Today we speak with Javier Auyero, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, about his 25 years of experience studying marginalized communities in Buenos Aires ethnographically. Javier tells us how he first came to sociology, and the intellectual curiosities and political interests that drove him to many of his projects. He also describes the very different ways he’s gone about ethnographic research: from the more classic model of solo ethnographer going into the field every day, to his collaboration with local “native” ethnographers, to working with paid research assistants. We then learn how Javier teaches ethnography by applying the same set of questions to a number of exemplary works, before ending by discussing what novels can add to ethnographic research—both to improve writing and convey emotion and experience.
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Javier Auyero is the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Professor in Latin American Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and Interim Director at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. His main areas of research, writing, and teaching are urban marginality, political ethnography, and collective violence. Auyero is author or co-author of numerous award-winning books, including Poor People’s Politics: Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita(2000), Contentious Lives: Two Argentine Women, Two Protests, and the Quest for Recognition (2003), Routine Politics and Violence in Argentina(2007), Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina (2012), Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown (2009, with Débora Swistun), In Harm’s Way: The Dynamics of Urban Violence (2015, with María Fernanda Berti), and The Ambivalent State: Police-Criminal Collusion at the Urban Margins (2019, with Katherine Sobering).