On the frontiers of governance: Affect, race and illicit trade in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
The volume of illicit transborder trade running through Ciudad del Este, Paraguay once exceeded the GDP of the entire nation. My dissertation describes how Ciudad del Este acts as a regulatory node in shifting geographies of illicit trade by considering the sites through which the border trade and urban space are produced, regulated, and contested: the street, the shopping mall, the frontier, and the body. Against imaginations of lawlessness, I argue the city is artfully governed by alliances of local state and non-state actors, like gentleman contrabandistas, political fixers, local bureaucrats, customs officials, and regional judges. These uncommon alliances govern through producing legal and spatial ambiguity and by contingently circulating state benefits, like provisional tenure security for street traders and legal immunity for contrabandistas. Yet street vendors strategically engage emotion, exploit regulatory contingency, and call for a situated ethical response to the uneven distribution of vulnerability. I argue the emotive topographies and racialized body politics of everyday regulatory relations can be diagnostics of power. And so, I use the emotional displays of street vendors as a means to analyze the intersubjective relations through which governance and rule are performed, reiterated, and contested.