Anthropology is a latecomer to the study of bureaucracy. Nonetheless, the anthropological study of organizations—of which bureaucracies are a subtype, as larger organizations are always bureaucratically organized—was initiated by anthropologists as early as the 1920s. Since the 2010s, the anthropology of bureaucracy has slowly consolidated into a discernible subfield of the discipline. It brings to the study of public administrations a double added value: (a) a specific concern for the informal aspects of bureaucracy, (b) the emic views of bureaucratic actors and their pragmatic contexts, based on long-term immersion in the research field, as well as (c) a non-Eurocentric, global comparative perspective. Anthropologists have focused on bureaucratic actors (“bureaucrats”), the discursive, relational, and material contexts in which they work, the public policies they are supposed to implement or to comply with, and their interactions with the outside world, in particular ordinary citizens (“clients”). A foundational theorem of the anthropological study of bureaucracies has been that you cannot understand organizations on the basis of their official structures alone: the actual workings of an organization are largely based on informal practices and practical rules; there is always a gap between organizational norms and “real” practices; large-scale organizations are heterogeneous phenomena; and conflicts, negotiations, alliances, and power relations are their core components. Thus, one of the major methodological achievements of the anthropology of bureaucracy has been to focus on the dialectics of formal organization and real practices, official regulations, and informal norms in organizations “at work.”
Thomas Bierschenk and Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan
The situation of trans rights in Latin America varies greatly by country and region despite a binding 2017 opinion from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) clarifying member states’ obligations to guarantee trans rights. While countries in the Southern Cone and Northern Andes have recently made great strides in protecting and supporting their trans citizens, Central America, the Caribbean, and several countries in South America continue to offer little or no legal support for trans rights. Some countries, such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay, have passed Gender Identity Laws that provide trans people with the ability to rectify their documents to reflect their names and gender identities. The current state of trans-specific policy in the region is explored by first framing it through an overview of the relevant parts of the IACHR ruling and then presenting the case for the depathologization of trans identities, one of the movement’s most pressing goals. Crucial to this discussion is the next section, which presents the current rights and limitations in trans-specific healthcare in the region. A discussion of the importance of gender identity as a basic human right, recognized in the IACHR ruling, follows, continuing on to an analysis of the place of children, adolescents, and their parents in relation to this right. Relatedly, the next section explores the prevalence and force of anti-discrimination laws in the region, which vary greatly in their specific protection of trans people. Finally, we attempt to look forward to what may be next in the fight for trans rights in the region, exemplifying cases such as that of Uruguay, which has recently begun to debate trans-specific reparations, and Argentina, which has begun to debate dedicated employment slots for trans people.