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Reading: Politics of Expertise and Blame during COVID-19 Quarantine in Chile


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Politics of Expertise and Blame during COVID-19 Quarantine in Chile


Kelly Bauer ,

Occidental College, US
About Kelly

Kelly Bauer is assistant professor of Political Science at Nebraska Wesleyan University, currently on leave at Occidental College. Her research explores how Latin American states govern identity politics. She is the author of Negotiating Autonomy: Mapuche Territorial Demands and Chilean Land Policy, which explores how state officials navigate extending elite and neoliberal governance and citizenship through policy in post-Pinochet Chile. She also researches teaching and learning pedagogy and politics of knowledge.

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Claudio A. Villalobos

About Claudio A.

Claudio A. Villalobos is a Researcher at the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles. His research focuses on investigating the neuronal mechanisms of decision-making using rodent models.

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This article analyzes how Chilean government officials and politicians rhetorically rely on expertise and assign blame for the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. We specifically focus on rhetoric surrounding decisions to implement and lift quarantines in Santiago from March through August 2020, which reveals significant discrepancies in how political ideology mediates rationalizations of individual and state responsibilities in times of a pandemic. While the Sebastián Piñera administration and other right-wing politicians emphasize individual responsibility and the government’s reactions to or policing of that responsibility, left-wing politicians and the medical community call for the state to more assertively direct a collective response based on specific metrics and expertise. This contention over the politics of blame and expertise reveals critical tensions in governing visions looming over Chile’s constitutional convention process.


Este artículo analiza cómo los discursos de los funcionarios y políticos del gobierno chileno demuestran confianza en los expertos y asignan culpas por el manejo de la pandemia del COVID-19. Nos enfocamos específicamente en la retórica que rodea las decisiones de implementar y levantar cuarentenas en Santiago entre marzo y agosto de 2020, las que revelan discrepancias significativas en la forma en que las ideologías políticas median las responsabilidades individuales y estatales en tiempos de pandemia. Mientras que la administración de Sebastián Piñera y otros políticos de derecha se centran en la responsabilidad individual y la vigilancia de esa responsabilidad o las reacciones del gobierno ante ella, los políticos de izquierda y la comunidad médica piden que el Estado dirija una respuesta colectiva basada en datos y consejos de los expertos. Esta disputa entre la política de culpas y la opinión de los expertos revela tensiones en las visiones reinantes que amenazan el proceso de la convención constitucional de Chile.


How to Cite: Bauer, K. and Villalobos, C.A., 2021. Politics of Expertise and Blame during COVID-19 Quarantine in Chile. Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies, 4(3), pp.65–76. DOI:
Published on 18 Feb 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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