‘Calama botada’: Dignity, development, and abandonment in a Chilean mining town
In a series of city-wide strikes and protests in the city between 2011-2013, Calama's workers, students, unions and municipal leaders took to the streets in their thousands to demand ‘dignity’ and their share of Chile’s national mining wealth. This remote city, economically central to the Chile’s mature neoliberal conditions, sits at the feet of the largest open cut copper mine in the world. In many ways it conforms to the global stereotype of a mining town languishing from the resource curse; in popular press and comment, Calama is ‘botada’ (abandoned, trashed, thrown away), while Chile’s national capital is extracted from beneath it. We analyse these events in Calama to contribute to scholarly debates regarding the social effects of neoliberal and ‘late’ liberal political economies. Ethnographic research and an analysis of print and online media reportage reveals details of the protests and authorities’ response; the latter a ‘sustainable urban plan’ focussed on beautification of streetscapes, buildings, new social programs and city infrastructure, financed and launched in state-corporate partnership. Others have shown how ‘abandonment’ is distinctive as an affective dimension of the experience of neoliberal conditions, and we contribute to these studies by showing how abandonment is experienced within development plans in Calama, not in spite of them. In addition, while neglect of ‘economically unviable’ citizens and places is a characteristic of neoliberal (dis)order, the set of events we draw attention to have a deeper history of economic, environmental and social abandonment, and thus narrate the broader moral economy of extractivism.
About the Presenter
Getting a start in anthropology through work in native title and indigenous affairs in Western Australia, Sally later published two books based on her PhD research in north Queensland; Aboriginal family and the State: the conditions of history (2010, Ashgate) and a co-authored local history book, Written true, not gammon! A history of Aboriginal Charters Towers (with Patricia Dallachy and Val Alberts). Since 2010 she has also undertaken research in northern Chile and published work examining the environmental, political, and ethical dimensions of engagements between indigenous communities and mining companies. Sally is an anthropologist in the School of Social Science, UQ.