Accepted paper:

The trajectories of discourse in the construction of indigenous-state relations today (Andes-Amazon region)


Rosaleen Howard (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

Discourse of diversity enshrined in Constitutions of Bolivia (2009) and Ecuador (2008) incorporates concepts purportedly deriving from ‘indigenous cosmovisions’. We examine terms such as buen vivir (‘living well’; Quechua sumak kawsay; Aymara suma qamaña) and ask to what extent this is the case.

Paper long abstract:

The paper will examine shifts in the official discourse of diversity over recent decades in the Andean-Amazonian states, enshrined in the reformed constitutional texts of Bolivia (2009) and Ecuador (2008), and in recent legislation in Peru since Humala's election (2011). The US-derived ideological associations of 'multiculturalism' (Hale 2002) led to 'interculturalism' being the preferred paradigm in the Andes of the 1990s, while new conceptualisations have come to the fore since 2000: 'intraculturalism', 'pluri-nationalism', 'decolonization', 'buen vivir', to mention a few. Working with Voloshinov's (1973) discussion of the polyvalence of the ideological sign, the paper will ask questions about the trajectories of discourse: Where do such concepts arise? How do they spread? How are they incorporated into policy? What multiplicity of meanings are attributed to them by the state and at the grassroots? Importantly, do they offer us a renewed chance to look at the complex middle ground (the taypi that Platt drew our attention to as early as the 1980s) between indigenous/state identities and perspectives on power? Special attention will be paid to the concept of buen vivir ('living well'), expressed in Quechua as sumak kawsay and in Aymara as suma qamaña. This concept is articulated in state legislation in Bolivia and Ecuador today, yet what relation does it really have to an 'indigenous cosmovision', as many commentators profess?

panel P18
The anthropology of connections: ethnography, archive and language in the work of Professor Tristan Platt