Road anthropology, a proposal for the study of mobility as a cultural field1

Reception: March 14, 2017

Acceptance: February 28, 2018


This is followed by a conversation about the role of anthropology in the study of road behaviors, the relationships between material infrastructures and symbolic structures, the political expressions of urban mobility and the discussion of various ideas and positions of Dr. Pablo Wright about what he calls a "road anthropology". It delves into some details such as the symbolic rebellion of urban pedestrians, the design and implementation of mobile methodologies for research and road behaviors as a field in dispute between the State and citizens in the context of Latin America.

Keywords: , , , , ,

The “anthropology of the road”: a study-proposal on mobility as cultural field

A continuation of a conversation on anthropology's role in the study of road-related behavior, the relationships between material infrastructure and symbolic structures, political expressions of urban mobility and a discussion of various ideas and positions Dr. Pablo Wright has taken in what he calls “ the anthropology of the road ”(road anthropology). I have deepens discussion of certain details such as urban travelers' symbolic rebellions; mobile-methodology design and implementation for research purposes; and “road behaviors” as an area contested between the State and citizens within the Latin American context.

Keywords: Urban anthropology, mobility, qualitative methodology, moral infrastructure, public transport, road rules.

Public transport users boarding a vehicle on Route 380 in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. Christian O. Grimaldo Archive. License CC-Attribution-NonCommercial.

Audiographic recording of the interview

Christian O. Grimaldo to Pablo Wright

Held on November 4, 2014 at the headquarters of CIESAS-Occidente. Available in

Christian O. Grimaldo (CG). In a relatively short time we have witnessed a growing and almost forced interest in the study of cities from the social sciences. Such interest emphasizes the study of the symbolic character of the city, an area in which anthropology is the axis of very important theoretical and methodological discussions. Above all for the value of ethnographic work, which since the Chicago school was recognized as fruitful in the urban environment. What do you think is the role of anthropology in the study of cities and what is your explanation of its arrival in these contexts?

Pablo Wright (PW). Well, I think that in my vision of what anthropology is, any place is important and it is possible to investigate any spatiality, any spatial context. Because what defines it is the look, not the place. However, not all places are the same and then methodological or theoretical challenges arise that have to do with the particular objects that one investigates. The city only as an object is too much, it is like saying the countryside, "I work in the rural area", it is so generic that it is useless, you have to define the city while what, or what from the city, or where in the city, or what process, groups if they are groups or whatever.

The anthropological contribution, precisely unlike traditional sociology, is a greater access to the vision that people have of their own becoming, of their own identity. If it is migration, migration and field work present new challenges relative to other places. If you are in a rural community you can stay there if they give you permission and everything; On the other hand, in the city, maybe you go back and forth to the place where you work, although you can stay nearby. You have to use your imagination to get used to the place, see the routines. Obviously it depends on the themes, but work in or with the city implies going back and forth, going back and forth with the people. For example, if you study transportation, you would have to ride a truck, take all the routes; I would take all the routes back and forth several times at different times to have the feeling. I speak of feeling of whatever it is, the landscape, the people, how they drive, whether there is more traffic or not, whatever. In the ethnographic question to the city you have to walk it a lot, to have a relationship with the environment; For me it is very important. Whatever it is, you have to know what you are investigating and not just that place, but the larger context.

CG. So, this question of experimenting, do you think that it could in a certain way define ethnographic work, would it be its hallmark?

PW. Yes, I believe that the ethnographer is his own research instrument. Then you tune or tune it according to the themes, the places, the rush and your own life as well. If you don't feel like going on stage, you go back or you don't go, I don't know.

CG. Some theorists such as Néstor García Canclini (Lindón, 2007) argue that the interest in the symbolic of cities has been the result of the failure of urban studies that focused on the material dimension of large cities. You seem to agree with this idea when distinguishing a dialectic between a material infrastructure and a moral infrastructure, what is included within that moral infrastructure?

PW. I believe that the moral infrastructure would be the whole set of road culture that one incorporates through socialization; These are guides to drive you in the urban environment, in addition to the official regulatory system. It is all as a comprehensive package and sometimes they get along and sometimes not, sometimes the normative system is totally ignored, put aside, and only the practical system remains. It would be, let's say, a practical moral system, not abstract, not written, but practiced, negotiated and transmitted in your socialization. You learn what to do, who to let go first or not, whether to go fast or slow. A series of conditions; if you are a pedestrian, where to cross, how to cross, what to do.

The material infrastructure is the street, sidewalks, all the infrastructure that is touched. The one that generally, in public policies, is thought to improve the urban environment, without the need to mediate with culture and the people who use these infrastructures, right?

CG. There is a part of your work that has a fairly clear political charge in terms of a phenomenon that appears to be a matter of "bad habits", like this you just mentioned to me. I am talking about the work you do on road behavior (Wright, Moreira & Soich, 2007). It seems to me that in your proposal there is a very original way of reading the State from the most everyday and repetitive practices of the driver and the pedestrian. Tell me about this.

PW. Yes, I believe that road behavior is not capricious, it is learned, and it is learned with values that have to do with the history of the country or the region and the history of the citizenry. In other words, the exercise of rights and duties as a citizen and the State's practice of ensuring rights and duties. Generally, there are disagreements in this area: either a lot of authoritarianism or a lot of liberalism, in addition to democratic interruptions, military governments and all those issues that have not generated confidence in the stability of the rules. In other words, citizens do not have confidence that these standards are good for us, no matter whether this government or the other has imposed them, they are not right. So, my idea is that there has been a historical construction of citizenship, of the citizen-State relationship where there is a structural ambiguity in the face of the rules from the State and that has permeated the citizens, who have distrust in the rules and controls vials. It is then that what I call semiotic rebellion or failed disciplining arises.

CG. In that explanation you distinguish it as what is prescriptive, which would correspond to the rules, and what is performative, which would correspond to the choreography that people perform apparently improvised, as part of our daily lives. You do a reading of civil disobedience before a State that has historically been characterized by a crisis of legitimacy and an organizational dispersion and that therefore does not discipline well, is that correct?

PW. Yes.

CG. Given this, you propose the design and implementation of what would be "realistic road safety education plans in historical, conceptual and methodological terms that generate a chain of transformation from unruly bodies into disciplined bodies" (Wright, 2012: 20). I would like to bring up a confrontational view put forward by James Scott in The praise of anarchism (2012: 116-119), where he mentions that in the city of Drachten, in the Netherlands, they realized that, by eliminating traffic lights, traffic was improved. Especially because it gave rise to the exercise of the independent criterion of drivers and pedestrians. He mentions that, two years after having removed the traffic light, the number of accidents dropped significantly: from 36 in the four years prior to the intervention, to only two, one year after having intervened.

PW. Ugh, a lot!

CG. Yes a lot! Hans Monderman, the traffic technician who in that country was commissioned for the first time to propose the elimination of traffic lights, thought that “the more numerous the prescriptions, the more the drivers were encouraged to seek the maximum advantage in the framework of the rules: speeding between signals, speeding past the amber light, avoiding all non-prescribed courtesies. " The idea that was promulgated in these small towns was that “Unsafe is safe” (Scott, 2012: 119). What would you say about this proposal?

PW. That this is Holland, that the history of the Dutch country and the development of its civic culture, of the Dutch State, the ethos Dutch, Protestant culture, everything plays a differentiating role. They are states that are better integrated, have better resolved contradictions, it seems to me; and citizens take responsibility and see that, if they are responsible, that has repercussions on the general system. You do not have to go to a politician to modify the way of life, right? They can modify it themselves, which is the exercise of citizenship, let's say civil, and in this case road citizenship. More state controls, more security? I do not know. Less state controls, less security? I don't know, but sometimes at a crossroads you have to put a traffic light so that people don't waste their energy negotiating, which is what we do in other countries; Here in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, it is very noticeable that one spends a lot of energy because the State has not yet found the way around for us to recognize that the energy was spent by the State and we comply with what was decided for the benefit of the common good. So I would not say that it is right or wrong, regardless of the context. No, it depends on the historical, political, urban context and the history and culture. Policies are an emerging of society and culture, they are not universalizing for their own sake.

CG. When you make this mention that in this type of road and political conduct that inscribes the prescriptions and others, a ethos which corresponds to certain contexts, do you think we could say that the transit of people in cities would be a type of total social fact as Marcel Mauss (1979) saw it?

PW. Yes, it could be, because it has many determinations, it has many variables, it depends on many variables and it has to do with, say, the labor issue, the issue of age, gender, status, prestige. It is, as Goffman (1993) said, a kind of performance, of presentation of the self in daily life. In any vehicle, because with vehicles it also happens that way.

CG. That brings me to another question, it has to do with your idea about what you call metallic bodies. Can this idea be reduced to an anthropomorphization of vehicles?

PW. No, I think it is a symbolic operation, where the extension of your body scheme to the metallic structure of the car takes place. Then the car becomes you, your being. From now on it is you, "I am the car, the car is me"; there is a kind of human-machine synchronization and all the values of road citizenship run there. It depends on how we characterize it, which country or region will be more rebellious, less rebellious, etc. With the metal body you are showing yourself in public space, you are making a performance of citizenship and your place in society.

CG. There is a situation that worries me with this metaphor, it makes it easier for me to think about it when it comes to individual terms: a person in a car, alone, driving and in control of the vehicle. But it is difficult for me to understand when I think of someone who travels with more people, in this case I could see it in terms of an extension of the home, which is also an idea that you also mention.

PW. Of course.

CG. I would like to know how you would see this metaphor applied in public transport where the user not only does not drive the vehicle, but also does not choose with whom to share it. They are a series of unknown people, how would you apply the idea of the metallic body here?

PW. Well, the idea of the metal body basically has to do with the extension of the identity to the vehicle. So perhaps for the driver, the bus is the metal body. There it is operated: you touch the vehicle and the guy gets angry. On the other hand, the passengers, the users, are the burden, we are the burden of that man or woman.

CG. In that sense, considering that in our daily lives, users of public transport take the same bus day after day, in a constant coming and going that configures a series of road choreographies, where would our bodily experience be? liminal space where we stop being while we transport ourselves as a mere load of the collective vehicle? What would be your opinion?

PW. No, no, no, we are always there, only that it is generated as a system of ephemeral interactions, it seems to me, and there perhaps ephemeral identities also emerge. If you go with coworkers and then they go down, you are left alone and then you meet a girl, I don't know if they are really identities or roles that are transforming, but surely the experience is different. If all that happens on that public transport route, you feel it as an experience.

CG. You say in one of your texts that before being read as texts, everyday movements should be read as kinesic inscriptions, which have sensory, emotional and cognitive components (Wright, 2007: 24). How can we, those of us who study this type of realities, access these three components? How to interpret the movements of the passerby?

PW. I think that the first thing I would do would be to see the regularities of the gestures, of the choreographies, to be able to see patterns of choreography, that requires a lot of observation, filming or keeping a written and experiential record. In this, it is necessary to determine sets of patterns or figures and then identify what inscriptions there are. This part is influenced by the schedule, the presence of other people, the conditions, the interpersonal distance. It would also depend a bit on the interactional contexts that determine values or cognitive, kinesic experiences, these kinds of issues.

CG. Sociologists interested in studying what some already define as the mobility paradigm speak of the use of mobile methodologies to understand mobile phenomena (Büscher and Urry, 2009). They basically argue that there are two types of methodologies to study mobility: those that study it from the static and those that study it by moving and that the realities obtained from these methodologies are very diverse. In the strategy that you used to study road behaviors, I see something that would be akin to this proposal, what you called the pedagogical self. I would like you to tell me how this idea came about and what it allowed you to find in contrast to other techniques that would be more static.

PW. The pedagogical car came about by chance, with my youngest son, I don't know if I was teaching him to drive or something, and well, there it occurred to me; actually, the idea comes more from linguistics. The proposition of linguistics is that, to recognize phonemic oppositions, you have to force the examples; It is about discovering, through the exercise of forcing to recognize where the limits are. That is the idea, it is very simple, the pedagogical car would be the car that respects the written rules, so that this allows you to see all those who do not respect them. Those who pass by here, those who pass by there, those who honk at you and if you can, you stop and let the pedestrian pass, but sometimes if the street is one-handed and you stop here the one that passes by your side; then perhaps it is not advisable to stop no matter how much you are with the pedagogical car, unless it is visible with signs and symbols and warning people. But hey, that's it, it's to force the norm to appear.

In reality, you are following the norm and, let's say, the transgressions of the norm appear, generally speed and not respecting the right of way at crossings. In Argentina the norm is that if two confront each other, the one who goes to the right passes, it does not matter if it is north or south. Here they told me that if it's from the north I don't know what or from the south I don't know what, but that's fine, it's great for road anthropology because it would be a code ad hoc; It would be necessary to see the history, from where the norm comes, why the north has preeminence over the south or the east-west. The use of a helmet would also be an interesting object to tackle, there could be a pedagogical motorcycle. It is more complicated because it would not have such a great effect, because the car takes up space and if the minimum speed on a street is forty, they will honk at you, a lot. So, the idea would be that a sign could appear that says “sir, the maximum speed of streets is forty, this is the pedagogical car”.

CG. Here in Mexico something peculiar happens with the official vehicles of the traffic police, because it is assumed that, if they do not have the siren on, they always circulate at the maximum limit, then people when they are in front of them tend to walk to the limit. If you go through this experience, you realize that you generally move beyond the limits. But they have that function a bit here, the patrol is marking as you say. I do not know if in Argentina it operates the same.

PW. No, no, no, it doesn't work like that.

CG. You are an anthropologist related to decolonial thought, but when you mention your experience in the United States and refer to the State that you discipline, you seem to enter into a certain contradiction (Wright, 2000). It gives the impression that you are investing in the performative character of road behavior, that is, all this that is beyond the norm, with a negative semantic field in which the violent, the dangerous and even the mischievous enter. Wouldn't this be denying the knowledge designed by the common citizen from their daily experience? Doesn't it seem to you that you paint passersby as savages that must be civilized by the State? At the end of the day they have created choreographies that allow them to travel, what do you think?

PW. It's a good observation. I do not feel it as a contradiction, because although the system ad hoc serves, on the other hand, generates many deaths. So, there may be better systems and the State has to enforce the best systems, but it fails the creativity to transmit that to the citizen and generate a long-standing cultural change. If you opt for the short-term political culture, then there is no incentive to do something long-term. That on the one hand, and also they are not subaltern knowledge, the decolonial or postcolonial gaze tries to claim subaltern, invisible knowledge, here it is not any subaltern or invisible knowledge, it is the knowledge of, say, the general citizenship, even of interclass. It is the civic culture, and the problem here is the laws of physics. I think the strongest argument is that this culture implies maximizing self-interest: going faster, hurrying, not letting the other pass, not slowing down when it rains and those kinds of things that ignore the laws of physics; road regulations are governed by the laws of physics.

There is also a cultural creativity that it would be very good to recover through the configuration of teams to create a pedagogy of that, which I think is not done. The United States is only an annotation about how culture allows or cares for citizens and at the same time (obviously it is a very different country) citizens have incorporated, internalized the norms, due to Protestant cultural values ... our societies are not So.

If we are interested in the subject, we will have to make an adaptation; There is a lower rate of road deaths there, right? It is not that it seemed to me that it was a better culture, rather I thought: "another order is possible, let's see if it is possible", but not copying the American system but doing Argentine creativity, seeing what values are positive and how we like it to be. speak to us and not give us orders from the military. An American says, "I don't do this because it's the law," and we, you and I, would laugh. There is something common in the States that have formed us as citizens that is cultural and historical, and that is what must be explored in order to precisely reverse a little that rebellion that is not bad in itself, but was generated by a vacuum of the State, of not regulating and not verifying the regulations and the corresponding legislations.

Educate in individual responsibility for our road behavior, that we do not have, at least in Argentina it is not instilled as a value. I believe that we have values, that is, all societies have positive values and more or less, but that road value, specifically, we do not have. In road terms, my maneuvers are very individualistic and I don't see their collective consequences. Driving with the family, with the children in front and without the seat belt, is like an extension of the living room of the house; the metallic body would be typical of the conductor, but perhaps we could now invent the new term that would be the metallic living roomAs an answer to your question earlier about public transportation, I think that would be it. The vehicle may have kitchen features, for example, because sometimes the occupants are eating and rolling down the window and throwing the food away as an inside and an outside. They are all symbolic thresholds that cross materiality, but they are symbolic because they start from an imaginary, from a world of the possible that is the product of history and society.

CG. When you say that this interest in the road has not been instilled in us, well, you are talking about the Argentine case, but I think that something very similar happens in Mexico ... Would you agree if we said that the road came by surprise? societies were not prepared for all this transformation?

PW. I do not know if they were not prepared, rather it was not a political agenda and it was not a State agenda and there it did find us with the increase in the number of motorcycles and cars, and the increase in speed and destruction, or poor maintenance of road material infrastructure. It has to do with where the state puts the resources and politicians are not interested. So, as there is not much public awareness of the road, we do not pressure the authorities to spend money on material infrastructure, right? We have what we deserve: the political leaders, the rulers.

CG. We can't ask them to teach us something we don't think is worth knowing.

PW. No, no, the moral force seen in Argentina to transform this is the dead, so imagine how ugly, how painful. It intervenes only through pain and not the right of citizens to have the State ensure the safety of its citizens. We don't even imagine that the State has the obligation, it's like you ask for permission or "excuse me for telling you this." It would be necessary to demand, but hey, we know where we live, it is not Norway or the Netherlands.

CG. Not everything that is prescribed comes from the power of the State, you will agree.

PW. Yes.

CG. It seems to me that in the city there are other types of norms, which are not imposed by government authorities, but perhaps by social class, status, gender and age.

PW. The market, right?

CG. Of course, such prescriptions would implicitly tell us what places to fear, what places to desire, and how to transport ourselves to those places.

PW. Yes, perfect.

CG. I think this can also be seen in terms of choreographies that are repeated every day and that give a meaning to the city according to the character that is passing through it. It is a choreography that has a social fact behind it and that can only be explained from the enunciation of its meaning. If you agree with me, what value would you give by substituting prescriptions for performances? In other words, what would happen if people allowed ourselves to improvise more in our journey through the city? You have already clarified for me a little that it is a matter of road safety education, pedagogy, knowledge. If we had that pedagogy, do you think we could allow ourselves to improvise in transit?

PW. No, I think we would have no need to improvise. If we did more or less what needs to be done, we wouldn't have to improvise. To improvise is to correct the entropy of the system, the decay of the system because the system does not work well; then we put our energy into it so that it more or less works and we don't kill each other in five minutes. What I did see in the United States and in Spain, which is the closest thing to Argentina in Europe, is that they drive more slowly, they respect pedestrians and that is fifty years of public road policy, it is not a day. And in Spain, Mexico and Argentina, we are more or less culturally similar; This suggests that change is possible, but there was a political agreement, a State policy, and the market did not intervene too much to put its interests.

In reality, we have to use energy for something else, not to improvise on the street, because improvising on the street is not the exercise of citizen freedom, we are correcting the defects of the system. We are a product of the system and we also perpetuate it. Our bad road maneuver allows that bad maneuver to remain in the universe of the imaginary of possible maneuvers. So it is strong because if a child sees that an adult does that bad maneuver, for him it is registered as the maneuver of an adult, not a bad maneuver. Maybe he is going to do it and tell you: "my dad or my older brother or my friend did it."

What I want to say is that I too, despite the fact that I am in the project of investigating these issues, I benefit from the ambiguities of the system that it does not control and when it controls it is for you to pay it through fines and taxes. There is a great mistrust of state control, a conspiracy theory or suspicion, always the policeman who stops you is because he is going to ask you for the "bite", we say "bribery". Let's say that out of ten policemen, maybe four bite and six don't, and they all fall. It is like an excessive exercise of power and we are not used to rejecting that, there is no social sanction against it because we value power. We have a little internalized structure of internal power, power is outside and it is coercive.

CG. Continuing with this idea of the similarities that we have between Latin American societies, how do you think we could think of road phenomena from a decolonialist perspective in cities that have been materially thought, traced and built from a colonialist thought?

PW. Well, I would plan the public transportation, I say if I could, if it were God for a little while, I would do that. It would decentralize government workplaces, it would make parking lots, bike lanes, it would give subsidies for people who buy bicycles, it would carry out very strong campaigns on motorcycles to wear helmets and it would carry out good citizen responsibility campaigns; I would do what I was saying with the children: workshops in schools where parents participate and, in reality, children re-educate their parents. To this type of question I would add the attempt because power relations did not affect the road dynamics too much. Just what it regulates now is inequality, the biggest and fastest car.

CG. One of the details that most attracts me about your anthropological practice is its apparently diametrical diversity between, on the one hand, the study of the other, the exotic, what could even be called "classical" in anthropology; and on the other hand the study of what for us is more typical and more everyday, that is, the urban. What demands has this multi-sited, multi-thematic ethnographic exercise made of you in terms of reflexivity? How do you do in terms of reflexivity to place yourself in these two scenarios?

PW. Well, it is that what allows me to save the discontinuous of the apparent contexts is the symbolic perspective. If I think that social action is a symbolic action, that it is constructed from symbols, that allows me to assume that the repertoire of ideas, actions, words, objects that have values are the object of study and in reality it does not matter where they are studied. . I do not even think of urban anthropology, no, by no means, it is a road anthropology, I see patterns of road behavior wherever it is! That is why I do not even think of it as an exclusively urban phenomenon, it is only urban when it enters the city, but it is not defined by the city.

Be careful, the city has specificities that make road choreographies have certain possibilities and limits. Especially the issue of speed and something else like the number of pedestrians. On the other hand, on the road speed increases, there are fewer pedestrians and then fatigue values come into play, the value you give to the car as a fast-moving machine, on the road that is clear.2 The guy who can't bear to go slow or the speed limit and turns the wrong way on a road when no one is around, why? But it is to amortize the capital investment and at the same time receive as a capital for having made that transgression that that machine that goes fast allows. When you break a road rule, you do it because it pays you back, it gives you back a capital. The question is, what is that capital that returns you?

CG. There is a question that arises now that you mention this about capital. In your work it is clear that you use Bourdieu's concepts; Out of curiosity, why did you choose Bourdieu and not another author? What you describe makes me think a lot about Victor Turner's social dramas, for example, it seems to me that it can also be applied to explain it, what does this conceptual apparatus by Bourdieu offer you that others do not?

PW. I didn't think about it much, I grabbed what there was, Bourdieu and Goffman are the most useful and Turner was actually more social, the social drama implies the structure of a social process that begins and ends. So I don't know if it will be a social drama in Turner's terms, perhaps as a literal expression, what we live in our countries could be. On the other hand, Bourdieu's is abstract enough, the theory of fields and capitals is adapted to think about the road field: how is it structured, what agents are there, what capitals exchange and accumulate. Transport companies, taxis, private drivers, pedestrians, companies that intervene in the construction of the road material field, those that make traffic lights, those that paint the streets, what do I know, infinity. So it would be there, it helps me to think, it is a tool that does not burden me much, I am not forced to go here because Bourdieu said it, I take it and then I maneuver.

CG. You mentioned that you would not even speak of an urban anthropology because you see it in other contexts.

PW. Sure, not.

CG. I am very curious if you ever thought about the street choreographies of the indigenous communities where you have studied.

PW. Yes I thought about it, just in the previous question. I did not comment on that part, I told you that the perspective allowed me to overcome non-urban spatial discontinuity, I think about it in the case of Toba communities. Actually, to do an investigation from road anthropology with them, I would see the effect of peripheral modernity. In a peripheral area of the country, this modernity implies that the communities have dirt or dirt roads. Until very recently, they were put on asphalt and pavement, so people did not learn to calculate the speed from the horizon until it reaches your side. This produces a lot of deaths of people to whom the car that passes by the roads came very quickly; when trying to cross, for them the approaching car was there on the horizon; On the dirt road, the time it takes for cars to approach you when crossing a route is longer, but on the asphalt they arrive quickly. So, well, in this context we should ask "how do they cross here, how do they go, how do they use it, how do they appropriate, use the bicycle a lot, without light, against hand". It also has to do with a limited capacity for capital and trust in their sensory traditions. I mean, I see the night, I'm used to it, but the car doesn't see you.

CG. And when in these communities there is not all this material infrastructure that exists in the cities, where are the road choreographies identified?

PW. Not the same. It does not matter that it is not paved.

CG. But there are no metallic bodies.

PW. No, there will be motorcycles, semi-metallic, bikes and pedestrians.

CG. In another of your jobs, Plural bodies and spaces: on the spatial reason of ethnographic practice (2005), I read the case of Ángel, an indigenous Toba who gave you an experience worth telling and that seems to me to be an incredible bridge between your two experiences in the field. In this text you talk about the anthropological experience in reverse, since Angel comes to your house instead of being the anthropologist who goes to his. What reflections about the urban did this generate for you? How did Ángel live the city and what made you rethink?

PW. First, it made me think that I had a problem working with Ángel in my domestic space, when in my academic terms, the work always happened after I made a great spatial transfer, a displacement. It really disoriented me a lot, I thought that the only possible way was there, him, in his place, not in my house. I felt violated in my domestic space. Angel in urban areas always had a lot of experience, a great traveler; He went to Paraguay, Asunción, the capital of Formosa which is a large city, Resistencia, another city in the province of Chaco, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Mendoza; He already had urban training and was a great hunter, so he positioned himself very well, as he could, but he located himself. In that I did not see a disorientation on his part or anything, rather I saw that it was one more space to which he was used. Okay, Buenos Aires is more urban, but hey, I saw it pretty well, loose, calm.

CG. What do our reflections and urban ethnographies have to contribute from Latin American cities to the field of social sciences?

PW. Many things: understand the logic of the use of space by different sectors, the senses of space, listen to demands for better services, the construction of senses. In terms of citizenship, what quality of life do they want, what room, what kind of city. These kinds of questions are important and not much is known.

CG. To finish, I would like to know how you feel moving around Mexico and what choreographies you have identified that we have in common with Argentina.

PW. Here it would be necessary to differentiate what I know is Mexico City and Guadalajara. In Mexico City, it is more difficult to foresee the maneuvers, it is very difficult to cross the street and it is difficult to ride in a taxi that goes very fast and avoiding obstacles with great creativity, such as surfing down the street and not going through its lane. There it is faster than here, here the traffic is much slower, they respect the rules more or less I imagine they will be similar to those in Argentina, but you can't change lanes here, they won't let you, you have to wait for your turn. Not in Mexico City, they get into it; in Buenos Aires it's like there. Here I see many cars that leave very slowly, an Argentine or someone from Mexico City would get in right away, logic dictates there that if there is an empty space it may be mine, although by the regulations you would have to wait or turn on the directional light and do a whole series of questions.

CG. In the documentary series Metallic bodies, released by the Encuentro channel in Argentina, where they compile several of your reflections on these issues, a girl appears who says something that seems suggestive to me: “we drive as we are”, do you think we could paraphrase it a bit and say that we are like us? we move?

PW. It could be. The kind of interpersonal distance, the gestures, yes, if we go one by one or a few, hand in hand or without a hand, it could be.


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EncartesVol. 5, No. 9, March 2022-August 2022, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434, and El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., Parque de Macul, No. 155, Fracc. Colinas del Parque, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Tel. (444) 811 01 01. Contact: Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: March 29, 2022.