Given the current polarized situation in Venezuela, medical anthropologist Amy Cooper provides important and compelling insights into how ordinary people experienced policy changes during Hugo Chávez's progressive government (1999–2013). Due to extreme social inequalities, previously healthcare had been largely restricted to those with wealth, power, and privilege. While Venezuela enjoyed a world-class plastic surgery industry, people in poor and marginalized neighborhoods rarely if ever saw a doctor. To correct that injustice, Chávez launched his most famous and successful social program: Barrio Adentro or “Into the neighborhood,” a project to introduce free and universal access to healthcare. This book really shines in its ethnographic exploration of how historically disempowered Venezuelans—poor people, people of color, and women—the vast majority of the country's population, experienced the healthcare system. In listening to people's stories, Cooper gained innovative insights into how government programs can provide a mechanism for social inclusion and empowerment, including how those institutions transform people's sense of themselves. Nicely complements other works that provide a bottom-up perspective on recent political developments in Venezuela, including Gregory Wilpert's Changing Venezuela by Taking Power (Verso, 2007) and George Ciccariello-Maher's We Created Chávez (Duke, 2013).
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
- Reviewer: M. Becker, Truman State University
- Recommendation: Recommended
- Readership Level: Upper-division Undergraduates, Graduate Students, Researchers/Faculty
- Interdisciplinary Subjects:
- Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences - Anthropology
- Choice Issue: oct 2019 vol. 57 no. 2
- Choice Review #: 57-0655