Forging an Indigenous Counterpublic Sphere in Bolivia: The Taller de Historia Oral Andina

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Forging an Indigenous Counterpublic Sphere in Bolivia: The Taller de Historia Oral Andina
  Forging an Indigenous Counterpublic Sphere: The Taller de Historia Oral Andina in BoliviaAuthor(s): Marcia StephensonSource: Latin American Research Review, Vol. 37, No. 2 (2002), pp. 99-118Published by: The Latin American Studies Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 11/09/2014 16:49 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . The Latin American Studies Association  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Latin American Research Review. This content downloaded from on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:49:21 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  RESEARCH REPORTS AND NOTES FORGING AN INDIGENOUS COUNTERPUBLIC SPHERE: The Taller de Historia Oral Andina in Bolivia* Marcia tephenson Purdue University Abstract: his ssay nalyzes he mpact f n ndigenous ounterpublic phere in ontemporary olivia, rguing hat t unctions s an rena f ifferential on- sciousness or ymara ntellectuals nd ctivists. n examining he work arried out y he ymara ongovernmental rganization nown s the aller e Historia Oral Andina THOA), he ssay ighlights his phere's mportance s both discursive nd territorial rena where gency s expressed n the ollaborative spirit f ommunity. HOA's work s significant n trategically ormulating methodology f ecolonization ased n revisionist ndean istoriography, erri- torial emands, nd ollective olitical ction. In recent years, academics, human rights ctivists, nternational women's organizations, nd other groups have analyzed the pressing s- sues of democratic truggle nd the practice f citizenship. articular on- sideration has been paid to urban grassroots rganizations nd to popular *Earlier versions of this essay were read at the Helen Kellogg Institute or nternational Studies at the University f Notre Dame and at the Ohio State University. he author wishes to thank Maria Eugenia Choque Quispe, Guillermo Delgado, Jill Kuhnheim, Carlos Mamani Condori, Nancy Peterson, Aparajita Sagar, Josefa alm6n, nd Fernando Unzueta for heir n- sightful eedback on the manuscript. Research was supported by the Kellogg Institute nd Purdue University. Latin American esearch eview olume 7 number ? 2002 99 This content downloaded from on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:49:21 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Latin American esearch eview social movements nd the ways they have shaped incipient emocracies. These crucial debates also form he centerpiece f many contemporary n- digenous movements. n an insightful tudy of recent ndigenous mobiliza- tion n Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, nd Bolivia, Deborah Yashar xamined how indigenous organization s challenging oth the practice nd terms f citizenship n Latin America's new democracies Yashar 1998,23). Although political iberalization n the 1980s and 1990s egalized the right or groups to organize, tate reforms ave limited ccess to the financial wherewithal to maintain he political nd cultural utonomy hat many ndigenous om- munities ad established ver past decades (Yashar 1998,24). Finding hem- selves disenfranchised s individual and collective olitical ctors, ndige- nous peoples have mobilized round the question of dentity. ashar sserts that he resurgence f ndigenous organization n Latin America flies n the face of liberal and Marxist assumptions that the modern mpulse would render politicized ndigenous dentity bsolete 1998,27; ee also Delgado 1994; Stephenson 1999). With he beginning f the new millennium, hen, indigenous peoples are claiming ositionality s social actors nd demand- ing greater epresentation nd say-so n the political practices f the state. They are also insisting n the right o participate s Indians. This collective, identity-based tance requires edefinition f the nation-state nd the nsti- tutions t encompasses Delgado 1998, 12-13). This stance thus challenges democracy o acknowledge the existence f plurality f groups, ncluding those traditionally marginalized r excluded. The nterface etween contestatory ndigenous movements nd pro- cesses of democratization uggests hat istinct conceptual esources must enable the expression of oppositional cultural dentities Fraser 1997, 0). One such conceptual resource useful to understanding ow oppositional groups critically ngage the practice of democracy s the public sphere. Jiirgen abermas described he public phere s the phere f private eople come together s a public (Habermas 1991, 7). This sphere s a discursive arena eparate rom he tate, sphere f riticism f public uthority, here citizens an debate ssues of common nterest Habermas 1991, 1). Funda- mental o Habermas's work s the assumption hat itizenship as already been universally mplemented nd fully xtended to individuals. But as already observed, n Latin American tates, he practices f citizenship nd liberal democracy have helped consolidate criollo nd mestizo hegemony and erase ethnic differences hroughout he ate nineteenth nd twentieth centuries. ased on a series of legal and ideological fictions, itizenship in these countries ontinually hreatens marginalized groups with exclu- sion even as it proclaims hem o be equals (Varese 1996, 18-19). Critical fforts evoted to rethinking he public sphere have given rise o the heorization f counterpublic pheres, r what Nancy Fraser erms subaltern ounterpublic pheres in order o signal hat hey re parallel discur- 100 This content downloaded from on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:49:21 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  THE TALLER DE HISTORIA ORAL ANDINA sive arenas where members f subordinated ocial groups nvent nd cir- culate counterdiscourses, hich n turn permit hem o formulate pposi- tional nterpretations f heir dentities, nterests, nd needs Fraser 997,81). The counterpublic phere s thus an arena where subordinated groups be- come subjects rather han objects of discourse. As such, the counterpublic sphere an be a site for ormulating nd expressing lternate ways of know- ing, hereby egitimizing he cultural nd political ight o difference. raw- ing from Chandra Mohanty's discussion of third world women's opposi- tional struggles, t can be said that he ndigenous counterpublic phere s an activist ommunity f ndigenous peoples with divergent istories nd social ocations, woven together y the political hreads f opposition o forms of domination hat re not only pervasive but also systemic Mohanty 991, 4, emphasis n srcinal). What distinguishes he ndigenous counterpublic sphere from ther ontestatory ublics, however, s the mportance f terri- torial emands nd the truggle o achieve utonomy nd self-determination. A Brief istory f n Indigenous ounterpublic phere: he Taller e Historia Oral Andina Within he hemispheric ontext f ndigenous truggles, t s impor- tant o underscore he Bolivian case. Approximately 0 percent f the coun- try's million nhabitants re ndigenous peoples living n rural nd urban areas (Rivera 1993, 52). On the heels of devastating neoliberal economic policies mplemented uring he early 1980s came a resurgence f ndige- nous organization n both the Andean highlands nd the Amazonian low- lands. To mention ust a few examples, n 1982 n Santa Cruz, indigenous peoples from he lowlands organized the Primer Encuentro de Pueblos Indigenas del Oriente Boliviano. At this meeting, ndigenous peoples pub- licly denounced for he first ime n recent history he njustices hat were being committed gainst hem. As a result f this ssembly, he participants formed regional association known as the Confederacion de Indigenas del Oriente Boliviano CIDOB), an association that has called for he right to territory nd autonomy. Soon after he establishment f CIDOB, the Ava-Guarani rom he Cordillera rovince ormed he Asamblea del Pueblo Guarani Healy 2001, 74-82). n the highlands few years ater, eaders and representatives rom ndigenous communities ame together o create he Federacion de Ayllus del Sur de Oruro and the Federacion de Ayllus de Norte de Potosi. While t s beyond the cope of his research ote to provide history of ndigenous organization nd movements n Bolivia, t s important o call attention o the significant vent that took place in October 1990, when more than eight hundred Amazonian Indians began the arduous seven- hundred-kilometer arch from rinidad o La Paz to demand human and 101 This content downloaded from on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:49:21 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Latin American esearch eview territorial ights rom he government. ccording o sociologist ilvia Rivera, the March for Territory nd Dignity encapsulated the complex historical dimensions f the ndigenous movement y calling for he right f ndige- nous peoples to be treated with dignity nd respected for heir historical, cultural, nd political specificities Rivera 1993, 53). When the marchers reached the mountain pass that s both a physical nd symbolic order be- tween the highlands nd the owlands, they were welcomed by thousands of Aymaras, Qhichwas, and Urus and also by non-Indians who had come out to meet them. Those present eclared the event to be the restoration f the body of the eighteenth-century ymara eader Tupak Katari, whose violent death at the hands of Spanish colonial authorities ymbolized the disintegration f the nca Empire Tawantinsuyu. Rivera described the n- tense emotional harge of this historically ignificant ncounter: La union de las partes fragmentadas el cuerpo ndfgena-union ctonica, desde las profundidades del tiempo-espacio-parecio vislumbrarse, al menos asi lo percibimos a mayorfa e los presentes, omo un pachakuti, n vuelco cosmico, ue irrumpia uevamente omo un rayo en el cielo despejado del tiempo ineal (1993,53).1 This momentous coming together f indigenous peoples from ll over Bolivia heralded the formation f a new arena of public debate and contestation. n the years since the 1990 march, his counterpublic phere has created forum or ndigenous peoples to oin together rom ifferent areas of the country o pursue common interests, lthough not without serious deological differences etween groups. This counterpublic phere underscores he historical gency of ndigenous peoples and challenges re- vailing dehumanizing practices hat for ver five hundred years had rele- gated them o the category f premodern ther. As Charles Merewether as argued in another ontext, The public sphere can thus be reclaimed s a critical ite for ifferent ommunities, hich have previously een excluded from t. This leads to the creation f a new space in which to address ex- periences constituting he foundation or other forms f social affiliation and of rights o the difference nd sharing of democracy Merewether 1996,113-14). The work of the pioneering Aymara nongovernmental rganization known as the Taller de Historia Oral Andina (THOA) has contributed n 1. Historian nd cultural ritic Michel de Certeau has argued that he history f repression and resistance has been written n the native body. The body thus figures s a site of mem- ory for Latin American ndigenous peoples. He observed, This tortured ody and another body, the altered arth, epresent beginning, rebirth f the will to construct political sso- ciation. A unity orn of hardship nd resistance o hardship s the historical ocus, the collec- tive memory f the social body, where a will that neither onfirms or denies this writing f history riginates. t deciphers the scars on the body proper [le corps proper]-or the fallen 'heroes' and 'martyrs' who correspond o them n narrative-as the ndex of a history et to be made (Certeau 1986, 227, mphases in srcinal). 102 This content downloaded from on Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:49:21 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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