AAA Presentation in Montreal: Managing Expectations: Spectacles of Corruption, Rituals of Patronage

I'll be presenting at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, in Montreal, as part of a panel entitled "Managers Of Things, Or What Do Managers Imagine Themselves To Be Managing?" on Friday, November 18, from 8-9:45am.

Managing Expectations: Spectacles of Corruption, Rituals of Patronage

Because of its symbolic and economic weight within Paraguay, Itaipú hydroelectric dam--the world's largest--has come to embody what its planners hoped: the physical manifestation of an all powerful state. With the recent presidential election of leftist former Bishop Fernando Lugo, a new group of technocrats and politicians appointed to the helm did not merely manage the energy potential of the dam, but through it distilled the "promise" of the Paraguayan nation--promise in the sense of commitment and of hope for the future. As the engine of the Paraguayan state apparatus, the dam stood at the nexus of an intricate patronage system that grew concomitantly with the energy production. How and what favors were asked and answered by technocrats appointed to manage electricity production--a public secret--unmasks more than just the balancing act performed by high level employees as they juggled partisan obligations, political aspirations, and social pressure to portray generosity as a hallmark of power. Rather, this gets to the heart of how the fractured and tentative "state" is constituted in Paraguay--protecting privilege through the management of resources and relationships. Campaign promises to end patronage and administer the dam's wealth to bring development clashed with entrenched models of state-to-nation obligations and the personal ambitions of a new class of political elites. This paper explores how the top managers at the dam straddled informal expectations of patronage with formal responsibilities of energy production in the midst of a push towards "transparency" thwarted and abetted by mediatic "corruption" scandals. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork among Paraguay's political elite, this paper analyzes rituals of approach and request, how Itaipú managers configured multiple vectors of obligation, and how a hydroelectric dam embodied fantasies of prosperity. Itaipú's managers explicitly described this process as a way not just to remake the dam, but as a way to remake the Paraguayan state itself.

Posted in , , , . Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post.


Swedish Greys - a WordPress theme from Nordic Themepark. Converted by