Accepted paper:

Indigenous rights to the city: Ethnic diversity and urban development in Bolivia and Ecuador


Philipp Horn (University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the role of indigeneity in urban development interventions in La Paz, Bolivia and Quito, Ecuador. It compares the practices of a variety of different actors and uncovers a set of tensions between indigeneity as (1) lived experience and as (2) category of urban development.

Paper long abstract:

Bolivia's and Ecuador's governments confront patterns of discrimination and exclusion against indigenous peoples through legislative reforms. Both countries recognise indigenous rights to the city within new constitutions which promote an intercultural, plurinational, and decolonial development model. But what happens when urban indigeneity enters national political and legal discourse? How is urban indigeneity addressed in urban policies and development interventions? This paper addresses these questions through a critical examination of the practices of policy makers, planners, and ordinary indigenous communities in two cities: La Paz and Quito. By comparing the practices of these different actors, it uncovers a set of conflicting realities: First, in everyday life, urban residents who self-identify as indigenous express multiple and sometimes contradictory understandings of indigeneity, leading them to articulate different interests and rights-based claims. This makes it difficult for policy makers and planners to come up with one coherent political agenda on urban indigenous development. Second, the paper also reveals that government officials, policy makers, and planners often fail to implement legislation on urban indigeneity for a variety of other reasons, including: conflicting political priorities and ongoing perceptions of the urban as historically 'white' and modern place. The paper concludes with some suggestions for more inclusive and pro-indigenous urban policy and development practice. The findings presented in this paper will be published in a forthcoming book with Routledge and draw on previous and ongoing ethnographic research in La Paz and Quito.

panel K05
Social diversity and in/equalities in urban development interventions (Paper)