From drones to predictive policing systems, there has been an increasing incorporation of new security technologies over the last years in Chile to make the fight against crime and “rural terrorism” more effective, in a context marked by a persistent attention to feelings of insecurity. Even though surrounded by an aura of neutrality, these technologies are far from neutral, as they form part of a complex sociocultural fabric of people, practices, discourses, legal frameworks and institutions. Furthermore, instead of solving problems more effectively, these technologies are complicating preexisting tensions. This thesis delves into a critical study of the contemporary anatomy of power, in which mediation processes are becoming central to policing practices, with a focus on two contexts: the fight against crime in urban areas, and the battle against “rural violence” or “terrorism” in the Mapuche indigenous territories in the south of Chile.
Drawing on media theories and governmentality studies, I offer the term operational atmospheres as a notion to think with and account for the composition of policing practices at the cross of vertical (aerial, orbital, and electromagnetic), algorithmic, and affective fields of actions. Operational atmospheres are entanglements of feelings, imaginaries, and discursive practices; technologies and techniques; local and transnational political economies and histories; that form perceptual systems, ways of seeing or sensing like a state which are contingent, partial and grounded on fragile and labor intensive processes, through which they come into existence. I take as a methodological framework Donna Haraway’s situated knowedges to locate and shed light on the processes of manufacturing state’s logistics of perception and their consequences on the (re)production and government of others’ spaces and subjects, in this case, the Mapuche as a “terrorist”, and the criminal in urban areas.
In the context of “rural terrorism”, I examine three police operations: the killing of Camilo Catrillanca by Comando Jungla; the fake intelligence police operation, Operacidn Huracdn; and the introduction of aerial surveillance in the “red zone”. Through this analysis, I shed light on the central role mediation processes play to produce imaginaries of the Mapuche as criminals and terrorists, and to sustain the development of special police operations to target, deceive and incriminate Mapuche in the context of their mobilization to recover lands and autonomy, crossing colonial pasts, neoliberal extractive presents, and global security discourses and practices. I then examine the informational, algorithmic, and unmanned aerial systems mediating carabineros’work in urban spaces, conceived as the location of calculable risks mobilizing preemptive actions to affect feelings of (in)security.
By the implementation of a local version of CompStat, the integration of predictive policing, and the use of drones, urban policing has increasingly expanded beyond the realm of preemptive actions into the formation of “safety” ambiances, becoming atmospheric, pervasive, and affective. More than answers, this thesis opens up contemporary mechanisms of security operating in Chile, to denaturalize and dismantle the neutrality and effectiveness attached to the implementation of new technologies in policing.