Transformative Ties: Gendered Violence, Forms of Recovery, and Shifting Subjectivities in Chile


Although a significant body of scholarship on trauma has emerged in medical anthropology, there has been little examination of how gendered expectations shape the aftermath of extreme human experience, forms of recovery, and subjectivity. Here, I show how domestic and other forms of violence have shaped Luz’s suffering in the dictatorial (1973–90) and officially democratic (1990–present) eras in Chile. I then elucidate how Luz’s engagement with Safe Space, an NGO connected to UN violence against women frameworks, and other globally connected women’s groups, have allowed her to generate transformative ties with other women. These relationships provide support for Luz’s self-defined project of transforming herself and society, largely in relationship to gendered expectations, so that her recovered sense of self will have more of a home in the world, outside the boundaries of narrowly defined gender roles. This analysis is based on ethnographic research in Santiago, Chile, over 19 months in 2000–04 and 2009, including participant-observation at two domestic violence centers and life history interviews with 18 women who sought help there.