The photographer’s body: Populism, polarization, and the uses of victimhood in Venezuela

by Robert Samet

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By Robert SametFull Article:

Political antagonism between supporters and opponents of former president Hugo Chávez has been a defining feature of daily life in Caracas for more than a decade. Despite their different political orientations, the antagonistic poles of “chavismo” and “the opposition” share striking similarities, starting at the level of political practice. I argue that Venezuela’s political polarization reflects the shared logic of populism. Through the story of Jorge Tortoza—a photojournalist killed during the failed 2002 coup d’´etat against President Chávez—I describe how the chavista–opposition divide is produced and policed through performances of victimhood, performances that are essential to populist mobilization in Venezuela.