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Thieves of Patria: Political Geology of Plurinational Bolivia Research Lecture

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Sir John A. Macdonald Hall
Room: 4
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Thieves of Patria: Political Geology of Plurinational Bolivia

Presented by Andrea Marston

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. This presentation explores the “political geology” of mining in plurinational Bolivia through an analysis of the grounded politics of tin mining cooperatives in the highland towns of Llallagua-Uncía, Potosí. I argue that these precarious collectives, formed in the geologized contact zone of Indigenous agricultural communities and ruined trade unionism, demand a retheorization of plurinationalism that centers the subsoil and the figures that labor within it. Although state-territory relations have been reorganized in the plurinational era, the subsoil remains imbued with 20th century masculinist and mestizo dreams of progress, and these ideals continue to shape resource extractivism even in an era of putatively indigenous nation-building. Cooperative miners, the paradoxical subjects of the plurinational state, have been shaped by their labors in this subterranean world and are now shaping the institutions that structure Bolivia’s political economy.

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