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Looking for el Pozolero’s Traces: Siguiendo las pistas del pozolero: The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the power of symbolic ritual actions performed by relatives of missing persons on the land of el Pozoleroto give them a place in the social world. The construction of community mourning is analyzed in the margins of social structure liminalityand the process by which it provides new frameworks to interpret and make sense of disappearances in the War on Drugs.

Georgws was organic matter poured onto the ground by Santiago Mesa, alias el Pozoleroresponsible for disposing of bodies for the Tijuana cartels. On his arrest by the authorities inhe confessed to having dissolved about bodies in over eight years of working in Tijuana.

However, when asked to identify some of the missing persons in an album containing their photographs, he claimed not to be able to recognize a single face. The disappearance of his son, a young graduate student, in Januaryled him to assume the leadership of the struggle to demand investigation and justice in over cases of disappearances that had taken place in Tijuana in the previous five years.

Like Fernando, other relatives of missing persons in Tijuana have found the public sphere to be a refuge for surviving the experience of disappearance, which profoundly affected their lives. Meeting up with others in similar circumstances enabled bereaved relatives to provide a space for the absent person and find one for themselves.

This liminal condition of the missing, which places them in the realm of the impossible, the unspeakable and the diffuse, offers a way to construct a communitas. This article explores this experience using the theory of Turnerwho invites us to think of liminality as a space of possibility and pure balandierr. Events in Tijuana have created a specific way in which family members assume the search for the missing and create practices and discourses around their absence.

The existence of el Pozolero has profoundly affected this experience, given balandoer strength as a source of meaning surrounding the fate of missing persons. In order to shed light on this process, this article begins with a theoretical examination of the concepts of liminality and communitas of Victor Turner in a dialogue with the proposals of social science to understand the social dimension of mourning. It subsequently proposes an analysis of the collective practices carried out on the lands of el Pozolero as processes that contribute to the construction of a new category by which to lend meaning to the recent disappearances in Tijuana and Mexico.

Liminality is located in the cracks of social structure: Based on his studies of tribal communities and Arnold van Gennep’s theory of “rites of passage” Turner, Separation consists of the physical or symbolic marginalization of the individual from his or her social structure or from a certain framework of pre-established cultural conditions “a state”.

The liminal period, for its part, is a state of ambiguity characterized by the inability to valandier socially defined. And reaggregation is the return of the individual to the social structure, to a “state” or role that fits inside the establishment.

Rituals are crucial in this process, since they act as a sequence of symbolic, transformative acts that reveal the main classifications, categories and contradictions of cultural processes.

Although the author does not address disappearance from his concept of liminality, the latter has made an enormous contribution to studies on cesorden subject Panizo, ; Regueiro, From his theory, Turner allows one to understand disappearance as a process balandeir separation from the missing person regarding his social roles, and his place in the world of everyday and social life. This separation not only affects the family and personal life of those suffering his or her absence, but destabilizes the general order, balamdier of the state of uncertainty implied by the lack of a social category into which missing persons may be placed.

Balandker of the struggle of the families of missing persons in Tijuana and Mexico in recent years has involved precisely the work of giving the missing person a specific framework of meaning within the context of the events surrounding disappearance and violence nowadays. That is why many of the recent practices and discourses associated with disappearance regard the War on Drugs as a narrative source that provides a social space for reflecting on the absence of missing persons. Functionalist and structuralist perspectives of anthropology, developed in the early gerges century, were particularly interested in the value of the ritual accompaniment of death as a means of classifying the status and importance of the absent subject, as well as the respective functions and attributions of the bereaved.

These approaches enable one to understand funerary ceremonies as an element that concerns not only the family geogres also the entire social group to which the missing person belonged: The relational process can be understood from Turner’s theory as the construction of communitaswhich provides a specific framework for integrating ambiguity into the world of the living and providing a kind of social “treatment” for absences.

This shows how for Turner, social structure is not a rigid, inflexible construction, since liminoid spaces open up a unique range of possibilities for transformation.

In liminality, the missing person is an individual devoid of social insignias and properties, who is in a state of transition to something dezorden. That something is collectively constructed through ritual practice and discourse. As a space outside social structure, the communitas is characterized by being a spontaneous, self-generated construction.


It is geofges bond that geogres people beyond any formal social tie. It is therefore an antistructural, undifferentiated, egalitarian and non-rational although not irrational bond shared by a group of individuals who share the same experience of the liminal. For the case studied in this paper, the communitas is presented as the social experience of a group of relatives of missing persons who share narratives, ritual actions and forms of identification in the individual and collective purpose of making sense of the marginal status of disappearance.

According to Turner, there is a dialectic relationship between social structure and communitasas part of what the author calls “societas” or “society,” which will be translated as “social” here. This social experience is definitely a constant relationship between the established and the spontaneous, processes and their interstices, and continuity and rupture.

Ritual action is located at the heart of this social experience. Rites of passage serve as practices that make it possible to maintain the established order. In the case of the dead, rituals of burial, wakes or cremation enable the community and relatives to socially and symbolically locate the absent person in the world of the dead, and in their new role in the world of the living.

The geoges of the phenomenon of the missing lies precisely in this point, since it does not contain a spectrum of rituals that allow the absent subject to make the transition to a new state.

The empirical studies by Laura Panizo in the case of disappearances in Argentina show how the lack of a body breaks down the categories established around death, leading to practices and attitudes that go beyond the scope of “normality” Panizo, This difficulty in ritualizing the absence of a loved one occurs in the closest circle of his or her social relations: This social condition of mourning must also be considered when processes of mass killings or disappearances are studied in the context of an armed conflict or war.

Its importance lies in the political and cultural power of the collective experience, as a process of seeking meaning and restoring order. In order to understand this dimension, some authors have made a distinction between grief and mourning, as two simultaneous, concurrent processes. Or, as DuBose saysit corresponds to the emotional response that comes from within. In the words of DuBosethis would be the process of incorporating the loss of life into the world. From the perspective of these authors, mourning as a social process expresses a scenario of mutual relations between the public and the private.

This means that the context of the interpretation of death is also a framework for community building Lomnitz, ; Butler: Based on these principles, the sociological perspective on mourning shown here explores the network of relationships from which the value of a life is defined and its incorporation into “us,” in the comings and goings in the world of individuals into the world of the communitas.

According to Judith Butler, mourning places the individual in the world of the other: This intersubjective condition of the individual expressed in mourning also indicates that the body has an invariably public dimension: Only later, and without any balandie can I claim my body as my own, as indeed I do so often” Butler, Thus, the mourning surrounding their disappearance, like death, demands family and social rituals to resolve the liminal state of the gap created balamdier absence.

As explained in the following sections, the construction of communitas and the category of missing persons in the context of the War on Balandir draws on rituals that seek to lend meaning to the condition of the absent person and forge an identity for them as a social subject.

But ritual action is not only important for lending continuity to the processes of social structure, such as the change from one role to another or the change of status from living to dead. It is also essential for the consolidation of the communitas generated outside the structure. Joint symbolic action stabilizes shared symbols and strengthens group identity. The way these processes are expressed in the case of Tijuana is described below. At the center of the individual and social experience of grief lies the collective experience of the group of mourners, which can be understood as a “community of suffering” De Alencar, These communities produce narratives that sustain collective belonging and can sometimes be expanded outward, creating mobilizations around the shared drama: Other authors Scheper-Hughes, consider that in “cultures of death,” people become accustomed and indifferent to violence and families that are unable to flee become isolated, restrict their relations with the community, withdraw from collective life and withdraw balzndier domestic life.

Unlike these approaches, which highlight the disintegrating potential of death in regard to the social fabric, authors such as Patricia Tovar suggest that processes of violence also “help to reinforce or change social structures, opening up the possibility for it to also be an experience of personal growth” Tovar: Bussinger shares this point of view by positing that grief may reveal a new form of social participation, linked to collective action to achieve social justice and recognition.

Acceptance, says the author, is what leads the women to participate in the group. And this acceptance has to do with the spontaneous, supportive nature of the communitas.

While not all le of missing persons in Tijuana participate in collective action, it is true that the experience of groups present in the public space has profoundly changed the framework of meaning in which disappearance is interpreted and experienced in this social space nowadays. In Tijuana, disappearance associated with organized crime and drug trafficking has achieved a public presence through gdorges media since the early s, when most of the cases involved illegal arrests by the police authorities in their attempt to obtain information feorges key witnesses Robledo, But it was not until that the families of victims became visible as a group when they began to demonstrate in a sit-in in front of the palace of the State Government of Baja California.


By then, disappearances had increased sharply, together with the number of violent homicides in the city.

Georges Balandier

Many of the missing were “taken” from their homes or public places by armed commandos. Others were balandiier by small criminal groups that demanded geeorges ransom and never returned the hostages while still others disappeared one day without a trace. Although there were substantial differences between the cases, they were neutralized in the effort to build a common narrative that identifies the drama as a shared situation.

This is possible because the relatives of the missing shared the same experience: It is precisely this encounter with institutions and the loss of their credibility that permeates the shared experience of loss. In this georgges, much of the plight of the families of the disappeared involves demanding baladnier acknowledgement of their pain and an institutional response in terms of investigation and justice.

The possibility of creating a common identity with which to describe individuals as “missing” provides specific conditions for the social and political discussion of this category and at the same time enables the demands of the bereaved to be inserted into the social space in which they begin to discuss the meanings balabdier with security and violence. Thus, the communitas is gradually constructed in the gap provided by the crisis of social structure, and it is through social action and ritual that the bases of a new category to incorporate disappearances into this context are established.

The ambiguous situation of disappearance and the loneliness of the bereaved is compounded by the iconic and symbolic force of the violence associated with the War on Drugs, which focuses on the balancier and whose bloodthirsty nature creates a framework of terror around the imaginaries of death and disappearance.

In this context, the search for human remains responds to the need to put an end to the liminal status of the missing, but also to the collective construction of beliefs and narratives that place the absent body within a specific scenario of violence which seeks to lend it meaning. The body of a missing person in Tijuana is given meaning through the media discourse which generates its own narrative about the current state of things: The images of terror surrounding death in Tijuana make the relationship with the absent body controversial, meaning that the relatives of missing persons accept death as a possibility for their loved ones.

The case of Tijuana in particular is compounded by the existence of el Pozolerowho has become a reference point for the struggle and ways to handle the grief of those affected by the disappearance of their relatives.

The search for bodies in Tijuana began in the wake of el Pozolero’s arrest and responds narratively to his statements. Relatives responded to the terror created by this man’s words to make sense of the possible fate of their missing. In this context, the search for balandie has two purposes: But looking for bodies is in itself a thorny path georgees terms of the identity of both the subject and the community of mourners.

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The study conducted in Argentina by Panizo shows that in some cases, the search desorven bodies could destroy the shared sense of identity among the community of mourners. The bodies that appeared destroyed the collective forms of identification, first separating the individual found from the rest of the missing desoden and then their relatives from the remaining mourners Panizo, This could explain why georves some historical situations, such as those described by the author, the demand that the missing be found alive, as the case of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, is assumed as a collective political decision.

Over time, these claims have become more flexible while the search for remains has been accompanied by the reconstruction of memory. But Panizo argues that finding bodies visibly affects the identity of the group and the relationship to the liminal state. If a missing person appears, whether dead or alive, he ceases to belong to the marginal condition of liminality, breaking the social bond of the community of mourners by violating the essence of communion.

The recent case of the missing in Tijuana has its own characteristics. First of all, the search for georgees remains can be interpreted precisely as an opposing force to the possibility of balandeir from the group. Although it can destroy the liminal condition of missing persons and lead to a possible split within the group in a hypothetical future, the search for bodies in Tijuana has become one of the symbolic, ritual actions that have strengthened the social acknowledgement of their pain.