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Pablo Seward

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Pablo Seward

Dissertation Writer
Research Interests: 
Medical, political, and urban anthropology; activist research; politics of life and death; subjectivity, desire, and becoming; risk, security, vulnerability, poverty, and violence; anthropology of the state; decolonial urbanism; urban political ecology; social movements; migration and racism; liberalism and neoliberalism; critical phenomenology; Latin America; Chile


An activist scholar, I am broadly committed to transformative research that works alongside those living amid (and sometimes contesting) intersecting capitalist, colonial, racist, and patriarchal forms of violence. I use person-centered and activist ethnography to understand and engage in the subjective and political aspects of contemporary popular struggles for the right to the city by migrants in Latin America. My dissertation project focuses on Antofagasta, the extremely unequal capital of Chile's booming copper mining industry, where over the last decade thousands of predominantly Black and Indigenous migrants from Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador have seized lands and built a total of 64 so-called "campamentos" (informal settlements) on the arid hillsides surrounding the city. Built on government lands that city authorities consider at high environmental and infrastructural risk, the campamentos are under constant threat of eviction and resettlement. The dissertation focuses on the individual lives of migrant women as they endure the slow destruction of their communities and struggle, through moments of suffering, despair, hope, and excitement, for the urbanization of their communities into permanent and "intercultural" neighborhoods. As an activist accompanying these women and their allies as they engage the state and challenge the liberal and neoliberal logics of poverty, vulnerability, and security that threaten their utopian urban projects, I examine their often incomplete and fraught transformations from domestic servants and wives into "dirigentas" (community leaders) attempting to produce different forms of life within and beyond a radically unequal and oppressive context. 

Prior to my doctoral work, I earned a B.A. in Anthropology and Psychology from UC Berkeley and made an illustrated documentary film in Easter Island, Chile, based on my undergraduate thesis work with indigenous Rapanui activists. I have also conducted ethnographic work on Christian addiction treatment centers in informal settlements in Peru.