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Some Carry On, Some Stay in Bed: (In)convenient Affects and Agency in Neoliberal Nicaragua

By Elysée Nouvet

Cite As:
Nouvet, Elysée. 2014. “Some Carry On, Some Stay in Bed: (In)convenient Affects and Agency in Neoliberal Nicaragua.” Cultural Anthropology 29, no. 1: 80–102.


What is the significance of feeling unbearably weighed-down by everyday life on the social and economic margins of a Central American city? What are the politics of a mother feeling there is no longer any point in showing up for work given the limited impact it makes for the everyday needs of her family? Relatedly, what is the significance of another woman carrying on with the business of survival as a member of Nicaragua’s urban poor majority? In this article, I question the differences and connections between two women’s engagements with poverty in a shanty on the outskirts of León, Nicaragua’s second biggest city. Subject to isolated analysis, each woman’s corporealization of poverty appears ambiguous in terms of what they do to the inequalities that structure their existence. By engaging these corporealities as affective forces—trans-personally constituted and constituting forces that impact human action—they can be understood as agencies capable of impacting the future. The impetus to carry on and to curl up in bed may represent seemingly contradictory engagements in (or away from) social life, but they both animate a sense of the present’s painful inadequacy, which may be socially transformative. Approaching bodies pushed to their limits as affective forces complicates individual-centric notions of agency, and, I argue, is crucial for understanding how and when social and political transformation becomes imaginable and achievable (or not) in particular contexts.


affect; agency; suffering; the body; violence; Nicaragua; inequality; social transformation; neoliberalism