A Line in the Sand: Race, Purity and Comfort in Argentine Gated Communities

Greene, Ricardo. 2020. A Line in the Sand: Race, Purity and Comfort in Argentine Gated Communities. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis focuses on a gated community in contemporary Argentina, paying attention to the lifestyles, rhythms and practices of their actors. Since 1990 gated urban complexes have emerged on the outskirts of Argentine cities, radically modifying established forms of land occupation, and constituting one of the most significant territorial processes of the past decades. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Nordelta, Argentina’s largest and most self-sufficient of these compounds, this research proposes that gated communities cannot be solely explained as the result of spatial fragmentation due to class difference, or as a consequence of neoliberal processes of privatization and deregulation. Rather, it suggests they are above all the latest iteration of particular class and racial relationships already deeply embedded in the fabric of Argentine society.

At the same time, in contrast to representations of these complexes as secluded, isolated and indifferent to their surroundings, the data generated through ethnographic research illustrate Nordelta’s creative, productive and blurred borders, that are crossed on a daily basis by thousands of people, objects, languages and information. Their circulation is internally perceived as a threat to its purity and sovereignty, and to the project which gave rise to it. Consequently, a series of power mechanisms and technologies are deployed to reject, transform and/or normalise foreign bodies and all that is associated with them.

Lastly, the thesis proposes that gated communities are primarily motivated and guided by a particular discourse of truth, based on an ethics of comfort, which entails forms of conduct and self-discipline that seek to avoid stressful and potentially dangerous experiences, such as those arising from inter-class encounters. At the same time, a shared ethos promotes practices that are construed as positive steps towards well-being in relation to the individual, and to the private and domestic spheres (family, body, mind and soul).

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Gated communities, racism, elites, Argentina, purity, comfort

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

07 Jun 2021 13:25

Last Modified:

13 Sep 2022 10:13



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