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Barrio Women and Energopower in Medellín, Colombia


This article argues that the prepaid energy system put into operation in Medellín and across Colombia worked as an expression of ‘energopower’; that is, energy as a means to govern societies. The article uses press archives and company statements, official statistics and group interviews to show how energopower operates in Medellín along three lines: that Empresas Públicas de Medellín, the city's public utility company, encouraged disconnected and displaced people as new buyers of prepaid energy services instead of citizens entitled to those services; that the implementation of the prepaid energy system coincided with the vertiginous capitalisation that allowed the city to fund its ‘Social Urbanism’ and EPM to expand operations across Colombia and other countries in Latin America; and, that prepaid electricity as a tool of energopower subjugated displaced and disconnected populations to new forms of affordability that prompted barrio women to understand and oppose its disciplining methods of domination.

Spanish abstract

Este artículo señala que el sistema prepago de energía puesto en operación en Medellín y en toda Colombia funcionó como una expresión de ‘energopoder’; es decir, energía como forma de gobernar sociedades. El artículo utiliza archivos de prensa y estados de cuenta de la compañía, estadísticas oficiales y entrevistas grupales para mostrar cómo opera el energopoder en Medellín a lo largo de tres líneas: que Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), la compañía de servicios públicos domiciliarios de la ciudad, describió a personas sin conexión y desplazadas como nuevos compradores de servicios de energía de prepago en vez de verlos como ciudadanos con derechos a estos servicios; que la implementación del sistema de energía prepago coincidió con la capitalización vertiginosa que permitió a la ciudad financiar su ‘Urbanismo Social’ y a EPM expandir operaciones a lo largo de Colombia y otros países en Latinoamérica; y, que la electricidad prepago como instrumento de energopoder sometió a poblaciones desconectadas y desplazadas a nuevas formas de acceso que obligó a las mujeres de barrios a entender y oponerse a sus métodos disciplinarios de dominación.

Portuguese abstract

Este artigo defende que o sistema de energia pré-pago colocado em operação em Medellín e em outras áreas da Colômbia funcionou como uma expressão de ‘energopoder’, ou seja, energia como uma maneira de governar sociedades. O artigo utiliza arquivos da imprensa, declarações das empresas, estatísticas oficiais e entrevistas em grupo para demonstrar, em três linhas argumentativas, como o energopoder opera em Medellín: (1) a Empresas Públicas de Medellín, empresa de serviços públicos da cidade, encorajou pessoas sem energia conectada e desalojadas a serem novos consumidores de serviços de energia pré-paga, ao invés de cidadãos que gozam do direito a estes serviços; (2) a implementação do sistema de energia pré-paga coincidiu com a capitalização vertiginosa que permitiu que a cidade fundasse seu ‘Urbanismo Social’ e a EPM expandisse operações ao redor da Colômbia e outros países latino-americanos; e (3) que a energia pré-paga como ferramenta de energopoder subjugou populações desconectadas e desalojadas a novas formas de acesso, fazendo com que as mulheres do bairro passassem a compreender ese opor a esses métodos de dominação disciplinadora.

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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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