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Nancy Postero (UC San Diego) | Wedding the Nation: Spectacles of Indigeneity in Plurinational Bolivia

ASE Commons

Speaker: Nancy Postero (Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC San Diego)

"Wedding the Nation: Spectacles of Indigeneity in Plurinational Bolivia"

Co-sponsored by ASE Space, Justice and Power Research Cluster

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, came to power in 2005 on a dual agenda. He promised to reverse the effects of two decades of neoliberalism and overturn the colonial racist legacies that impact the country’s majority indigenous population.  As the new constitution passed by popular referendum in 2009 makes clear, the central goal of the new plurinational Bolivia is decolonization.  What decolonization means is highly debated in Bolivia, but in its efforts to implement this agenda, the government has passed laws against racism, re-structured the economic sector to redistribute resources to the poor, and integrated state ministries.  In this talk, I examine the way the state utilizes spectacle to effect changes at the symbolic and discursive level. I focus on a spectacular wedding of 300 couples staged by the Bolivia’s Vice Ministry of Decolonization in 2011. While the ministry asserted that the collective marriages according to Andean customs reversed the centuries-old myths of indigenous inferiority by positively valuing the indigenous, I argue that the ritual also had other effects.  Using symbols and spatial effects to mediate between the highly charged poles of indigenous/colonizer, the ritual performed a managed version of indigeneity that seeks to justify the plurinational state and to foreclose disagreements about the meaning of indigeneity and who is entitled to represent it.