Continuing the conversation: anthropologies of management, tutelary powers and horizontality. An interview with la Negra (María Gabriela) Lugones

Receipt: March 01, 2023

Acceptance: April 27, 2023

Continuous conversation is one of the oldest discursive genres and perhaps the most necessary. Paul Ricoeur called "third mimesis" to this dialogic mechanism that is intermittent, in ellipsis and scandalized, restored by irony or affection: the continuous conversation with someone as a device that refigures what is said and prevents crystallization, and an "intersection" between the world of the text and the world of the reader or listener. This mimesis evades the endpoint as a fixation of meaning, whether in the support (a paper, a tabula, today a podcast), or in the poetics (the monoglossia, the dictum). I think that this interview exercise with Negra Lugones is a modulation of this genre: unfinished conversation, in dispute and, as Ricoeur himself said, an invitation, an invitation to others (Ricoeur, 2004: 139-144).

La Negra Lugones (María Gabriela, emulating Alma Maritano when she says that it is the first name that goes in parentheses if the nickname is the one that makes "the other appear") is a professor of History at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina; and master and doctor in Social Anthropology at the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is a researcher in the Social Sciences Area of the Research Center of the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities, as well as professor of Cultural Anthropology at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina. She is also part of the Laboratório de Pesquisas em Etnicidade, Cultura e Desenvolvimento. (laced) that brings together interdisciplinary research with various social groups and state mechanisms in urban and rural contexts in our region.

The interview we shared in Encartes was held on February 25, 2023, in the framework of Lugones' visit to Guadalajara as a senior fellow of the Maria Sibylla Merian Center for Advanced Latin American Studies (coves), with the project "Horizontalizar Poderes Judiciales. Training of judicial administration agents in present-day Argentina" project.. The conversation took place in Coyoacán, Mexico City, at my home (I mention this because I believe that we do not give enough space to think about intimate and everyday places as catalysts of thought and dialogue). Beyond the detailed curricular lines, it seems important to me to make some notes about La Negra, whom I met in 1996 when we were both in our second year of History studies in Córdoba, and there began a friendship that is one of the most precious gifts of life and that accompanies me to this day.

An unstoppable, curious reader, she was born in Santiago del Estero, the Argentine province where, according to singer-songwriter Alfredo Zitarrosa, "Latin America begins". A dissonant landscape with respect to what any Mexican could imagine about "what is Argentine": neither the Río de la Plata, nor the fertile plains, nor the great extensions of the Pampas, nor that exhausting and stereotyped monad about the country where "we all get off the boats". So many times I heard La Negra say "in Mexico I feel at home". Home, I know, means Santiago: the familiar faces, the body gait, the cadence of speech. Also the marks of structural poverty and racism.

Santiago del Estero has a large indigenous population and descendants of indigenous people, with a variant of Quechua, "Quichua santiagueño", spoken today by more than 150,000 people. Santiago also has a peasant movement against dispossession that is still active and the presence of intellectuals of the stature of Bernardo Canal Feijoo, who looked at the whole country with exceptional eyes from that inland. This is not an enumeration of characteristics, but a way of stating that the word of María Gabriela Lugones awakens in that first look. La Negra looks at politics, management, interaction formats, the modulations of subjectivity with that original landscape as a counterpoint, as a tense bakelite on whose pendulum she thinks.

Lugones studied law and later history as undergraduate courses in Córdoba. Her postgraduate studies in Brazil -and her constant return to that country- marked her by fire. Not only because of the stupendous line of Brazilian Social Anthropology that formed her in that school of ethnography that is the National Museum - heir to the best Weberian and Levistraussian tradition with its multiple derivations and updates -, but also because of the ethical and responsibly acquired debt (and in this I recognize myself) with the countries of the South that bet on the training of researchers of excellence, not only nationals, with policies of scholarships for maintenance and free education. This is a hallmark that, at least in Latin America, only Mexico and Brazil have (except for the obscure Bolsonarist parenthesis): to mark as a State policy not only the free but also the paid training of researchers in the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Since 2002 and already at the Museum, the presence of Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima has been a constant for Lugones. Souza Lima, author of that masterful work that is A great hedge of peace (1995) -and hopefully now that it has been translated into Spanish it will be more widely read in Mexico- allowed la Negra her first contact with the notion of "tutelary power" and with a series of research directed by Antonio on populations deserving protection (in the past and in the present), and on the formula "to manage and manage", to create and administer. His first book, the result of his doctoral thesis, honors this collegial space for generating research with a strong empirical density; it is Acting in cars, acting in lives: forms and formulas of Judicial Protection in the Juvenile Preventive Courts of Cordoba, Argentina, at the beginning of the century. xxi (Lugones, 2012).

From ethnographic research and from this training space, Negra moves in the orbit of an "anthropology of management", which addresses forms of management that emphasize the conjunction between administration and pedagogy, in governmental exercises that produce knowledge and specialists at different institutional scales. Based on this line of research, developed in different projects since 2000, she is interested in describing the production of subjectivities in correlation with forms of stateized subjection, through the study of administrative-judicial actions, governmental actions, and performances and from municipal, provincial and national instances. These inquiries involve observing and exploring the daily actions of state agents and agencies and their continuous symbolic (re)productions; as well as management exercises on certain population segments, politically, socially and legally consecrated as deserving of protection.

But I also believe that it is necessary to go beyond curricular lists and topical expositions. For as long as I have known her, Negra has been defined by a unique shrewdness, an insatiable curiosity for reading and a political clarity that impresses. During my university years it was a pleasure for everyone to listen to her speak: I do not remember other classmates with that "imaginary connection" that Negra has, that instantaneous ability to update readings, to read an image and bring it to the moment, to propose a look that no one had given on any event that was being discussed: and it was the look that was missing. But the marvelous thing about María, what probably marks her passion for ethnography, is the capacity to "be" in such opposite places and to be, somehow, always herself: with the lady who sells charqui empanadas in Santiago, with Doña Paula who serves quesadillas in the stall of a public school in Coyoacán, with a Mexican magistrate in her office. La Negra always makes everyday life a unique combination of enjoyment and thought. She specializes in seeing that condensed landscape of everyday formats of interaction and the ways in which there operates a form of power that makes itself in that precise act of speech and its performance. He is interested in how the State exists in its capital letter only by the acts of investiture that make it possible (and powerful) in precise, sometimes minimal actions.

It is for all of the above that in this conversation-interview space that we present, we revisit the past, the paths chosen and those that opened up, and Negra modulates questions that she has been translating into research concerns for herself and especially with her "orientandos and orientandas", as they say in Brazil: above all, she is a great reader and "detector" of research potentials, as well as a trainer of authors and authorial vocations. In more concise terms, this recording is a "continuation of the conversation" in the midst of the long-awaited trip to Mexico with Federico, her life partner, and Alma, her beautiful daughter, a trip that combined old concerns with a new research project on horizontal productions of knowledge in relation to judicial powers. A huge challenge if we think of the almost mystical "secrecy" that surrounds our Judicial Branch apparatus. It is in this hard core where Lugones puts in check the premises on administration, domination, interaction formats and "rubrics" of statehood.

Now, her profound intuitions, her bets in terms of honest and unfinished questions, speak not only of the construction of an "academic field", but of a way of inhabiting the exercise of thinking in an alternative, lateral way, I would say, to all the paraphernalia of demands of piecework publication, quick results and impact markers. La Negra does not conceive of what has been called the "substantive functions" of a university (teaching, research, extension, preservation and dissemination of culture) as separate practices. Rather, it is an exercise of the profession that seamlessly projects a program for undergraduate teaching, in conjunction with graduate seminars, and at the same time carries the questions of an extension project as analytical categories of a research program. This stance speaks of another way of conceiving the task of dialoguing and writing, of "thinking" in Arendtian terms: without giving way to condescension, to "fashion" or to the alibi of catch-all concepts. An invitation that I hope you will enjoy.

Nota beneThe interview took place on the night of Saturday, February 25, the month of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Catholic calendar, who was celebrated early that day with fireworks and dances in the Quadrant of San Francisco, Coyoacán, in Mexico City. The explosions and some of the music can be heard in the recording. The fact that the rituals of friendship, conversation and celebration were combined there also seemed like a gift to us.


Ricoeur, Paul (2004). Tiempo y narración, t. I: Configuración del tiempo en el relato histórico. Madrid: Siglo xxi [1985].

De Souza Lima, Antonio Carlos (1995). Um grande cerco de paz. Poder tutelar, indianidade e formação do Estado no Brasil. Petrópolis: Vozes [hay una versión en español: Un gran cerco de paz. Poder tutelar, indianidad y formación del Estado en Brasil. México: Ediciones de la Casa Chata, ciesas, 2016].

Lugones, María Gabriela (2012). Obrando en autos, obrando en vidas: formas y fórmulas de Protección Judicial en los Tribunales Prevencionales de Menores de Córdoba, Argentina, a comienzos del siglo xxi. Río de Janeiro: E-Papers/Museu Nacional.

Mario Rufer is a professor-researcher at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco, Mexico, where he teaches cultural studies and postcolonial criticism. He is a member of Conacyt's National System of Researchers.. She researches on narratives of temporality, public memory, museums and archives. He recently published: Indisciplinary research. Field work, archiving and writingedited together with Frida Gobach (Siglo xxi/uam, 2017); Horizontality. A critique of the methodologyedited together with Inés Cornejo (calas/clacso, 2020); y Coloniality and its names (Century xxi/clacso, 2022).

María Gabriela Lugones is a research professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities, National University of Córdoba, Argentina. D. in Social Anthropology from the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since 1999 she has been working on ethnographic documentary and field research on forms of administration of state protection of children, adolescents and women. Together with Gustavo Blázquez, she directs the research program Subjectivities and Contemporary Subjects, attached to the Secretariat of Science and Technology of the University of Córdoba. She is the author of Working in the case, working in lives. Forms and formulas of Judicial Protection in the Juvenile Preventive Courts of Cordoba, Argentina, at the beginning of the century. xxi. Río de Janeiro: E-Papers/Museu Nacional.

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