The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia


It’s actually the first talk today, for the- it’s part of the Indigenous Studies Speaker Series that we’ll be having this semester and later on so- *applause* This is actually a brand new specialization in- for the MALAS, Masters in Latin American Studies degree that was started last year, and I’ve kind of taken over for this year so we’re very fortunate to have Dr. Nancy Postero here with us- here with us to give the inaugural, kind of talk to that, and that will be followed up as well with another talk in April by Penelope Anthias also talking about some hydrocarbon politics and indigenous issues in the Bolivian Chacho, and then end of this semester we’ll have a workshop with some Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders, women leaders from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru will be coming here. There’ll be a series of public talks around that as well at the end of the semester so keeps those things in mind as we move forward. Busy times But Professor Nancy Postero is coming from- Please call me Nancy Ok Nancy! Nancy is coming from the University of California San Diego, she’s a professor on anthropology, she’s also the co-director of the Human Rights Program and the Director of the International Institute of the University of California, San Diego she is the co-founder of the Ethnicity, Race and Indigenous People’s Section at the Latin American Studies Association and also an editor for the Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies journal. Postero’s research, or Nancy’s research rather Examines relationships between base politics and political economies, focusing specifically on indigenous peoples in Latin America. Nancy is a prolific writer of articles, numerable articles in Latin American research reviews, Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Anthropology Latin American & Caribbean Ethnic Studies, Anthropology Theory among many others She is also the co-editor of a number of volumes on indigenous rights, governance, and social change and she has two published books on indigeneity in the in the liberal, multiculturalism, citizenship, based in the shifting politics of extractivism. First was published in 2007 at Stanford University Press now we have citizens and the second one which we’ll be talking about today, there you go The Indigenous State, Race Politics and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia, now with the University of California Press and I want to note that that one is open access / open access So you can all access it and read it at your leisure and it’s nice to have that. I’ll give you all slide with the name and info And so I’m gonna wrap up in just a second, but I wanted to say that, you know, Nancy’s work is informed by years of not only working in Bolivia on this issues on the ground with people, but also informed by years working as a general Human Rights lawyer as well, which comes in another life before this life her work has been extremely crucial on my thesis and I think on my other scholars similarly, it’s really pushing the edge on and leading a lot of debate on really important questions on indigeneity and race around citizenship, and around politics in Bolivia specifically but also in Latin America more broadly, so if you’re not already familiar with her work, I highly recommend/check out my website! and it’s a sincere pleasure to have you here with us today Thank you very much for taking the time to come across the country, thanks to the Center for Latin American Studies for the funding, support for this and also the Department of Anthropology for snacks, and coffee, and tea, so please enjoy, we’ll have a little time afterward for questions, and comments, and discussion we have the room until 3 o’clock, so without further ado please join me in warmly welcoming Nancy *applause* Thank you very much, thank for the – thanks so much to Joel, and the Center, and the Anthropology Department for having me here It’s really a pleasure to be here, and I’ve been so impressed with what the Latin American Center is doing, and as I told the Director, I’m green with envy because our Latin American Center used to be a really thriving place but we lost all our funding, and you guys have this awesome place, so enjoy it! It’s really cool what you have. So I also want to thank everybody who’s made the labor to bring all these cookies, I like the idea of bringing the brownies first so everybody’s happy and chocolated up! But also, I also just want to take a- a moment to say that I understand that the land where this university is used to be an indigenous site, so the Timucua people I think we should honor that and- and remember that as we move forward. So I prepared this because I wanted to say that I’ve been studying in Bolivia for about 20-years I started going there as a journalist about 25-years ago and have been working in the- with the same communities for over 20-years in Santa Cruz and also in La Paz. And today I’m gonna tell you about the fascinating social, political, and economic experiment that is underway in Bolivia. But I hope you will indulge me, but I’m gonna start with someplace very different. Wakanda! *laughter* I hope all of you have seen the- the most recent Marvel film about the African superhero, the Black Panther, and I know there are lots of critiques and lots of raves about it, but when I saw it with my friends we just had endless amounts of discussions about it so. But I wanted to just say looking at this movie as a Bolivianist, a couple of things really struck me. The first one is that is a very different, and I think very welcome picture of Africans, who we mostly see represented as poor, third world, underdeveloped. Wakanda, on the other hand, was not colonized in the movie. And that is it never suffered from the legacy of having been dominated by European colonizers. So Wakanda- Wakandan’s take their own decisions about the welfare of their people and their own resources, what they call Vibranium, love that term. And- it’s sort of like ‘unobtanium’ in Avatar, remember that? And they have their own forms of knowledge and science. So I think this gives us a way of – well, this is a sort of a way of looking at what decolonized Africa might be, and I think it’s a really important for us to have imaginaries of what decolonization might actually look like. I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts of the movie is when Prince T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, calls the US CIA agent colonizer. I loved that scene because it made so clear all the things that we talk about as academics, and so people in the popular culture directly get that. So, um- How great to have a view of- of what decolonization could look like. But the second thing I found really interesting about the movie, is the fact that even among Wakandans there is a deep disagreement about how to manage your own resources. Right? In fact, this is the central tension of the movie. That Prince T’Challa wants to follow his father’s, and keep the resources hidden to be used only for his country, while others including his girlfriend and his rival, Killmonger. want to use the resources to help others who’ve been oppressed by colonization and poverty. And they argue, and they tell T’CHalla that decolonization and ethnic pride are not enough. In fact, they tell him that he’s conservative and wrong about this. And so the bigger question is how do you use these resources, who best benefits? In the movie, of course, there’s lots of soul
searching and superhero fighting to resolve this, those issues, and because it’s Hollywood things get blown up, etc. I want to think about this in term of Bolivia, where of course we see the same two things at play. What- what kind of- what does decolonization mean, and what does, how do you- how do we actually think about- about natural resources? In Bolivia, I don’t see any superheroes in the mix. So let me tell, let me um, ok, so here are the two big tensions that I think, remember he talking about today that we can see in Black Panther movie, but also that we can see in Bolivia. Here’s Bolivia, and those of you who don’t know we have one Bolivian here. One we’re looking at, one, two, three? Alright! Thank you for coming. So Bolivia is a home to about 10 million people, among whom are between 40 and 60% are- are self-identifying as indigenous, and of course, that depends on the census, and how people identify, and what those terms mean and all that. But here you can see a map of the original
sort of linguistic categories and where people lived. The two largest groups of um- of language are the Quechua and the Aymara in the speakers of the highlands. And then in the Amazon area, which is the further east parts, there are about over 30 smaller low languages, including the Guaranis of the Chaco region, which is right down here. This is the Guaranis, this is where I’ve done most of my work. I’ve worked in Santa Cruz, which is a big urban area and also down in the Chaco. Yet despite the large number of indigenous people, until recently, until really until 2005, Bolivia has been ruled by white mestizo, the people who are descendants of a mixture of Europeans and indigenous people. And that’s because, and this is sort of a primer for people who don’t know much about colonization, which I don’t think it’s this audience so I’m gonna zoom through this, but Bolivia was in fact colonized by the Spaniards to extract silver and gold and enslaved its own people and established colonial domination. Indigenous people did mount vigorous rebellions from the very beginning and most notably in the 1790s, called the age of insurrection. Anti-colonial leaders lead to Túpac Katari nearly overcame the colonial state, holding the capital of La Paz under siege for nearly three months. Eventually, the colonials did put down these revolts and stayed in power. The riches from Bolivia’s famous Potosi mine in the highlands were taken to Europe, where they formed the capital for the industrial revolution as any of us who’ve read Galeano can tell us. *laughter* Bolivia’s original people did not get the chance to use their ‘vibranium’ for themselves. After independence from Spain the descendants of the original colonizers continued to control the resources. Once silver and gold were mostly tapped out, then tin became the most important export. And then, in the lower jungles rubber, lumber, and soybean, excuse me sugarcane. These days Bolivia’s largest exports are natural gas and soy from the lowlands. And Bolivia continues to make most of its
money from exporting natural resources. Until recently very little of the profits came to the people of Bolivia, instead, it went to the landowners and the transnational corporations. So this is especially true during the 1990s, the neoliberal era when states were encouraged to open their borders to international capital and privatized state services. But starting around 2002, things began to change. Starting with the very now famous Water War, where a coalition of students, indigenous farmers and factory workers who rose up in protest against the privatization of their water sources radically increasing the water prices. People began to challenge the status quo. As one of the leaders made clear, struggles over resources were also struggles over justice. And this is a famous uh- saying by Oscar Olivera, the head of the – – in Cochabamba. Photo taken by our dear friend, Tom Cruz. Not The Tom Cruz! Another Tom Cruz. People wanted to share in the decision making People wanted to start benefiting from the exports from from how natural resources were exploited. And then a few years later, in the now famous Gas War in 2003, angered over a plan to send natural gas in the pipeline from the lowlands to a port in Chile, and then onto the United States, mostly Aymara peoples from- indigenous peoples from El Alto the city that’s above the capital of La Paz, that city erupted. After three weeks and many deaths, then President Sanchez de Lozada, here, um- was forced to resign and the people of El Alto revelled in their triumph. This is another famous poster, and you can see El Alto de Pie, Nunca de Rodillas. And Fuera el Gringo, meaning Sanchez because he was raised in the US and had a very of gringo accent. And I think this was- this- this uprising really brought to light a growing sentiment that was a combination of ethnic identification and pride was mostly the indigenous Aymara, you can see this is a classic Aymara woman in this caricature. And also a desire for a really radical shift in the politics and the economy. So following these uprisings in the early 2000s we saw what was really a very remarkable shift. In the 2005 election, Evo Morales, you can see here on the left, one of the coca growers leaders, ran for president and a number of other indigenous people ran for president. Sort of based on this-this- what some people have called resource nationalism. Colin – – called that there. Evo and his MAS party the Movimiento Al Socialismo or movement towards socialism party, has been in power ever since this election. Here’s one of my favorite slides of that period. This is in Plaza Urillo a rally for Evo Morales, and you can see the t-shirt here Che, Fidel, Chavez and Evo. *laughter* That- this is like a historical artifact, now that t-shirt is worth money now! So Evo is elected with the largest majority in Bolivian history and took office in 2006, and he and his party have been in power since then. And it looks like he will continue to be in power depending on this next election. So um- sorry my pages are out of order here. So what happens when indigenous people take over the state? How do you actually put decolonization into practice? Or can you, or has it happened? What has happened? So this is the subject of my newest book, and I think, maybe I don’t have a picture of it. No, I don’t. Oh, there is La Paz, here is La Paz. Here it is. This is the subject of my new book, and here is the- the- um- the download site. Please download it, read it, spread it around, if it’s useful to you. Before I turn to this larger question, which is really the subject of the talk, I want to define a few terms, though. Because I think it’s important to think about the terms and also the theoretical framework of my research. So the first questions I turn to is the- is the word indigenous, which I have used so far without defining it and as if we all know what that means. As if there’s a thing that that means. I’m showing you this- that- the map of Bolivia, you can see that there are all kinds of different indigenous people. There are highland people, lowland people, that word means multiple things to multiple people. So I wanted to start by saying that I’m gonna use it kind of as a code, but if you press me in any situation then I’ll say how complicated it is. So let’s just recognize then, that- that who counts as indigenous is a fundamentally political question with material consequences. For instance, those categorized as Indians in the colonial era were forced to provide labor and tribute and they were restricted from living or even entering certain places, like the city center. Indians were viewed as dangerous rebels, people of great savagery and executed in the colonial period. During the republican period, indigenous peasants were considered obstacles to modernity. In need of improvement. And then the 1952 revolution brought a new solution to the so-called Indian question, which is they turned the category of Indian, they erased that category completely and everybody all rural people were considered to be Campesinos or peasants or peasant farmers. So that difference was complete — in the process of producing a mestizo nation. It wasn’t really until the 80s and 90s that the category indigenous that we use today became dominant. Sparked in part by the international discourse of indigenous rights that was happening all over the world. And then Bolivia, highland groups organized around cultural, around indigenous identity and cultural recognition, political participation. While in the lowland, groups really organized much more around indigenous identity and demands for territory. It was in the 1990s, during the multicultural
era when we have this idea of neoliberal multiculturalism that came into being, and this was an idea of codifying a particular version of this identity politcs. Recognizing indigenous people as citizens who could participate in local government as long as they were carefully inserted into the neoliberal, political system of governance. So that’s really what my first book was about. I was looking at the whole popular participation and that moment of neoliberalism when people demanded their rights and then became recognized by the state as indigenous, and then put into certain subject positions that would- that enabled certain things, like gaining money from the state but also restricting them from certain things. Thus indigeneity emerged in the neoliberal period as an important way of claiming rights and justice in the neoliberal era. So in the early 2000s when he began to take power, and the MAS began to take power, Morales build on this past, build on this movement, relying on certain tropes of indigeneity as he asserted that he was leading an indigenous state. And I’m gonna put ‘indigenous state’ in quotes. I now think I should’ve done that on the book title, indigenous state question mark. We’re in the process of translating it into Spanish, and I think in Spanish we’re gonna put a question mark at the end of the title, which I kinda wish I’d done. But, you know, UC-Press didn’t want quotation marks or question marks in my title, so that’s what we have. When Morales built on this movement to create this indigenous-led state, he promised that he would lead a democratic cultural revolution. And I think that’s what we are seeing in the Bolivia case, and that’s what I wanna talk about. So to understand this cultural, democratic revolution, again in quotes and again perhaps with a question at the end, I have relied on French theorist Jac Rancière for national politics. Have you guys read Rancière? If you haven’t, I suggest you do, but I want to caution you, he uses really complicated terms that are really awkward. Particularly in translation from French to English. I image in French they’re beautiful, in English they come out really clunky, but I use them anyways because I really think his theory is very helpful and very interesting. So he opposes- he defines policing, or police order, we sort of might read that as structure, as an organization of society in which some people are taken into account, made visible within what he calls a distribution of the sensible. That’s that awkward part, where he’s saying who- who looks like a person, who sounds like a person, whose voice is heard as a person? And these are aesthetic questions, right? And he- and then other people are not. Other people are not seen, they are what he calls the part without the part. See what I mean about awkward? But I love that idea of the part without the part. That is, certain people are erased from the vision, certain people aren’t considered appropriate political actors. They are silenced, they’re only heard as noise. So to that, he opposes the term politics. And I love his way of using politics. It’s got problems. Every definition makes something visible and something- obscures other things, but what he calls as politics are acts that call attention to the scandal of this, what he calls the miscount in which some people are the part without the part. And what he’s doing is- and how you do that is by challenging this order, which is- results in inequality and you’re constantly calling for and looking towards finding ways to bring equality into being. And how you do it is by disagreement. Now by disagreement, we could say, we could say ah that sounds like grouchy, that sounds like contestation. Yes, he’s talking about that. But since he’s talking so much about the aesthetic level, really what he’s talking about mostly is how people come into view as political actors. He’s not talking about the substance of their arguments or what they do with it, but he’s really talking about who’s invisible and who’s made visible. And I really like that. By the end of the talk, I’m gonna blur these two- this duality. So I’m sure you know by now that if anybody ever presents you with duality, go no, there’s no such thing. There’s always gonna be a blurry, always and or, but with, all those things. So it’s a useful duality, but we’re gonna see how it gets blurred by the end. So if throughout Bolivia’s history indigenous people have been discursively opposed to whites and mestizos and rendered as savage obstacles to modernity and progress, then I think the fundamental task of decolonization is to change those ideas. How did the deepest aesthetic and cultural levels. So how in the world does the state use this kind of idea of decolonization? How does the state accomplish politics? This kind of politics from the state level. um- If I can find where I am, I’ll tell you. Let’s see. So I argue that at the beginning of the Morales regime, indigeneity and decolonization were part of his emancipatory politics. They formed the pieces of his emancipatory politics. In that the whole idea of the- of the new plurinational Bolivia was to overturn those categories. And all the people that were the part without the part, that is the 60% of Bolivians that were indigenous? To become the part! Be with the part, right? To become visible and political actors through, through disagreement and certainly to take over the state. Could be seen as formal disagreement. And we were just talking at lunch about how exciting this moment was. All over the world, everybody looked to Bolivia as this moment in which finally indigenous people were not gonna be erased. Finally, they were gonna be center stage. Finally, they were the people writing the constitution. Finally, there was a president, that was- that was indigenous. That was a very exciting moment, and I want to um- to remark upon that because things have changed over time as you’ll see in the rest of my talk. But this was a really spectacular moment and an important time in politics when around the world everybody said oh indigenous people are presidents. Indigenous people are talking at the UN. Indigenous people are congresspeople. Indigenous people are everything in Bolivia. And so that was a very important moment. So what did the state do in this? How did the state enact to this eman- emancipatory politics? Well first, following a long held demand of indigenous peoples, Bolivia held a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution, which had always been written in the past by elite, white mestizos. Representatives were elected and for the first time those writing the constitution were indigenous people, poor people, women workers. This is a picture of the Pacto Unidad, which was an association of lowland and highland indigenous groups. And they pushed for a completely different way of thinking about the state. Arguing that lowland indigenous people should share in the decision making about how land and resources should be used. Can you image us having a constitutional convention right now? Right? What would that be? Who would we represent? What would we ask for? Can you imagine coming to an agreement in this country right now on a constitution? Well think about how it must have been for this group of indigenous people to stand up to the people who’d run the country for 500 years and say this is what we want. This is what we- this is what we need. It was, again, super exciting. I had the great privilege of being at the inauguration and in the plaza outside, everyone was just- tears were just flowing everywhere. Everybody in the whole plaza was just crying because it was just so unbelievable that there in front of us was, you know, were indigenous people. And the representatives they all said presente, presente, and they said their names. And it was, you know, indigenous, you know, easily marked indigenous names that were there. It was a really spectacular time. But the constituent assembly was a mess. It was super contested. It was a site of huge battles. Hunger strikes, street fights, horrible racist struggles, some of the most hideous expressions of racism in Bolivias recent history. The traditional ruling class did not give up easily. They in the lowlands, the mestizo elite in the cambas in Santa Cruz mounted huge rallies pushing for regional autonomy and fighting the MAS agenda. There was a big struggle over whether Sucre should be the capital, right Bolivian friends? It was a really complicated event. And uh- and it eventually ended in a kind of whimper, the constituents went to Oruro, they signed a final document and then that was eventually negotiated with the right. It was a strange and bizarre and beautiful political event. And the final document is an amazing text. Here’s Vice President Alvaro and Silvia Lazarte, who is a domestic worker, a union leader who’s the president of the Asamblea Constituyente presenting the final constitution. The preamble recognizes the pre-existence of a country’s native peoples and promises to create a plurinational society and to allow indigenous people self-determination. It declares that the state should orient the society and the economy towards a form of development based on indigenous values called vivir bien or living well. And you all know about that because most had the conference here about that. Degrowth and Vivir Bien. Morales has made this a central part of his international reputation, arguing that capitalism is the cause of climate change and that it should be substituted by indigenous values. In 2010, he held a very important alternative climate change in Tiquipaya, where he promised to put into effect this new economy based on these values. And here’s article nine. Which is really pretty amazing, the idea that, the goal of the constitution and the law is to create a just and harmonious society, cemented in decolonization. It’s right in the constitution, right? Without discrimination, etc. With full social justice to consolidate plurinational ideas. Pretty cool. So what in the world does decolonization mean in this context? Right? The devil’s in the details. Well so what- what does decolonization- You know, I mean, I want to recognize that we’re not talking about the kind of decolonization that happened in the 1800s, when you- when Latin Americans actually, you know, because free from their original Spanish decolonizers, I mean colonizers. That happened a long time ago. So what are the other meanings for decolonization? So on this- I have a whole bunch of ideas here that I’m gonna put out, and then we can maybe talk about this in questions and answer period. But, some people think of decolonization as, you know, basically trying to get rid of the legacies of colonialism. And basically, it’s a way to end racism and ensure social justice. And that’s kind of a vague overarching way of thinking about it. Some people go much more specifically to the political economy and say, no it’s like return to us our lands that you stole from us guys. And, you know, much more about land ownership and and the ability to exercise political rights. *computer sound* Is that me? Oh good! For other people, it’s more like making visible, and this is the kind of Rancière rational, of making visible the plurinature of Bolivia and Bolivia’s society. And making equal opportunities for people. That sounds a little bit more like multiculturalism or tolerance, but I mean the idea of making every- the plurality visible. One thing that I’ve used, something I’ve thought about it, is borrowing from human rights and transitional justice. The idea of moving beyond these old racialized systems of servitude to a more equitable society, and here I’m thinking of South Africa, right? Moving past apartheid to a new just society, and there in a sense, you need a transitional justice. So those are all kind of ideas that you might put forward. And Bolivia there’s some really kind of specific different meanings. The first one is that I’m gonna point out is, here you see a slide of Fausto Renarda, since the 1970s Aymara intellectuals in the katarista party, named after Tupac Katari of course, have been writing and talking about the need for an Indian revolution. Revolucion India. Uh, India, um- To retake their lands and their political power. That’s sort of like the second one that had put out. Fausto Renardo wrote an early text that urged people to identify as Indians, instead of peasants or mestizos, and to push for an Indian nation. And this is a really important- I mean at the time people thought it was nutty. But, you know, people read him and he’s been an important influence for people. There’s a whole other people- group of people who draw from the same kind of decolonization literature that many of you may have read. Particularly Frantz Fanon and, you know, and the the Algerian struggle, and those sorts of things. And the idea of Subaltern studies. And Frantz Fanon’s the idea of the subjectivity of the colonizer and- and that it was- it would be a really becoming a decolonized subject it was a- was a really important process, that was kind of inherently violent and difficult in the process of decolonization. To make this a little clearer I won’t- sorry yeah, here’s a whole thing about post-colonial studies, but I’m sure you guys have read Quijano, and Mignolo, and Catherine Walsh, etc. There’s a whole bunch of this kind of discussion about modernity and coloniality and power, and this- this literature is widely discussed among indigenous leaders, and activist, and people within the vice-ministries in the MAS government. So this isn’t just ‘oh I’m posing this literature on them’ this is widely used, and read, and discussed. So in this idea, the idea is that decolonization requires speaking from a different position. A different what they would call locus of enunciation. Claiming a new epistemological relationship to the state. Saying that indigenous knowledge and- and ways of seeing the world should be fundamental to the state. I think this is really- it’s really important. Here’s an interesting example from Bolivia. Here, this is an Aymara philosopher named Rafael Bautista who, if you’ve gone to any of the LASA meetings, he’s always there in our Bolivia section, giving really fascinating, philosophical ideas. And his idea is that- and this fit very well I think with the Rancière notion, in that he’s saying that colonial domination is based on this myth, this continued myth of white domination. And it’s that myth that must be overturned. So that’s a kind of cultural notion, it’s a- an aesthetic notion, it’s a- a discourse, an ideology. So he says that the way that that has to happen is that it has to be cleansed from its dangerous foundations. And- and a new ethical, what he calls structuration of the subject based on buen vivir. I urge you to read some of his work, he’s really a fascinating intellectual. So- So but what does the state do? How do you deal with these ideas? So well the state does a couple of things. It’s taken a number of really important steps, and probably the most important for me is the new anti-racism law that makes it illegal to demean others by referring to their ethnicity. That might not sound like a big deal, but for centuries, indigenous people have felt this enormous sense of verguenza, and fear, and shame. And so to have it be against the law to use those words in a- in a bad way, it’s really again super important. The state has also made huge strides to diversify the state bureaucracy, and here you can see a woman in a a urban cholita dress in Congress. And here you can see people who are vice-ministers, a policewoman, an ambassador, all people who are clearly indigenous, wearing indigenous clothes, and that is a form of desegregation that is just, you can’t put a price on it. It’s amazing. My Guaraní friends say now they don’t feel bad about going into a government office, because there’s gonna be somebody dressed in their- in clothes, or speaking an indigenous language. And that makes a difference. Before those were really racialized sites that pushed them out and made it difficult for them to feel like the state represented them. And the state has also used rituals and spectacles. In a lot of what I talk about in my book, for those of you who’ve looked at it, is about the performance aspect of the state. And I think it’s just fascinating, so I’m gonna tell you about one of them. The uh- the- the collective marriages in our tradition. This is in 2011, the vice-ministry of decolonization, yes, there is a vice-ministry of decolonization. The entity of depatriarchalization within the vice-ministry of decolonization put on this event and brought together 300 couples in the big coliseum in El Alto. With lots of ceremony and a really cool dance number in which pre-Western deities triumph over evil colonizer. The organizers married people in what they called our tradition. They brought together a whole series of Amaltas, these are a sort of shamanic practitioners who burnws incense and blew on conch shells. And the idea was to, and they married them wrapping their wrists up with cords, and great pomp and circumstance. It was all based on the idea of gender complementarity, and so there were women and men. In every situation, there were people speaking indigenous languages and Spanish. It was a really beautiful, beautiful event. And then the idea was to create a renewed decolonized family. The idea was to have people who were proud of their ethnicity and proud of the decolonized state. And the president oversaw the ceremony. Here he is, talking to them. He’s single, so that’s not appropriate to be a padrino in most of these societies, but he actually did a good job. He didn’t try to give them too much advice. But he did act as the padrino and um- to all the new married couples. I have critiqued this event in my book if you read that chapter. I critique it as actually producing a kind of masculine state. And here is this picture that I love, because here is Evo acting like the Catholic priest, or the Inca king, or whatever. He’s like the single male, powerful male standing above, talking to them, bringing them into this state in a particular way. I won’t’ go into that now, maybe we can talk about it later in the grad seminar- we can talk about it. But, regardless of my reading of it, what I think is interesting is the power that these performances have. To perform in a decolonized state. And he- and Evo is really expert at that. He holds himself out as the representative of indigeneity. And in many public events, you’ll see, this is Tupac Katari and his partner Bartolina Sisa. You see these kinds of posters everywhere, as he’s going around talking about el proceso de cambio, the process of change that he’s putting into effect. He’s all- he’s often matched with pictures of of indigenous people. This is a perfect example of, where this is the new satellite they named after Katari. And this poster of Evo and Tupac Katari is just amazing. You just love it. And it says on the bottom, tu estrella, your star like who’s the star in the picture? And using the- using the famous saying of Tupac Katari when he was ripped apart, I will return and I will be millions. Which is a beautiful way of- when we think about the stars in the millions and the satellite going up. So even on stamps, everywhere you see, you see pictures of him. This is a big mural, and Evo is the leader of, you know, the Gas War and decolonization. He’s a very, you know, heroic figure, and he’s always portrayed with the anti-colonial leaders that he’s got. Alright. So we can see Bolivia, the Bolivian state has spent a lot of time and energy to promote decolonization. *phone rings* Ok, it’s not me! That’s happened to me so many times when I’m talking. My phone will go off! So it’s not just you. We can see that the Bolivian state spent a lot of time and energy to promote decolonization through laws and public performances. But what about the deeper question of the use of natural resources? And so this is going to that second question that we started and we talked about Wakanda. What kinds of decisions and disagreement do we see about natural resources? Well first- the first thing that Evo did was to nationalize the hydrocarbon reserves. Reversing the really terrible deals that the previous neoliberal administration had reached with all the big national corporations. Previously, the corporations got about 80% of the profits and now the state gets that much. Really big switch. It wasn’t- they didn’t take over any of those companies. They gave them the option to stay if they wanted to under the new deals, and almost everybody stayed. So with that money, the state was able to pass along a huge amount of money to the poor. So in all kinds of things. Helping poor farmers with credit and tractors, to build the kind of infrastructures and social services that they had long lacked. There were school children and families got subsidies in some of these conditional cash transfers, like the Juancito Pinto Education Program. Pregnant mothers got care, seniors got Renta Dignidad, the social security. Regular support payments. And all these is what the Uruguayan ecologist Eduardo Gudynas called progressive extractivism. And he uses this term to call attention to the ways that countries like Bolivia and Ecuador, which appear to be doing something very radical, are actually not doing that big of a change. Yes, they are- they are continuing the classic development- the classic development model of extractivism. Continuing to get primary materials and export them. Sort of the colonial model of that. And creating the same kinds of environmental damage and social impacts for local communities. But, the state does play a more central role, it’s not just farming it out to the corporations. The state is involved in this. And it gives extractivism greater legitimacy because there’s a lot of distribution to the people. So, so this- this is happening in a lot of places, and certainly, I think, Bolivia is the kind of poster child for progressive extractivism. This means actually, when you think back to what I said about Evo’s international possition, that contrary to what- to his previous ideas about saying that capitalism is the enemy of the world, and climate change is bad, Evo is really relying on extractivism and capitalism to accomplish what he’s doing. Now I’m not judging that, because if you were president of Bolivia what would you do? You’ve got a lot of hungry people, you’ve got a lot of people who’ve been at the bottom of the economic barrel, what’s your responsibility to those people? So I’m not judging, I’m just reporting here. I think it’s a really big question, what any of us would do. And different countries have taken different paths. So, I will say though, that Bolivia is still deeply engaged in it, and they’re deepening their dependency all the time. Morales has pushed large iron mines, like Mutun, which is planed to be one of the largest in Latin America. He has continued the bio-Amazonian highway project, that Joel and I were talking about. Part of the – – project, where they’re gonna put roads all across the continent. Here’s the Oceanico going across the continent. In the Bolivian section on this road has gone through the very fragile dry forest lands of the Chiquitanos people, who’ve been fighting it and the damage to their lands for years. This is where it’s going straight through their- their lands. And on the horizon, it’s yet another mega project, the Cachuela damn, which is a part of a regional dam project of the Madeira and Mamore river basins. And the local communities all across this region are just really terrified of the repercussions for the fish life and all of that. All the people who depend on that. And finally, there’s lithium. Bolivia has discovered possibly the world’s largest lithium deposits in the Salar de Uyuni. The big salt plane in the southwest part of the country. And it’s used in ultralight car batteries as well as all of our cell phones. So when we’re all thinking about how- what responsible citizens we are for using our cell phones, this is where this is gonna start coming from. This is one of the most fragile ecological zones. This is the salt flats and very, very fragile areas. And it has a huge impact, not only on the environment, the plants, the flamingos that are native to this, but also to the local indigenous people who do quinoa farming around the Salar. Many of them are in favor of it, though. I want to- I want to not make everybody out, all indigenous people out to be victims of development. Many of the people, particularly around the Salar are in favor of it. But Bolivia is just in the process now of doing joint ventures with Chinese and German companies to produce batteries there. So we’re gonna see what could happen. So is this decolonization? Or is this just the same old capitalist development model with a different name? Componcho, as they say. Morales and his Vice President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, make it clear that they think that what they are doing is decolonization. That this is Pachacuti or the reversal of things. The reversal of the colonial pattern, because of where the benefits of Bolivia’s resources went to Europe and then later to the global markets, leaving Bolivians poor, they say this is the revolution they were elected to make. And- and, and in fact, this is giving back the resources to the Bolivian people who should’ve been the owners all along. And in recent years, Morales’ discourse has gone even further, has shifted a bit more. Whereas in the first part as I said his discourse was about indigeneity and decolonization, in recent years he speaks more about economic liberation and national sovereignty, and taking control over national sovereignty and using those- those resources. Instead of alternatives to capitalism, he now is talking about how much his government has made off this model. I saw him when the, when the Pope was in Bolivia a few years ago, and I went to a social movements meeting. And everybody was like Yeah, you know, anti-capitalism or whatever. And thanks to brother Evo for leading the charge and then Evo came in and he said look, I advise all the rest of you to do what we’re doing. Make some money off of your resources and, you know, feed your people. And all these social movement people were like, eh! hermano Evo. They like just did not listen to what he said, they just assumed that he meant what they meant. And it was really super interesting to see this. So, I do want to say that when I talk to indigenous people in Bolivia, especially those in cities like La Paz or El Alto, many people totally agree with Evo. They’re not interested in all the- just because they’re indigenous, doesn’t mean they’re interested in saving the environment or worried about climate change. Many of the poor, urban indigenous Aymaras are just delighted that there’s now more money circulating, and more jobs available. And that the state has built housing and schools in their neighborhoods. There’s now a substantially new- there’s been a substantial growth of a new urban indigenous middle class in the cities. As many people are engaged with the global trade in China, and there’s a new, you know, kind of urban, indigenous aesthetic of these- what they call them Cholets. Cholets like a chola and cholo mixed. So there’s this particular architect that made tons of money building these for rich urban merchants who are involved in this international circuit. So, these people are very supportive of Evo and the continued focus on the economy. Moreover, they agree this is decolonization. In my research in El Alto, I haven’t spent years doing research in El Alto, but in the last period I’ve tried to do more and in some of the neighborhoods in El Alto and they are feeling the same way. They think that what Evo has done is been to radically change their lives and the possibilities for their children. With the jobs and small houses they built, their kids are in school. They see themselves as middle class now. And they credit Morales with this success. They say he has opened the doors for us. And allowing indigenous people access to the state, to education, to the middle class. For them, then, indigenous rights doesn’t mean the right to protect territory or to live in a traditional way, but rather to share in the profits of capitalist development. So there are big disagreements in Bolivia about what decolonization means and how to- and how- what’s the right path for Bolivia. And this is sort of that second part for the Wakanda story, right? There’s to the bone struggles here. Many of the people like in the Pacto Unidad, people who were in that first architects of plurinationality, they have completely- they are now staunch opponents to Evo. And they think that he’s betrayed the whole notion of decolonization and vivir bien. So I think you guys have heard a lot about Tipnis, but I can’t resist showing you a little bit about Tipnis. How am I doing on time? We have the room until 3, it’s 2:25. Ok, so I have about ten more minutes, ok? Alright. I’ll go quickly through Tipnis, because you guys have heard it. You know, the disagreement really exploded in 2011 or 2012. Does everybody in here know about Tipnis? Who doesn’t know? Alright, so I’ll tell you a little bit about it. Tipnis is an indigenous territory and national park called Isiboro Sécure. And this is what it looks like, this triangle here, and they’re trying to built a road right through it. Evo Morales and his party have proposed this road and gave absolutely no consultation to the local people. And so they are really worried about it, because see the red triangle there? That’s already colonized by coca growers. And so they feel like this road that’s supposed to come in there, that purple line, will just allow the colonizers to come and completely destroy that area. It’s not just that they’re so worried about development, in fact a lot of people are for the road, want to have access to the market, want to have access to hospitals and schools, and education, and just be closer to Cochabamba and on the other end Brazil. But they weren’t- weren’t given any consultation, despite the constitution which requires that. So in 2011, they mounted a really big march that went from the tropics up through the Andes and ended in La Paz. Many of these are lowland people who were making this many hundred-kilometer mile walk in flip-flops, carrying their kids with them. And this is Adolfo Chavez, the leader tried negotiating with Morales, but eventually, Morales just send in the troops. And there was a kind of severe repression. Fortunately, nobody died, but a lot of people were injured. Now this is- this is- there is a long history of these marches, and never under the white mestizo leadership had any of this kind of violence happened to these peaceful marches. So it’s all the more shocking when Evo’s police went in. And it caused a real backlash. By the time that the march eventually got to La Paz, everyone in La Paz, which is MAS stronghold, was very supportive. And so Evo was forced to hold the Tipnis intangibles, or untouchable for a while. And then promised to do a consulta, a consultation with all the people of Tipnis. They did one, but it was very state-run, by that time there were a lot of parallel- Parallelism. I was just talking to Andrea, your former student and hearing more about what’s going on there. The local communities are very divided and so the consulta was very inconclusive. So in 2012, they marched a second time. There was an amazing ongoing war of performance and aesthetics, again this is the questions of the aesthetics, that’s why I like Rancière so much. This was a painting, a particularly beautiful one. But online there are all these beautiful posters about, the, you know, the highway as being, you know, opposed to- opposed to nature. And indigenous people kind of standing in for, you know, for nature. Here’s the one that I really love the most. And here you can see, like the jaguar kind of stands in for indigenous people and the forest, as if being killed by- by the highway. My colleague Nichole and I have written a lot about this symbolic battle, showing that- how all kinds of people got involved in the process including the Camba elite. This is the Comite Civico of Santa Cruz. Who’s on, for the first time, on the side of the lowland indigenous people, because it was a way to- to oppose Morales. And even the feministas in La Paz, Mujeres Criando. One of the most wonderful groups of anarchal feminists in La Paz, they met the Tipnis marchers with these beautiful masks. And then a second march, which I really love. This is Todos Somos Berta. Berta Bejarano was the woman leader of the second march, so they had these masks of you can see Berta’s face. And they put them on, you know, all these people wearing them on their heads. So all of us were Bejarano. So, in this case, I think that all of these, from the left to the feminist- from the left feminist to the right, you see people trying to critique the politics of the government through the bodies of these indigenous marchers. Supper interesting process. But in the longrun none of these worked. The government is now constructing the road, and what I heard from Andrea they’re building it from the South and the North. They haven’t brought it together yet. And I think the controversies really made it clear that in the name of decolonization the Morales administration is willing to sacrifice indigenous people and their lands, and the environment. And he’s punished and jailed people who oppose his development plan. He’s created parallel indigenous organizations. He wrecked SEDO, the lowland indigenous organization, which were the foundations of, you know, of- of his- of his- his project. So, this is the arch over the last decade. From indigeneity and decolonization at the beginning to economic liberation and resource extraction at the end. So using Rancière’s terms. Sorry, I just wanted to say- there. For using Rancière’s terms, I think we can say that we’ve gone from an emancipatory politics to decolonization of the form of policing. And that’s the overarching argument of. And I think you can see the Tipnis case as one way of policing is in force through kind of sovereign violence. And in the liberal period Charlie – – described the form of government mentality that distinguished between indios permitidos, those authorized Indians who- who organized without challenging capitalism were the liberal state, to indios prohibidos. Right? Who were the prohibited Indians who were sanctioned. And I think it’s interesting and ironic to see even this supposedly post-neoliberal period, that we still see this distinction going on. And I think we could say that in Bolivia now the ultra-capitalist Indian merchants are seen as the descolonizados permitidos. While the Tipnis protesters are really the descolonizados prohibidos, the dangerous actors who protest extractivist development. So- and then this period where the governmentality perhaps they were nudged towards appropriate conduct, now we see that they feel the full force of sovereign power. OK, I have one more little section. I know I’m going too long, but I’m gonna give you one slight bit of hope. If I’ve shown this arch I don’t want to say that the possibility of vivir bien or indigenous decolonization is foreclosed entirely. And in fact, I see a lot of people trying and working on it. The case that I’ve been working over the last five year is Charagua, it’s this red zone. The largest municipality in the Chaco region. Where the Guarani people are at work. Part of the Pacto’s original proposal was that indigenous groups ought to have local autonomy. And that was based on both plurality and the idea of shared decision making. The watered down version after that negation at the end of Constituyente was a different kind of autonomy. It’s more basically an administrative entity within a neoliberal state. I mean a liberal state. And lots of differences from the populist version, right? They don’t have all the things that they wanted. Not everybody can try it. And most importantly the central state still has power over all of extractivism. So in only one, well now there are a couple of cities and municipalities, and Bolivia has been able to go through all of this- and here’s the long, what they call odyssey, they passed a first referendum. An assembly where they drafted the constitution. Having gone to the tribunal, coming back for a second referendum and now just recently, in last January there’s a new indigenous autonomy in Charagua. So it’s the first, now there’s one in Chasquipampa in the highlands. But this is the first one in the lowlands. And they- it was a very difficult process because the Morales government is really not very much in favor of indigenous autonomy. They put up huge roadblocks, huge obstacles, they’ve taken away almost all the money, they- it went from being a ministry of autonomy to a vice- ministry to not much money. But that said, the indigenous Guaranis in Charagua have done it. And this is their organization chart, and I’ll just point out one thing. Usually, the executive is on the top, right? In the Bolivian way of thinking, the – – the decision-making body, which is the assembly is the most important and powerful group. And they make all the decisions, even though the constitutional tribunal told them not to. Told them to give the executive power more power, they put that in the constitution. But in practice, they’re the ones that are making the decisions and people are super excited about this thing. That said, they don’t have all the power that a real autonomous region would have, because the central state can- can still come in and take all the resources. And this is where the natural gas is in Bolivia. So you can see, and that’s Charagua. So Charagua is right in the path of extractivist development for natural gas. And so their first kind- the first statute that they’re working on is going to be a challenge to the central state. They’re now requiring that anybody that enters their region give- obtain consent of the people. And that’s different from consultation. Consent, which what the Pacto asked for long ago, but that got wiped out of the constitution, so they in their first autonomous government did that. OK, let me conclude. And here we come back to Wakanda. In the movies things always turn out great for the heroes. The Black Panther, a Prince of course, kills his adversary and find out he has to change his path a little bit. He can still keep his vibranium and use it for the benefit of his people, but he also starts using it to give to the poor and the oppressed. He becomes an international donor, here he is at the UN. And T’Challa doesn’t have to really sacrifice anything. Everybody is happy. Apparently, vibranium is an endless supply and doesn’t hurt anybody. And I think we can agree that this is a descolonizado permitido, right? He’s doing everything right, he looks awesome, he’s at the UN. And Killmonger was the descolonizado prohibido who proposed real revolution and radically different views of natural resources. And so, naturally, he got killed off. That’s how it goes in neoliberalism. Of course, I want to say the Black Panther is a fictional story, and the ways I’ve been using it to think about the Bolivian case don’t map on exactly to reality. Real life is a lot messier, and peopled don’t fit so smoothly into these categories. I mean I think the math works pretty well with the Tipnis protesters as the prohibidos. But the Guaranis of Charagua have really been able to artfully negotiate a space in between these two positions. Sometimes aligned with the MAS, sometimes with the Verdes, sometimes challenging the MAS. And I think this points out to the problem that I pointed to at the beginning when I introduced Rancière, it’s dualism. For Rancière something’s either politics or policing. And something either challenges inequality or upholds it. Or upholds the order. So- but I think, if you really think about how things are in reality actors can be involved in both politics and policing. And they can be upholding and disagreeing with the order at the same time. And what looks like politics to somebody can look like policing to somebody else. So I think we have to be careful, I don’t think Rancière’s theory should be thrown out as a result, but I do think we need to look at that- it’s the blurry boundaries between politis and policing that are so interesting. And I hope in this talk I’ve made clear that the MAS party has been- has done those things. Has been very involved in what I would call emancipatory actions or emancipatory politics. But also using indigeneity and decolonization as part of its repertoire. So I can’t resist showing these together. And here is Evo again at the UN in 20-, I think 2015, trying for yet another alternative climate change thing. So he’s using his position to push what I
think many of us would think is an emancipatory politics on climate change. So I think that leaves us open to the question, can decolonization actually be a tool for social change? What’s it- is it a utopian idea? Is it a discourse, does it- what can you use it for? I’m gonna leave that as a question that we perhaps can talk about later today. Thank you. *applause*

Maurice Vega

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