Today 12(3):3-11. 1987 Tobacco and Shamanism in South America. Treichler. 147. Briggs Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies University of California. Journal of Black Studies 28(1): 112~ 125. and Cristina M. No!": Cries of Resistance against Cholera Control Campaigns. CA 92093 . Pp. August 18:24. London: Verso. 2003 Charles L. Notidiario. 55-83. In Politicas de identidades y diferencias sociales en tiempos de globalizaci6n. Marcus. Salas. Patricia A 1993 I Heard It through the Grapevine: Rumor in AfricanAmerican Culture: Berkeley: University of California Press. Jesus 1987 De los medios a las mediaciones: Comunicaci6n. cultura y · hegemonfa. ' 1998 Registro sociodemografico Warao de Punta Pescador. Michael 2002a Publics and Counterpublics. 2 vols. 1989 Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis. Pp. G. Leslie 1995 [1991] Sociology of the Global System. ~oja. Monte 1996 ''I'm Not Dog. ed.86. San Diego La Jolla. Janelle S. Universidad Central de Venezuela. Yolanda 2003 En nombre del pueblo. "Globalization. Navarro. 2003 The Story Catches You and You Fall Down: Tragedy. Gayatri Chakravorty 1981 Can the Subaltern Speak? In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. George E. Stacy Leigh 2001 Languages of Sex and AIDS in Nepal: Notes on the Social Production of Commensurability. 2003 final version submitted August 8. eds. Current Anthropology 41(2):191. eds. Turner. Social Science and Medicine 43(6): 1007. . 1996 Theft of Life: The Globalization of Organ Stealing Rumors. and the Politics of Remembering. 2nd edition. Johannes ~972 Tobacco and Shamanistic Ecstasy among the Warao of Venezuela. Marita 1997 Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War. 1992c Instalan en Tucupita laboratorio de rnicrobiologfa. Photocopy. DC: Inter-American Development Bank.ucsd. 271-313. United Nations Development ·programme 1998 Human Development Report. Inequalities. 145-213. Pigg. Sturken.682. Caracas: FACES. Notidiario 19~2a Alerta roja por c6lera en el estado Delta Amacuro. Paula 1989. Roland 1995 Globalization: Social Theory ami Global Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. and "Cultural Competence. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Gili. eds.edu 187 j . Pp. Warner. Pp. Spivak. Notidiario. Mexico City: Ediciones G. New York: Oxford University Press for UNDP. Sklair. Naci6n. ed. A. Marilyn K. International Journal of Health Services 28(4):607. Ricardo Hausmann and Roberto Rigob6n. Washington. Caracas: SOCSAL. In Remaking History. WJ. · 2000 The Global Traffic in Human Organs. Cultural Anthropology 16 (4):481-541. Public Culture 14(1):49-90. August 19:3. the AIDS Epidemic. Richard G. Pp. Teun A. Berkeley: University of California Press. Oficina Central de Estadfstica e Informatica 1992 El censo 90 en Delta Amacuro: Resultados basicos. 1992. Barbara Kruger and Phil Mariani. Boston: Beacon. Caracas: Oficina Central de Estadfstica e Informatica. AIDS and HIV Infection in the Third World: A First World Chronicle." Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17(2):159-181. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1991 Racism and the Press: Critical Studies in Racism and Migration. London: Sage. In Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens. 13-19. Katie 1999 Conspiracy Theory's Worlds.0528 clbriggs@weber.

Related Interests

j. And I am able to tell fragments of this story to you. established a graduate fellowship in her name. They can then construct their own authority by presenting their texts as a magical means of crossing these chasms. inequalities asso. I was invited to speak at an international peace conference that took place in the Mexican Congress. When debates get medicalized. Both the talk and the minute of silence that the organizers dedicated to her memory.eir narrative skills to ·transforming epidemiological statistics into human portraits that enable readers who enjoy more than their share of health and wealth to identify with the lives and deaths of people who get the short end of the stick.. those icons of biomedical authority. Similarly. I think that anthropologists might thus develop strategies that place our own efforts and those we describe within a broad range of practices for rendering visible the ghosts created by scattered hegemonies.e dia are rendered invisible precisely at the point at which they intersect with hierarchies associated with clinical medicine and public health. Being the possessor of a copy of the racialized pamphlets distributed in indigena communities conferred more stigma than authority. 2003). Because the corner of the Tucupita hospital in which feces are turned into cholera statistics is controlled by theregional epidemiologist. I am thinking here not only of the work of Farmer (1992. colleagues who communicate through the pages of the American Ethnologist.S. reached the hands of high institutional officials. and others but also of Clara's and my Stories in the Time of Cholera (2003). and our narrative was published in several newspapers. Anthropologists have turned th. can pass through it. fJu j'-"<' memory to the struggles for justice and knowledge that she advocated. My own survival seemed to depend on being able to place my own experience in intimate relationship with the narratives that I had heard-and partially internalized.s. whereas the powerful narratives told by relatives about death in the delta get erased. Scholarly stories of the social suffering of poor.mourning continue to grow in relationship to what people do in the delta. ~ my own practices of .that Feliciana had similarly imagined global social suffering and her own geopolitical positionality vis-a-vis vessels of economic and military power and U.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist and class. I connected the implications of the War on Terrorism and the impending war against Iraq with Feliciana's death. 13 · My point is not simply to urge a politics of identification.' constraints on literacy skills and access to educatio. not the producers of consniracy narratives. Similarly. the manuals written in Geneva by WHO's Global Task Force on Cholera Control. \cr. San Diego. and immigrant populations can effect a denial of coevalness. r ezuelan state's ab~lity to reduce some 500 deaths to 13. I was struck by the obvious connection. And this brings me to the broader implications of conspiracy theories. 14 Jodi Dean (1998) may be correct in suggesting that conspiracy theories can gain autho. Scheper-Hughes (1992).nal institutions similarly restricted the ability of people who lived in delta communities to use such texts in infusing their narratives with authority.. all victims of global capitalism. A second reflection on my experience of Feliciana's death and the way that people in the delta respond to their' children's deaths provides me with an equally visceral sense of a key difference that separates the two. To communicate with others who mourned her.economic parameters that shape how some narratives are admitted to / official regimes of truth and how others become conspiracy theories. In concluding my remarks. My colleagues in ethnic studies at the University of California. racialized. I ·was able to collaborate with my father in writing an obituary for her.l. wars _ directed against Iraq.rity and currency by virtue of being marginalized or suppressed. and for challenging the political economies that produce them. As the field of science studies suggests. When Feliciana died a week after the first copy of our book arrived.· ciated with access to symbolic capital. Racial and class i(~ (' . We argue there that the Latin American cholera epidemic demonstrates how deeply people who live in privileged . 181 . and this observation might be particularly pertinent to conspiracy narratives told by white North Vlf5. a figure that prevented any sort of international scandal. sectors of wealthy countries are implicated in these increasingly fatal health inequalities.S. ~arita Sturken (1997) points to how practices for turning death into memory can open up critical spaces for examining the politics of erasure and inequality. I am struck by the privilege that enables me to turn my representations of Feliciana's death.

medical treatment. for example. What may seem paranoid to middle-class whites is unfortunately often realistic for racialized and oppressedpopulations whose everyday lives are patterned by structural viq!ence and strategies for dealing with it. and environmental degradation associated with global capitalism. I'· /1 The economy of race that shaped accounts of cholera in Delta Amacuro suggests that the question is not simply what people can understand but what they can get publicly acknowledged for understanding. Fenster . tuberculosis. On the other hand. Henry Louis Gates Jr.. Bhabha argues that "counter-narratives of the nation that continually evoke and erase its totalizing boundaries-both actual and conceptual-disturb those ideological maneuvers through which 'imagined communities' are given e ~s entialist ideas" (1994:149). one may not accept these curious leaps of imagination. and violence. and sexual economies wherever they are told (see. My point here is not a functionalist claim that conspiracy theories are a daptive strategies used by oppressed p~_ylations. gender. and widespread death from both unknown and altogether too familiar diseases. . 1997) documents the success that middle-class. campaign against Haiti. wealth. the availability of state funds to bury poor children but not to provide them with food.. When people's lives are threatened by land expropriation. dialogically engaging official narratives and exploring other epistemological and political possibilities provide sites for exploring strategies for survival. Conspiracy theories attempt to unravel official hybrids and challenge purifying practices whenever disease burdens and access to public discourse are inversely correlated. (1988) and Patricia Turner· (1993) argue that African American narratives and other genres provide means of articulating the dangers associated with being black in a racist society. arbitrariness. community that do not look to the state/citizen as the ultimate construction of sociality" (1992:26). rather. Fine 1992. e. economic oppression. smallpox.---. much like those concerning organ theft and transplant (see Scheper-Hughes 1996. Kane 1998.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 Americans.t he case of the cholera narratives. these hybrids were articulated through claims that firemen were vam. they are of potential significance to communities that do not get labeled as indigena or cholera ridden. Luise White (2000) illuminates the purifying work performed on the racializing hybrids of colonial medical and political regimes in Africa. increa~ngly. I am. He details how rumors enabled Indians to disentangle the logics and disrupt the medical and military tactics that held this ideology in place. Nevertheless. But the stories told by members of communities that face structural violence on a daily basis underline the need to think about the syinbolic economy of conspiracy theories in relationship to the broader political-economic conditions that shape their production and relegation to particular routes of circulation.15 Rather than exoticizing narratives that focus on sorcery.g. As in . which have enjoyed less success in gaining access to public AIDS debates (see Turner 1993). this is a web (and. Farmer demonstrates how these accounts enabled both Haitians and Haitian Americans to connect AIDS deaths with the economy of racism and the global economic exploitation that had placed them "at risk" for HN/AIDS. pointing to important ove~laps between . Insofar as they can challenge the pedagogical and performative projects of governrnentality. and attempts to obtain and critically evaluate information regarding social and political crises. Histodan David Arnold (1993) documents British attempts to legitimize colonial rule by claiming that only the Empire could save Indians from cholera. systematic violations of African American rights. political intrigue. new strategies of governmentality. and violence and of the circulation of public discourse.(1999:112) ~uggests that the paranoid quality of conspiracy theories 182 emerges from a sense-that the narrator's every~ life is vulnerable to danger. 2000). and other infectious diseases (see also Farmer 1999). Scheper-Hughes (1992) examines how women living in Brazilian favelas and how government officials construct infant mortality. or potable water. Some of the stories that I have summarized would seem to he1nrime C'sv "'""""~II candidates for such counter-narrative status. A politics of rumor and distrust enables poor women to grasp the political economy of infant death and to deconstruct the official hybrids that rationalize. pires who drained African bodies of their blood. and representation as the epidemic progressed. Kroeger 2003). one would be wrong to chalk up discomfort with them simply to cultural or epistemological differences or. Conspiracy theories about HN/AIDS provide another lesson here. white. or accusations that AIDS is a U. and plague.S. Chakrabarty similarly points to the political importance of "narratives of self and . Other studies suggest that globally circulating conspiracy theories regarding HN/ AiDS and its transmission become intimately inflected with racial. gay activists achieved in gaining access to debates about research. conspiracy theories continue to flourish in African American communities. to paranoia. Fanner (1992) explores rumors and speculations that shaped how people coped with the beginning of the HN/AIDS epidemic. treatment. Latour does not seem to appreciate that racialized subjects do not get the same credit for their purifying work. Waters (1997) urges an assessment of African American conspiracy theories on the basis of the experience of racism.t he political-economic underpirmings of the distribution of power. class. an electronic web) in which everyone is Wti\e~hgd. Steven Epstein (1996. conspiracy theories became less and less central. Goldstein 1992. as gays entered public discourse about AIDS. as does Hofstadter (1967). Moreover.

And the accounts that we produce have circulated on the radio. / here_from the politic~ Q. Gayatri Spivak (1981). voices.~.f!Qm_the_same . at academic meetings. In assembling our own narratives of the cholera epidemic and attempting to imbue them with authority. influence over the circulation of public discourse abo~t the eptdemic. and through university presses. Caracas. its underpinnings and effects. missionaries. enabled us to produce texts in each of these places by recording interviews. . and imaginary qualities in view. that have been the focus o a great-·deal of debafin n anthropology and cultural studies during the past two decades. nurses. They are particularly useful to me in that they expand my ability to think about the epidemic. directives. My .arrative practic~ not have ~ to confront exclusion from sites in which authoritative knowledge js produc~d. and Geneva expanded our authority for representing the circulation of discourse about the epidemic far beyond what would have emerged from the oncestandard confinement to what indigenas in.. often keeping their fragmented. perspectives. in newspapers. and styles into their writing. an important lesson here for anthropologists who seek to confront growing ·inequalities. ...own privileged position with respect to the circulation of . and other delta residents. We thus derive tremendous privilege .Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist 61 . Washington: D.C. . interested. missionaries. . my confidence in my representational power is· not exactly at its peak right now. . But our .. stored. I think. and officials in a wide range of government agencies. JAJ"Ao c. Geneva (WHO). The reason. Donna Haraway (1992). administrative offices. I think. At the same time that it may qualify our claims to epistemological authority. letters. I see no easy es~~ . Conspiracy theories are excellent objects for reflection.f r~resentatiOn~that~re artic-ulated by James Clifford (1988).' f~~ J0 'j )v \) u d_t V s-oC 1 !J. taxi drivers. pamphlets. medical and anthropological. My strategy has not been to insert voices that I ·can easily translate or identify with but. the authority of their own texts by pointing to their fragmentary and positioned nature is thus contradicted by -- f \. ---interested. rather. In our case. the delta said about it. and Dhaka (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.IVI. (PAHO). many researchers strive to bring multiple texts. 183 l . perhaps. research in Tucupita. This is one of the goals that have shaped our research from the beginning-to ---------- --- -- -- <t>( "'( -- make more space in public discourse for the deaths that have been erased. manuals. I have attempted to use them not as direct reflections of life and death in the delta but to draw attention to the discursive boundaries that allow SOille accounts to enter public discourse and keep others ~ut-:. is not simply cognitive..C. D. published and unpublished statistics. and circulatea-=-Iaboratories. to rely on narratives that evoke tension and. f'• ro. I think. former cholera patients. this move greatly extends our capacity for inserting ourselves into an extremely broad range of sites in which discourse is produced and circulates. The notion that anthropologists have challenged . Bangladesh). This research took capital of the financial sort. I am more interested in doing what little I can to challenge those discursive boundaries./ J ''\ .rrod&:~d for distribution to members of "at risk" populations. in professional journals. VFf ¥' ·. o!Ie:elaying ti!e v~ices of those gen~aliy ? //[ excluded from 2!. To b~~ure. and other cities in Venezuela we also spoke with politicians. Our symbolic capital. · relatives of individuals who had died from cholera. In response to critiques of the objectivist claims of past generations and the subjectivist self-positioning that followed. and newspaper articles-docmp. lay and institutional medical practitioners. In the delta we spoke with physicians. By collecting narratives and _creating_qw:_own. and the like-or relegation to the least authoritative texts-pamphlets ~. at public and closed-door sessions in which policies are debated. community leaders and government officials. disbelief on the part of readers who enjoy more privileged access to symbolic capital. merchants. entrepreneurs. at the same time that my lingering discomfort with them makes it harder for me to think that I have revealed truth or uncovered the real site of resistance by retelling them.. public discourse about death in the delta did not begin when Feliciana died. and many others. Atlanta (the Centers for Disease Control. because they raise important questions about officia! practices of purification and hybridization and constructions of scale and.My goal is not to gain the right to speak for people in Delta Amacuro-or billions of people who similarly are faced with abominable health conditions and practices of exclusion that limit their participation in public debates. journalists. We also interviewed officials in New York (UNICEF and other agencies). and positioned than an body elSe's official or ~nspifiltorial. it does not revolve around cultural or epistemological differences. Th~­ ratives that Clara and_ I tell are no less fragmentary..J./ global discursive eccg10my that erasesthe narratives told ~ ~p~ople -~ delta about the deaths of their family members. or CDC).-f. fishermen. draw 1 attention to their own interpretive limitations.lblic debates. archives.-1 J Conspiracy theories can offer anthropologists insight into their own imbrications in the contemporary world and how to attempt progressive interventions. Caracas. we exert some . Washington. Clara and I conducted nearly two hundred interviews. Indeed.. In Tucupita. There is. at the same time. We were able to obtain copies of textslaboratory and clinical reports. ~ \('u(J\L .ents whose possession conferred social power. this involves processes of ventriloq1Jl§ !n. I have made it clear from the start that the conspiracy narratives I report here are not the stories that I would construct in "explaining" the epidemic.

medical and otherwise. Charles Rosenberg. I have argued that a hegemonic vision of how public discourse circulates legitimizes both inequalities of access to information and of ifghts to transform one's own story into public discourse. Ludmilla Jordanova.C. Paul Farmer. And we cannot leave ourselves out of this process. and gender). Ramon Gutierrez.American Ethnologist • Volume 31 Number 2 May 2004 their efforts to gain access to an even greater range of sites . But the conspiracy theories that I have retold here suggest that people who are poorly positioned vis-a-vis these same inequalities are alreadv CC\NWN' r hard at work on this process. These conspiracy theories suggest that in the case of discourses that speak of structural violence and l!e~o/' . If anthropologists are truly concerned with questions of power and representation-and wish to do more than watch deadly inequalities · proliferate-this focus must move to the forefront of anthropology's agenda. particularly in relation to people who possess more authoritative epistemological and institutional positions and greater control over the media. I was afforded an ideal environment in which to write about the epidemic by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Second. transporting them across the boundaries that define publics. D. . Following Warner. . I have argued that a crucial dimension of ·anthropology's imbrication in this politics and poetics of social life lies in the practices that anthropologists use in locating and appropriating discourses and .ited the manuscript with skill and kindness. class. Patricia Marquez. My investigation of the ' cholera epidemic was undertaken jointly with Clara Mantini-Briggs.and recontextualization can contribute to redefining the boundaries and relations between publics and counterpublics.. and Linda Forman ed. ones that affect the rights of other participants. cide-or attempts to mask them..D. Yolanda Salas. criollos. I want to stress that we are inserted in these power relations regardless of the content of our writing. Attempts to place suppressed stories about social suffering into public discourse and reveal how state and corporate officials legitimize their imaginaries do not necessarily challenge hegemonic constructions of the circulation of public discourse or change the rules that structure control over this process.the human stakes in the struggle to shape what makes it into public discourse are high indeed. they are italicized throughout this article.. and Warao do not refer to bounded. Rather than attempting to project the 184 voice of the Other In public.('If" Notes Acknowledgments. James Trostle. indigena and criollo are particularly problematic terms. I am deeply grateful to delta residents for articulating terribly painful experiences and to public health and other officials in Delta Amacuro and other places in Venezuela. intervene more critically and reflexively in this process. I wish to thank Frank Bergan. If. one of the goals of a progressive anthropology must be to challenge the if1equaliti~s_2! disc. Documentation and publication thus constitute interventions into these processes. ro. We must go on to grasp the social and political-economic inequalities that produce these discursive cartographies. discrete social \ groups. · .. we can say that each act of de. To remind readers that . Anthropologists who are attempting to exert stronger voices in media and policy debates cannot take for granted that they are automatically talking back to power. we exploit the privileges we enjoy in this process-and attempt to increase them-without critically assessing and challenging these discursive economies. 1. and elsewhere for thinking critically about their own practices . All of the names of delta residents that appear in this article are pseudonyms.. A conversation with Sue Gal on Warner and publics was helpful.. I think that it thus behooves practitioners to ask themselves where their work-and not just their good intentions. in the mediated societies (Martin Barbero l91FJ of the present. Steven Epstein. What can we do? First. Geneva. lain Boa!. it was funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial }loundation. and Luise White for comments on the cholera project.. because their efforts draw on the po:wer that they enjoy by virtue of their social positions (as differentially structured by race.Qur~ circulation that exclude vast classes of interlocutors-or that transform their words into pathetic statements that confirm their speakers' inability to participate in public life. My analysis suggests that dividing delta residents into discrete and nonoverlapping "indigenous" and "nonindigenous" categories is less a reflection of a pervasive and elementary social difference than a tool for imposing racial categories and the forms of social inequality that go with them.. The population figures are taken from the 1990 census of Delta Amacuro state and the 1992 Censo Indigena (Oficina Central de Estadistica e Informatica 1992. But I have gone on to argue that such participation both presupposes and reproduces the political-economic inequalities associated with the power to decontextualize discourse and recontextualize it across public boundaries. as it were. It would be foolish to think that anthropologists possess unlimited powers to disrupt these inequalities. 1993).V. M. we become more deeply complicit in reproducing inequality. Inc. Washington. as researchers. in which discourse is produced and travels than can be had by any other participant in the process. the National Endowment for the Humanities. Greg Urban.~. the National Science Foundation. Randall Packard. I ask readers to bear in mind that the terms indigenas.place them in re'tationship to struggles for access to and control over public discourse. this process provides an important component of contemporary governmentality and a crucial mechanism for producing and sustaining social inequality. the Social Science Research Council. and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. as did Virginia Dominguez. Reviewers for the American Ethnologist provided exceedingly useful comments on previous drafts. we need to critically and systematically study how knowledge gets situated by virtue of its ideologically and materially constructed location(s) in the circulation of public discourse. Veena Das.

This figure is. Literature. and Treichler 1989 on the role of conspiracy theories-and their . Anderson. Jacobus de Waard conducted a study of tuberculosis in the delta under the auspices of the lnstituto de Biomedicina in Caracas. Jaime 2003 Epidemiologfa crftica: Ciencia emancipadora e interculturalidad. Armada. 12. and Charles L. culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Briggs. Health. Bakhtin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zygmunt · 1998 Globalization: The Human Consequences. Clifford. 2003 Voices of Modernity: Language Ideologies and the Politics of Inequality.. We visited every part of the delta during tllis period. and Clara Mantini-Briggs 2000 "Bad Mothers" and the Threat to Civil Society: Race.Poetics and Performance as Critical }>erspectives on Language and Social Life. American Anthropologist 95(4): 929-957. and this performance elsewhere (Briggs 1996). Warner's essay is. James 1988 The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography. Dr. lexical register. only an estimate. Representations 37:1-26. the World Bank. 9. Austin: University of Texas Press. the way that the Brazilian and Ecuadorian states also placed cholera within a geography of blame and efforts on the part of people stigmatized by the health education program to resist denigrating stereotypes. Dipesh 1992 Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for Indian Pasts. Calhoun. Carlos Muntaner.Theorizing modernity conspiratorially • American Ethnologist 2. ·u . Francisco. and Vicente Navarro 2001 Health and Social Security Reforms in Latin America: The Convergence of the World Health Organization. I Will Chastise My Relatives" : Gender. and the Institutionalization of Social Inequality in a Venezuelan Infanticide Trial. Berkeley: University of California Press. trans. Appadurai. Reported Speech. 3. part of a much larger discussion of public spheres. Charles L. 1996 The Politics of Discursive Authority in Research on the "Invention of Tradition. David 1993 Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India. ed. and Racial · Destiny in Australia. and Art. not to a bounded type of societies that are distinguished from "modern" ones. Naomar de 1989 Epidemiologia sem numeros: Uma introducao crftica a ciencia epidemiol6gica. Charles L. Barkun. Cambridge. Michael 2003 A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. 5. Richard. I discuss Gomez." Cultural Anthropology 11(4):435-469. Fine 1992. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Janelle Taylor (2003) warns that the most gripping narratives of medical pluralism can reify culture in ways that create social distance and assert the superiority of biomedical perspectives. and degree of detail. Cambridge. Briggs. we interviewed residents regarding the cholera epidemic. International Journal of Health Services 31(4):729-768. Marcos Cueto (1997:208) reports that the Persian Gulf War also appeared in Peruvian accounts of the cholera epidemic. Berkeley: University of California Press.." Radical lndigenas. thereby creating hierarchies of audiences and knowledges. Marilyn Nations and Cristina Monte (1996) and Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld (1998) document. and the Political 185 _j . and tradition advance corporate and state agendas in Venezuela. 2000 Provincializfng Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. 1992 Habermas and the Public Sphere. 14. the MSAS became the Ministerio de Salud y Desarrollo Social (Ministry of Health and Social Development). Berkeley: University of California Press. Cultural Reasoning. . and the (Re)production of Social Relations in Warao Ritual Wailing. Colloredo-Mansfeld. In each community. See. MA: MIT Press. I ask readers to keep in mind that when the term premodern(s) appears in subsequent discussion I am referring to Latour's construct. 4. with Clara Mantini-Briggs 2003 Stories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling during a Medical Nightrnare. 1999. Farmer (1999) has made the same observation with respect to the relationship between Haitian vernacular healing and biomedical treatment. Warwick 2003 The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science. American Ethnologist 19(2):337 -361.354. Rudi 1998 "Dirt)r Indians. 8. attempting to ascertain how many people had been symptomatic and how many had died from the disease. r . 13. New York: Basic. Briggs. Briggs 1990 . and counterpublics. Law and Social Inquiry 25(2) :299 . M. New York: Routledge. Arnold. Arjun 1996 Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. he reported this figure in an interview that Clara MantiniBriggs and I conducted in Caracas on July 2. see Calhoun 1992 and Gaonkar and Lee 2002. Bhabha. For examples. Michael Holquist. Which is not to say that epidenliology is unitary and homogeneous or that it cannot provide tools for countering official erasures. his dance troupe. Buenos Aires: Lugar Editorial. Breilh. public cultures. Bauman. 15. An -':epidemiology without numbers" (Almeida Filho 1989) and "critical epidenliology" (see Breilh 2003) provide examples of how Latin American epidemiologists have pioneered techniques for revealing social inequality and structural violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Chakrabarty. and Transnational Corporations. Charles L 1992 "Since I Am a Woman. Stacy Pigg (2001) similarly shows how texts used for HIV/ AIDS education in Nepal were ranked in terms of their provenience. MA: H~ard University Press. of course. Homi K. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. 6. See Guss 2000 and Salas 2003 on the way that performances of race.A 1994 The Location of Culture. ed. disnlissal-in shaping discourse about the HIV I AIDS epidemic in the United States. M. 7. 1993 Personal Sentiments and Polyphonic Voices in Warao Women's Ritual Wailing: Music and Poetics in a Critical and Collective Discourse. 1995. Following adoption of the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution. I interviewed Cardenas in Tucupita on March 29. Farmer notes that "conspiracy theories have been a part of the AIDS scene since the advent of the syndrome" (1992:230). Rio de Janeiro: Campus. Craig. Annual Review of Anthropology 19:58-88. Kane 1998. 1981 The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Bauman. 10. Almeida Filho. respectively. of course. Turner 1993. Epstein 1996.

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