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Geo-social Formations: Political Geology in Plurinational Bolivia

Friday, October 19, 2018
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Mackintosh-Corry Hall
Room: D216
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Bolivian mining cooperatives are commonly described as mobsters, savage capitalists, and thieves of national wealth. Nevertheless, these small-scale miners have won significant influence in Bolivia’s radically restructured Plurinational State, in which the rights of both Indigenous peoples and Pachamama (Earth Mother) have been constitutionally enshrined since 2009. Agitating for relaxed environmental standards and expanded concession areas, cooperative miners help maintain Bolivia’s ‘neo-extractivist’ economy even in an era of putatively Indigenous nation-building. In this talk, I trace the subterranean processes through which cooperative miners emerge as workers and political subjects. Specifically, I explore the ‘geo-social formation’ of cooperative miners operating in abandoned tin mines in the highland towns of Llallagua-Uncía, Potosí. Centering labor as a site of analysis, I argue that the specific material qualities of tin shape workers’ fleshy bodies and their body politic, internally stratified along lines of race and gender, as surely as miners transform ore into a commodity. Such geo-social formations, produced in the geologized contact zone of Indigenous agricultural communities and ruined trade unionism, are in turn shaping the contours of extractive resource regimes in Bolivia. Through this work, I remake political ecology by locating geological histories and subterranean places–both typically bracketed from social inquiry–at its very heart.

By: Andrea Marston

Barbra Brousseau
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