Accepted paper:

The politicization of indigenous identities in Bolivia and their challenges in the Plurinational State


Aiko Ikemura Amaral ( )

Paper short abstract:

We analyze the process of politicization of indigenous identities since the 1990s in Bolivia and its part in the inflexion of the 2000s. We then highlight present contradictions of such concerning the reinforcement of representative democracy and of the state’s nationalist appeals.

Paper long abstract:

Among the social struggles that lead to the conformation of a Plurinational State in Bolivia, those of the indigenous peoples and their social movements are of distinguished importance. Their long-lasting endeavors, which became highly politicized during the 1990s, were fundamental in questioning the liberal-representative citizenship frame as well as the alleged homogeneity national identity. All over the country, they took the streets and highways demanding their rights for autonomy, territory and self-government. With the inflexion of the 2000s and the disintegration of the neoliberal democratic pact that had sustained the governments so far, the indigenous appeals seemed to be heard at last. The president, of indigenous descent and leader of the coca grower movement, convened a Constitutional Assembly that established the plurinationality of the State, communitarian democracy and also recognized the indigenous originary peasant nations as a constitutive subject of the Bolivian people. The present paper seeks to analyze the politicization of indigenous identities and their role in overthrowing the neoliberal governments in Bolivia. We then discuss how their struggles were recognized in the 2009 Constitution, as part of an effort to overcome the multiculturalist approach that hitherto dominated the scene. Finally, we intend to highlight the present contradictions of this process, in which the political empowerment of indigenous subjects has to face the reinforcement of representative democracy and of the state's nationalist appeals, while at the same time striving to consolidate their own forms of government and political plurality.

panel P01
On the shores of liberal democracy: exploring the reshaping of the community in the context of post-liberal governments in Latin America