Race and the shantytown in a race-less country: negros villeros, whiteness and urban space in Argentina

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In this article, we look at the racialization of the people living in precarious and informal urbanizations known as villas in Argentina. In a country traditionally defined by narratives of whiteness and Europeanness, villeros have functioned as a central figure of racial otherness. Though some studies acknowledge the racism suffered by villeros, how this racialization has unfolded and transformed over time remains a question rarely examined. Here, we look at their racialization focusing on two critical moments. First, the period including the 1950s and 1960s when villeros emerged as racialized figures in need of modernization. Second, the period of neoliberal reforms in the 1990s when villeros shifted from being subjects requiring civilizing to becoming a security threat to be dealt with by police force. By contrasting these two regimes of (hyper)visibility and racialization of villeros, we demonstrate that the villas are not a specific type of urban development but a diversity of urbanizations brought together by a set of approaches to the spatialized production and management of racial and classist exclusion. Finally, we argue that it is mainly in cultural production that the dynamics of racialization materialize and become susceptible to contestation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalLatin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies
Early online date27 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jun 2023


  • Argentina
  • Villeros
  • negro villero
  • race
  • shantytowns
  • villas


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