Portland State University. Department of Sociology
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Sociology
1 online resource (xxi, 385 pages)
Latin America is in a political crisis, yet Bolivia is still widely recognized as a beacon of hope for progressive change. The radical movements at the beginning of the 21st century against neoliberalism that paved the road for the election of Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, beckoned a change from colonial rule towards a more just society. Paradoxically, in pursuing progress through economic growth, the Bolivian state led by President Morales has replicated the colonial division of labor through a development model known as neo-extractivism. Deeply rooted tensions have also emerged between indigenous communities and the Bolivian state due to the latter's zealous economic bond with the extractivist sector.
Although these paradoxes have received significant attention, one substantial aspect that remains underexplored and undertheorized is how such tensions affect socio-political relations at the intersections of class, race and gender where indigenous women in Bolivia occupy a unique position. To address this research gap, this qualitative study poses the following research questions: 1. How does neo-extractivism affect the lives of indigenous women? 2. How does the state shape relations between neo-extractivism and indigenous women? 3. How do indigenous women organize to challenge the impact of state-led extractivism on their lives and their communities? To answer these questions, I conducted a multi-sited ethnographic study between October 2017 and June 2018 in Oruro, Bolivia, an area that is heavily affected by mining contamination. By analyzing processes of social reproduction, I argue that neo-extractivism leads to water contamination and water scarcity, becoming the epicenter of the deterioration of subsistence agriculture and the dispossession of indigenous ways of life. Because indigenous women are subsistence producers and social reproducers whose activities depend on water, the dispossession of water has a dire effect on them, which demonstrates how capitalism relies on and exacerbates neo-colonial and patriarchal relations.
To tame dissent to these contradictions, the Bolivian and self-proclaimed "indigenist state" defines and politicizes ethnicity in order to build a national identity based on indigeneity. This state-led ethnic inclusion, however, simultaneously produces class exclusions of indigenous campesinxs (peasants) who are not fully engaged in market relations. In contrast to the government's inclusive but rigidly-defined indigeneity, indigenous communities embrace a fluid and dual indigeneity: one that is connected to territories, yet also independent from them; a rooted indigeneity based on the praxis of what it means to be indigenous. Indigenous women and their communities embrace this fluid and rooted indigeneity to build alliances across gender, ethnic, and geographic lines to organize against neo-extractivism. Moreover, the daily responsibilities of social reproduction within the context of subsistence agriculture, which are embedded in Andean epistemes of reciprocity, duality, and complementarity, have allowed indigenous women to build solidarity networks that keep the social fabric within, and between, communities alive. These solidarity networks are sites of everyday resistances that represent a threat and an alternative to capitalist, colonial and patriarchal mandates.
Rodriguez Fernandez, Gisela Victoria, "Reproduciendo Otros Mundos: Indigenous Women's Struggles Against Neo-Extractivism and the Bolivian State" (2019). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5094.