2016 • $45.00 • 358 pp • paper
Indigenous politics reverberates around the globe, impacting international and national agendas. Bolivia is at the forefront of implementing state reforms that promote indigenous autonomy and identity while agitating against the alleged accomplices of neoliberalism. Into Goudsmit draws on years of in-depth ethnographic research in the Andean valley of Toracari, providing unique insight into the local impact of these reforms that, in August 2012, led to the nationalisation of the Canadian junior mining company South American Silver. The local politics of indigeneity and the conflicts caused by the mining concessions are analysed, concluding that the experiences in Toracari rebuff ubiquitous claims of structural social transformation. The findings invite an exploration of the cultural dynamics of continuity instead, shifting attention to the most significant sites of cultural production in Toracari: rituals. Within rituals, the indian population generates cultural models that mould local deference to the state and landlords. This is ironic as the Bolivian government has adopted indigenous rituals as the language of the ‘re-founded’ state. This ethnography, then, sheds a distinctively Andean light on the debate — ranging from symbolic to cognitive anthropology —regarding the effectiveness of social practices such as rituals that persuade practitioners to live a proper life in line with durable cultural models, reproducing reciprocal but asymmetrical relations in the process.
“…Goudsmit's eloquently written book is an excellent piece of ethnography and contemporary history that clearly deepens our understanding of the conflicting and paradoxical processes at work in current Andean Bolivia. Probing into the power dynamics of a specific locale, Goudsmit not only sheds new light on mechanisms of social and political life far beyond the site of his fieldwork, but also invites us to rethink our analytical frameworks and to combine them in novel ways. This book is ethnography at its best.” — Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology