Between the Ayllu and the nation-state : intertextuality and ambiguities of identity in San Pablo de Lípez
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This thesis is based on fieldwork carried out in San Pablo de Lípez province, Bolivia. Through an examination of the history of the region, economic activities, ritual and oral histories, it seeks to understand the sorts of relations that have come to exist between a rural Andean group and the Bolivian nation-state and, in particular, the ways in which rural people understand themselves in the face of the state’s nation-building activities. The thesis is thus situated within the framework of studies of mestizaje, or of hybridity of peoples and cultures, and of nation-state and Indian in Latin America. The thesis proposes a model to account for the ways in which contemporary people in Sud Lípez understand themselves and others. This takes into account the historical dimension and attempts to avoid reifications of such groupings as ‘Indian’, mestizo and Spaniard, and of ethnic groups in the more abstract sense. Central to it is the concept of intertextuality, a term borrowed from linguistic theory and literary criticism that derives largely from Bakhtin’s ideas of dialogue. Intertextuality emphasises the heterogeneity of texts and the diverse elements from which they are made. The thesis is concerned primarily with discourses that surround categories of people. In contemporary Bolivia, such discourses include a current official discourse of pluralism and ethnic diversity which, it could be said, is in dialogue with ideas of homogenisation, assimilation of the Indian population, and the mestizo nation that became prominent following the National Revolution of 1952. This dialogue between contemporary discourses can be held to constitute a ‘horizontal axis’ of intertextuality. A ‘vertical axis’, which forms the context for the present-day dialogue, is in turn constituted by the discourses and dialogues surrounding categories of people throughout the colonial and early republican eras. The historical focus of the thesis allows a consideration of these past discourses. The central chapters of the thesis focus on the relation between discourse and material practices. Chapters 5 and 6 show how discourses concerning identity are reflected in everyday life in San Pablo. Chapters 7 and 8 concern ritual, and focus on local and national identity. These chapters start by attempting to divide rituals of the state from rituals of the locality and introduce the idea that people are cast as ‘consumers’ for rituals of the state, while they are the ‘producers’ of rituals of their own locality (c.f. de Certeau 1984). Ultimately, however, the chapters conclude that such a division is not as clear as it might at first appear, and that it is not a simple matter to separate productive from consumptive practices and the tactics of consumers from the strategies of producers. The chapters end by suggesting that local people have a greater degree of agency than the initial model allowed, and with the proposition that through ritual they produce a locality (Appadurai 1995) that incorporates belonging to the nation. The thesis concludes that agency is essential to the process through which the people of San Pablo arrive at an understanding of themselves and the nation-state. Agency enables them to put themselves beyond the categories that others imagine, that is, to adopt a strategy of making themselves indeterminate. Local people may inherit discourses from the past, and are aware of those of the present, but they do not merely adhere to them, nor do they simply rearrange their elements. They may adopt elements from the different discourses that surround them, but in so doing, they transform them.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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