Everyday Politics and the Absent Presence of the State in Lima, Peru is a theoretical and ethnographic inquiry into the presence of the state in Huaycn, a shantytown on the outskirts of Lima. Through an analysis of state programs (including day care centers, police stations, and communal kitchens) and political practices among neighbors in local associations, this dissertation argues that state power influences everyday politics and the lives of citizens in ways that cannot be analyzed through dichotomies. The state is neither simply present nor absent and citizens' complex relationships with the state cannot be defined as simply formal or informal. While, on some levels, the state is directly active in the daily life of residents (it provides schooling and medical care, for example,) there are many other realms where the state is markedly marginal in the regulation of daily life for citizens in shantytown communities. This dissertation explores the ways that this fringe effectiveness of state presence in shantytowns compels some NGOs and community members to produce programs and projects that compensate for state ineffectiveness. In this sense, state absence is ultimately productive in places like Huaycn because it indirectly shapes and directs the goals of citizens who are excluded or otherwise removed from centers of state power. Based on over twenty-four months of field research in Huaycn, Everyday Politics and the Absent Presence of the State makes three contributions to scholarship on democracy, the state and contemporary Peru. First, by studying how residents profoundly engaged with and gave substance to different levels of government action in Huaycn, it challenges the dominant analytical approach that separates formal and informal politics. Second, this dissertation contributes to a more nuanced and ethnographically grounded understanding of state power as it reveals the complex consequences that connect marginal subjects of governance to the state. Third, by illuminating the inevitable relationship between the state and people often referred to as second-class citizens, it demonstrates how inequalities perpetuate in spite of, and at times through, the very governing practices that are meant to redress inequality.