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Qualitative Sociology





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Affect is increasingly understood as a critical element of political life and collective action in Latin America and elsewhere. It is critical to generating participation in collective action projects, sustaining or collapsing action, and how participants interpret the meanings and values of a project and the social relationships within it. More broadly, affective political experiences are markers of the sense of belonging or disaffection from others and broader political systems that are central to civic life. The meanings of participation after projects fade are often attributed mainly to the collective events themselves, and draw on one-off interviews after the events decline, or short ethnographies relatively close in time to the collective actions. As well, they often foreground the positive experiences that participants recall from collective action. Using 48 interviews and three years of participant observation, which followed 12 years of political and social engagement with women residents of Villa El Salvador (VES) in Lima, Peru, we challenge all three of these perspectives. The women were involved in a 20-year, materially successful, brokered collective action project to install water and sanitation systems in their neighborhood. The data reveal that long-term participants recalled actions in collective terms, but recounted affective experiences—mainly senses of abandonment and struggle—in individualistic terms. Unlike what most studies of collective action have concluded, these stories of being “barely bonded” to co-participants and leaders were not attributed to the collective actions themselves: they were told as part of stories of life-long gendered experiences of personal and state violence, state and family abandonment, and corrupt political practices in Peru. These affects were expressed with an insistence on sympathy from author 1, who has had long-term care relationships with people in VES. The methods and findings extend Latin American collective action scholarship that has documented disappointment and civil disaffection as outcomes of collective action, showing that longer-term forms of politics and relationships in which people’s political lives unfold (including with analysts), rather than collective action projects themselves, can reveal richer senses of the meanings of participation in collective action for civic life.


Author Posting © Springer, 2020. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Springer for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Qualitative Sociology, Volume 43, June 2020.

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