At his Space and Politics blog, Gastón Gordillo has posted the backcover text for his book Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction – forthcoming with Duke University Press. He also notes that there is a longer summary of the book here. I’ll be interviewing Gastón on the book and his other work for the Society and Space open site in the near future.
At the foot of the Argentine Andes, bulldozers are destroying forests and homes to create soy fields in a geography already strewn with rubble from previous waves of destruction and violence. Based on extensive fieldwork in the region where the Gran Chaco lowlands meet the mountains, this book proposes to examine space through the rubble that is part of its materiality. Rubble seeks to rethink the very idea of “ruins” by asking: Can the spatial, historical, and affective ruptures congealed in the debris scattered all over the world help us look at space differently? The book explores this question by leading the reader on a journey through lost cities from the seventeenth century, derelict train stations, overgrown Jesuit missions and Spanish forts, steamships stranded in forests, mass graves, abandoned towns, razed forests, and bulldozed ruins, as they are entangled with each other and with the towns, cattle ranches, farms, and annual collective events that exist around them. For the rural poor, these palimpsests of debris evoke —rather than dead relics from a distant past— the latent and ongoing presence in the living geographies of the present of the processes of violence that created them. The book shows that this experience is at odds with, and often challenges, the fetishized views of ruins embraced by the regional and scholarly elites. The subaltern experience of the people who live in areas disrupted by agribusiness reveals that the modernist, elite infatuation with ruins is based upon the disregard for the rubble generated by capitalist and imperial forms of destruction. Drawing from anthropology, history, geography, philosophy and the exploration of constellations of debris from multiple eras on the scarred edges of the Gran Chaco, this ethnography brings to light the salience of a spatial, conceptual, and political analysis of rubble.