‘I Feel Like a Dog with the Tail between its Legs’: On the Limits of Protest and Urban Law in Our Decentralized World
O. Sircar et al (eds), Human Rights Beyond the Law (Oxford University Press, Forthcoming)
31 Pages Posted: 27 May 2013
Date Written: May 27, 2013
In recent decades, the local, the municipal and the city have emerged as virtuous spaces where development and global integration can be achieved in the Third World. In this chapter I argue, however, that this move to the local through the idea of decentralization has had serious political, administrative, financial and jurisprudential implications. Today, Third World subjects find themselves in territories that are increasingly fragmented by sub-national frontiers and regulated by numerous levels of governance and cross-enforcing legal regimes. To illustrate the consequences of this new configuration, I narrate some key moments in the everyday of a group of Internal Displaced People (IDPs) who radically – although ineffectively – challenged the operation of the decentralized development model in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city. The limitations of their protest reveals how in a world in which state power is brought increasingly closer to its subjects, but without sufficient means, the decentralization process becomes an avenue for the domestication of political ambitions. In particular, the legal nature of decentralization enables a systematic administration of state failure through a new geography of power based on the re-spatialization of subjects, the proliferation of authorities, and the disaggregation of lines of responsibility. For those at the margin of this new geography, the outcome of the decentralization project turns out to be the abandonment of the promise of a nascent global order from the local, an outcome that I describe here as part of a pedagogy of disenchantment. The analysis in this chapter calls for a transformation of urban law into a field of legal and political action able to face the challenges of our increasingly decentralized world.
Keywords: International Law, International Urban Law, Urban Law, Decentralization, Development, Cities, Protest, Internally Displaced Population, Citizenship, IDPs, Ethnography, Legal Ethnography, Colombia, Bogotá
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