Sarah MuirAug 11, 2023
An Ethnography of Disillusion
University of Chicago Press 2021
Argentina, once heralded as the future of capitalist progress, has a long history of economic volatility. In 2001–2002, a financial crisis led to its worst economic collapse, precipitating a dramatic currency devaluation, the largest sovereign default in world history, and the flight of foreign capital. Protests and street blockades punctuated a moment of profound political uncertainty, epitomized by the rapid succession of five presidents in four months. Since then, Argentina has fought economic fires on every front, from inflation to the cost of utilities and depressed industrial output. When things clearly aren’t working, when the constant churning of booms and busts makes life almost unlivable, how does our deeply compromised order come to seem so inescapable? How does critique come to seem so blunt, even as crisis after crisis appears on the horizon? What are the lived effects of that sense of inescapability?
Anthropologist Sarah Muir offers a cogent meditation on the limits of critique at this historical moment, drawing on deep experience in Argentina but reflecting on a truly global condition. If we feel things are being upended in a manner that is ongoing, tumultuous, and harmful, what would we need to do—and what would we need to give up—to usher in a revitalized critique for today’s world? Routine Crisis: An Ethnography of Disillusion (U Chicago Press, 2021) is an original provocation and a challenge to think beyond the limits of exhaustion and reimagine a form of criticism for the twenty-first century.
Sarah Muir is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at The City College of New York and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Alize Arıcan is a Society of Fellows Postdoctoral Scholar at Boston University and an incoming Assistant Professor of Anthropology at CUNY—City College, focusing on urban renewal, futurity, care, and migration. You can find her on Twitter @alizearican.