Veber, Hanne, ed. Historias para nuestro futuro: yotantsi ashi otsipaniki : narraciones autobiográficas de líderes Asháninkas y Ashéninkas. Copenhague: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 2009.

Veber has put together a fascinating collection of oral histories that cover the lives and struggles of seven Asháninka organizers from the Selva Central. Inspired by Wolf’s dictum, this volume seeks to enrich the growing body of literature about Selva Central history by introducing indigenous personal histories in juxtaposition against the documentary evidence marshaled by the usual suspects in asháninka historiography: Barclay, Santos Granero, Fernández, Hvalkof, Varese, etc.

The seven informants whose accounts comprise this volume were or are all leaders of regional indigenous organizations. Miguel Camaiteri, from Oventeni in the Gran Pajonal, served as secretary of defense for his community in their struggle to gain recognition as a Comunidad Nativa. He later worked with the Central de Comunidades Nativas de la Selva Central and became a crucial agent on the defense of bilingual rights and language education in the Gran Pajonal. He was also one of the leaders responsible for organizing the rondas campesinas that fought Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA through the late 1980s and early 1990s. (10) When Miguel was elected regidor of the town of Atalaya, his brother, Pascual, a leader in his own right, took over the chairmanship of the Organización de los Ashéninkas del Gran Pajonal (OAGP).(12) As the regional president of CECONCEC in Chanchamayo and Perené, Miqueas Mishari was a crucial ally of the Camaiteris and was himself responsible for expanding the organization through the Selva Central. (12) Bernardo Silva Loayza, another activist working in Atalaya, served as a militant in (OIRA) and now works as president of the Empresa Comunal Indígena de Atalaya La Minga”, while Vicente Ñaco, Adolfo Gutiérrez and Agusto Capurro were all members of other regional organizations.

Sawyer, Suzana. Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

Discussions I’ve had about this book tend to orbit around how bad it is. I don't think it is that bad, but I do see some shortcomings. So rather than simply summarize it, as I would usually do in a post like this, I want to examine a few of its strengths and weaknesses.

I think that as a study of environmental justice its merit lies in the idea that Sawyer develops of the mosaic of alternative nationalisms that are at play in the OPIP struggle against Texaco and an Ecuadorian state that increasingly abandoned its representative role and took on the role of fiscal manager. I think that her analysis of Oswaldo Guayasamin’s mosaic in the presidential palace becomes her metaphor for the idea of plurinational space that was espoused by the indigenous movement in Ecuador (and I would say uncritically embraced by Sawyer). Yet unsurprisingly, Sawyer’s personal commitment to the indigenous struggle poses a problem for her critical engagement with important concepts at play. I think is is very difficult—and commendable—to tread that thin line between political commitment and scholarly distance, but it will almost inevitably raise critical concerns.

For instance, Sawyer fails to problematize race. Sundberg has struggled to point out how Latin American environmental justice literature has failed to look critically at race and I think Crude Chronicles is a case in point. While Sawyer does take race as something that is constituted and masked through official spatial discourses, what she centers on is the negation of identity (50-51).

Burt, Jo-Marie, y Philip Mauceri, eds

Burt, Jo-Marie, y Philip Mauceri, eds. Politics in the Andes: Identity, Conflict, Reform. Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.

As a volume I have to admit I didn’t find this book too useful. The comparative framework and normative baseline use of an ill-defined—even vacuous—notion of “democracy” made its contribution too vague for my liking. While I understand the attempt to isolate regional similarities in identity politics, violence and political transformation, and situate them within “broader, historical, political, economic and social trends,” (14) I’m afraid Burt and Mauceri cast the net too far.

That said, the individual case studies are of some use. Xavier Albó’s piece takes Yashar’s comparative approach and reaches the same conclusion that Greene and García challenge: namely that of Peruvian exceptionalism. Interestingly, he relies heavily on Iván Degregori’s argument, that Peru saw little indigenous mobilization, because of migration to the coast, where “choledad” was the mainstay of ethnic identity. Collins fleshes out a case from Van Cott, looking at the way Pachakutik emerged as an electoral manifestation of CONAIE.

The only other thing I want to mention is the emphasis placed on the role of personalistic politics in the rule of figures like Fujimori (Burt) and Chávez (López and Lander) and the threats it poses to, as well as the ways it interacts with, democratization.

Hooker, Juliet

Hooker, Juliet. “Indigenous Inclusion/Black Exclusion: Race, Ethnicity and Multicultural Citizenship in Latin America.” Journal of Latin American Studies 37, no. 2 (2005): 285-310.

Hooker takes on the question of how, under what Van Cott calls the Multicultural Model, Afro-Latino struggles have not succeeded in securing the same types of rights and recognition that indigenous peoples have. She begins with a statistical overview that shows black marginality to be as—indeed in some cases like Colombia’s Pacific coast, more—severe than that of indigenous Latin Americans. Challenging prior assertions that explained this discrepancy in terms of differential population sizes, mobilization in defense of rights and the capacity to organize, she argues that “the main criterion used to determine the recipients of collective rights in Latin America has been the possession of a distinct cultural group identity,” and not the experience of racial discrimination and socio-economic or political marginalization. (291)

First she examines the holes in prior arguments that tried to explain this phenomenon. Using the case of Colombia in 1991 specifically and resorting to more general region-wide information, she demonstrates that Afro-Latinos were often involved in struggles much like those of indigenous peoples analyzed by the likes of Yashar, García and Van Cott. However, she sees one fundamental distinction in the way that their respective struggles were perceived by national elites and the public at large: that of Afro-Latinos as based on a position of anti-discrimination, and that of indigenous peoples as rooted in a collective sense of identity that differentiated them from the rest of the national polity.

Mariátegui, José Carlos.

Mariátegui, José Carlos. "El problema del indio." In José Carlos Mariátegui. Siete ensayos de interpretacion de la realidad peruana. University of Texas Press, 1971.

El problema del indio, según Mariåtegui, es fundamentalmente un problema socio-económico. Para él no se trata de buscar resolverlo con remedios administrativos, jurídicos ni pedagógicos; ni tampoco se puede recurrir a discursos morales o humanistas para contrarrestar el pleito del indio. Para que una solución sea verdadera y perdurable, tendrá que enfrentarse al gamonalismo, y cualquier propuesta que no lo haga es uno más entre “otros tantos estériles ejercicios teóricos … condenados a un absoluto descrédito.” (35) 

No obstante, mientras que Mariátegui pulvoriza todos los argumentos que no se basen en un análisis marxista, también propone algo. Para combatir la lacra que es el gamonalismo y para desfacer agravios padecidos por la masa indígena, la solución estará en la provisión de tierra.

Turner, Terrence

Turner, Terrence, “Indigenous Rights, Environmental Protection and the struggle over forest resources in the Amazon: the case of the Brazilian Kayapo.”  in Conway, Jill K, et al, eds. Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Humanistic Studies of the Environment. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

This piece looks at the Kayapo of the Xingú Valley and the way their role in environmental protection and exploitation has ben misconstrued by romantics and “glass-case” conservationists. Turner discuses two cases: the Altamira mobilization of Feb., 1989, and the relation of some Kayapo with gold miners and loggers. In each case he examines Kayapo ontology as a way of discrediting Northern appropriations of their struggle.

In the case of the Altamira mobilization against a massive hydro project on the Xingu, Turner argues that the type of conservation being advocated correlates to Kayapo conceptions of the utility of forest resources and not to the Northern conceptions of them as “primitive ecologists.” By showing how the event was ordered around the ritual of the New Corn Ceremony (converging upon a village setting, felling a forest tree as a communal bench, reenactment of the maize tree myth) and explaining the participation of women as an embodiment of the concerns highlighted by the event (loss of Kayapo culture through environmental degradation) Turner suggests the entire event was “a dramatization of the environmental values of Kayapo culture in the service of a Kayapo version of environmental activism.” (158) When examining how this may have been misconstrued he points to the way the event’s Portuguese and English communications with the press and civil society representatives in attendance were “couched in the rhetoric of international First World environmentalism and international Fourth World ethnic nationalism.” (153).

Appelbaum, Nancy P., Anne S. Macpherson and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt eds.

Appelbaum, Nancy P., Anne S. Macpherson and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt eds. Race & Nation in Modern Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

As the title implies, this volume takes on nation and race. In dealing with both, the approach taken involves looking at articulation and process in a way that challenges static notions of either category. Thus Anderson’s theory of imagining nation is complicated by examining how that imagining took on different forms at different times, and the authors focus on racialization—the process of contention and negotiation by which meanings of race are articulated—as a conceptual tool used to approach the general question of why different articulations of race arose at different points in time.

With regard to the use of Nation as a conceptual tool, the aim of this volume it to more clearly historicize the way different discourses of nation have been mobilized. To this end the editors resort to a loose periodization that goes past Anderson’s prioritizing of the independence movements to look at how new definitions of nation emerged with the commodity booms, mass migrations and processes of proletarianization of the late nineteenth century, or the populist projects of the depression era, or the post-war rise of modernization schemes and social movements.

Millones, Luis

Millones, Luis. Perú indígena: poder y religión en los Andes centrales. Lima: Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Peru, 2008.

In contrast to the likes of Greene, García, and Lucero, Millones wields a fixed notion of indigeneity, treating it not as an identity to be contested and negotiated, but as a classification seen in many different ways by distinct groups of foreign, local and institutional actors. While he does not staunchly defend a static notion of ethnicity quite the way someone like Abad González does, he does rely on a concept of indigeneity that conforms to the definitions used by institutions like the state and international financial institutions, most of which are often reduced to linguistic criteria.

The book is a compilation of three essays: one on indigenous Andean cosmologies; a brief survey of the current situation and relationship regarding the state and indigenous Peruvians; and an essay previously published (2004) under the title “Ser indio en el Perú.”

The first essay, centered mainly on the pre-Columbian Andes (Chavín, Wari, Tiwanaku, mostly), draws from early colonial sources (Huarochirí manuscript, Guamán Poma, Santa Cruz Pachacuti, as well as Sarmiento de Gamboa and Cieza de León) to paint a portrait of pre-Conquest cosmologies (primarily creation myths and divinities).

The second essay, which comprises the largest portion of the book, begins with a schematic overview of the demographic transformations since the Conquest and then deals with the ways different groups have perceived indigeneity. He treats them based on the separation between foreign, or external, portrayals, the view of non-indigenous Peruvians, indigenous self-representation,and the institutional visions of the church and the Peruvian state. In each case he gives what could best be considered an intellectual history covering a broad scale that often spans the colonial and republican eras.