The Project

Methods

   The three of us are University of Arizona students participating in a study abroad program in Guatemala. This project was done for a class about Migration, led by a professor from Guatemala City. We did a series of workshops focused around ethics and research techniques. We had a lot of difficulty finding people who would be willing to be interviewed, as this is considered a taboo subject for many. However, we were eventually able to utilize our social connections in Antigua to find women willing to share their stories. After several roundtable discussions considering the questions we would ask, we additionally decided to keep the identity of each subject anonymous. Overall, we learned that female migration is a complex subject but that the want for better economic prospects is a common motivation behind it.  

Two of these interviews took place in Antigua, while the other two took place in Jutiapa. Those in Antigua were filmed at El Sitio, a type of cultural/event center. In Jutiapa, the interviews took place in the home of the women. All four of the interviews were done after developing a friendly relationship with the women. We choose to keep their names anonymous and to obscure some personal details in an effort to make the women more comfortable, and to help avoid any danger that might come with participating in the project.

The initial interviews ranged in length, from around twenty minutes to over one hour. When selecting the clips to display on the web page, we looked for moments or quotes from the women that were particularly unique to their situation but that could also be used to illuminate larger themes about migration. Before the interviews, we developed a list of questions. However, during the actual event, the questions were used simply as a springboard, as we aimed to have an organic conversation with the women. Two of the interviews were done in Spanish and two were in English. The language was decided based on the women´s own preference, but also, unfortunately, our limitations as Spanish speakers. Out of the three, one of us is fluent.

The cinematographic decision to focus on each subject’s hand gestures, while narrating their personal testimonies, was made as these gesticulations add more depth to the stories being shared. Hand gestures intensify and assist in accessing memory and aid in taking abstract notions and converting them into rational words; moreover, gesticulating while speaking adds information that is absent from spoken language. 

The photo gallery of the web page consists of pictures detailing the hometowns and homes of the women. This was done in an effort to echo visual anthropology, and also provide a visceral sense of where the women where coming from and, with some of them, what they returned to or what they were planning on leaving behind. We hoped this would add more gravity, or at least a greater sense of realness, to the project.

Theory

The academic backbone of this project revolves around discussions of biopolitics and the bare life with readings focused on works by theorists such as Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agambe, Thomas Lemark, Hannah Arendt and Jason de León.

While there is contention among theorist, including the ones listed above, on where biopolitics originated from, if it is or is not a schism from historic sovereign power or not, like Foucault believed or if biopolitics has always formed the heart of sovereign power as Agambe wrote.  However, for the sake of this project biopolitics can defined as the systematic way in which a organization attempts to control – often through the guise and attempts at foster – life. However, this life is often purposefully exclusionary. If sovereign power is the power over death, to choose who and what dies, biopower is the ability to choose who can live and how they can.

Then, those that exist outside this  definition of life, who are excluded and jettisoned from the political body, we refer to as bare life. Simply, those who lack the rights installed upon bodies by both political, and  commercial systems and can be harmed, or killed, or simply left to die, without cause or justice.

It is easy to believe that the danger with biopolitics exist only in state political systems. However, Lemke writes that ¨the danger is that the state will, in the name of ‘deregulation’ … hand over decisions pertaining to the value of life…to the realm of science and commercial interests…to the private sphere¨(61-62)

We should also not be led to believe that bare life is a rare or uncommon experience. Agamben theorized that the bare life, once existed in the boundaries between social groups. Yet in today´s modern state-driven society, the division between political life and bare life has moved inside all of us. Therefore, any one of us could one day move into bare life.