Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America

[ Latin American Studies ]

Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America

Edited by Kay B. Warren and Jean E. Jackson

Case studies of indigenous movements in Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil.



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6 x 9 | 304 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-79141-1

Throughout Latin America, indigenous peoples are responding to state violence and pro-democracy social movements by asserting their rights to a greater measure of cultural autonomy and self-determination. This volume's rich case studies of movements in Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil weigh the degree of success achieved by indigenous leaders in influencing national agendas when governments display highly ambivalent attitudes about strengthening ethnic diversity.

The contributors to this volume are leading anthropologists and indigenous activists from the United States and Latin America. They address the double binds of indigenous organizing and "working within the system" as well as the flexibility of political tactics used to achieve cultural goals outside the scope of state politics. The contributors answer questions about who speaks for indigenous communities, how indigenous movements relate to the popular left, and how conflicts between the national indigenous leadership and local communities play out in specific cultural and political contexts. The volume sheds new light on the realities of asymmetrical power relations and on the ways in which indigenous communities and their representatives employ Western constructions of subjectivity, alterity, and authentic versus counterfeit identity, as well as how they manipulate bureaucratic structures, international organizations, and the mass media to advance goals that involve distinctive visions of an indigenous future.

  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction: Studying Indigenous Activism in Latin America, Kay B. Warren and Jean E. Jackson
  • 2. The Indigenous Public Voice: The Multiple Idioms of Modernity in Native Cauca, David D. Gow and Joanne Rappaport
  • 3. Contested Discourses of Authority in Colombian National Indigenous Politics: The 1996 Summer Takeovers, Jean E. Jackson
  • 4. The Multiplicity of Mayan Voices: Mayan Leadership and the Politics of Self-Representation, Victor Montejo
  • 5. Voting against Indigenous Rights in Guatemala: Lessons from the 1999 Referendum, Kay B. Warren
  • 6. How Should an Indian Speak?: Amazonian Indians and the Symbolic Politics of Language in the Global Public Sphere, Laura R. Graham
  • 7. Representation, Polyphony, and the Construction of Power in a Kayapó Video, Terence Turner
  • 8. Cutting through State and Class: Sources and Strategies of Self-Representation in Latin America, Alcida Rita Ramos
  • Contributors
  • Index

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This volume examines the cross-currents of change that lie behind the growing indigenous activism in Latin America. Conventional portrayals often stereotype indigenous groups as either victims or survivors of state violence. This impulse—regularly felt and acted upon by well-meaning supporters, anthropologists, human rights groups, and indigenous activists themselves—is understandable, given the chronic violence and political instability that have plagued Latin America over the last fifty years. Political scientist Crawford Young (1976, 1993) exemplified the victim/survivor view when he initially concluded that Latin American indigenous people had suffered from such severe fragmentation and economic and cultural deprivation that they would be unable to mobilize nationalist movements as have ethnic minorities in other parts of the world. Other authors, despite their investigations into indigenous resistance and rebellion in the past, nonetheless predicted a future of inevitable disintegration and assimilation (e.g., Kicza 1993).

As Alcida Ramos, Victor Montejo, and Kay Warren argue in this volume, many social scientists, in fact, missed the dramatic shifts in activism that began in the 1960s and 1970s. Those decades marked an early wave of transnational organizing as indigenous groups used international forums, human rights law, and international conventions to press for their goals. Many groups were involved in complex projects of self-affirmation, organizing to build their own constituencies and influence wider politics. They were actively confronting the issue of fragmentation by arguing that culture is an important resource and making a wide variety of demands to overcome political marginalization and poverty (Bonfil Batalla 1982; Van Cott 1994a, 2000). In the process, indigenous groups generated bilingual spokespeople and in some cases consolidated new elites. To neglect the diverse early movements in which indigenous communities were involved is to miss important transformations in Latin American political life.

More recently, the mass media—newspapers, television, documentaries, and the internet—have contributed to a growing public awareness of indigenous activism. Readers have been exposed to mesmerizing photos of indigenous representatives at international environmental meetings, like the 1992 United Nations-sponsored environmental summit held in Rio de Janeiro, but hear little of their activism outside public conferences or the substance of what they have to say. Coverage has chronicled Mayan involvements in Guatemala's war and peace process, focusing on the excavation of clandestine cemeteries that bear witness to the violence directed at rural families. Yet the images have been fleeting. Just as quickly, the attention skips to indigenous vigilante attacks on their neighbors who support the Zapatista rebels in Mexico and the betrayal of indigenous activists in Ecuador's 2000 coup, only to return to Guatemala with the exposé of the Central Intelligence Agency's involvement in the military's human rights abuses during their civil war. With the announcement in 2000 of a plan to pump over a billion dollars of U.S. foreign aid into Colombia, earlier stories of the government's ceding of regional autonomy to indigenous groups have been displaced by coverage of the drug war, rightist paramilitaries, and the mounting territorial power of leftist insurgents. In March 2001 photos appeared of the familiar masked face of subcomandante Marcos, who toured the countryside by bus with other Zapatista leaders to catalyze public support en route to Mexico City, where they pressured the new government of President Vicente Fox to halt repression and negotiate zones of indigenous self-government.

Although internet coverage by specialized newsgroups offers fuller details for regional experts and human rights fundraisers, few journalists have the mandate from their editors to produce sustained analysis of social movements that bridges the moments of intense media attention (see Allen and Seaton 1999). Rarely does coverage probe the ways indigenous groups use the media with increasing expertise to celebrate their culture across communities and to present their case for self-determination to the court of public opinion. To fill the void and communicate their own views, indigenous groups now fund-raise, circulate newsletters, and organize international conferences via the internet. Not surprisingly, there remains a striking digital divide between groups that have the resources to mobilize in these ways and others who find that getting together for pan-community meetings is a major challenge, given the lack of basic telephone service and the prolonged river travel required in many tropical forest regions.

Indigenous Critics and the Dilemmas of Engaged Anthropology

The challenge for the anthropology of social movements is to document indigenous activism more fully than other observers can. From the outset such a project poses important analytical and ethical dilemmas, among them the politics of anthropological field research and the dilemmas of representing the cultural continuity that indigenous movements assert in the face of so much evidence to the contrary.

Indigenous intellectuals, based in their own countries and occasionally working in the United States as academics, have become vocal critics and transnational colleagues. They represent a wider group of men and women who have gained entrance into national universities and the professions in growing numbers since the 1970s. These observers provide sophisticated analyses of the foreign presence and the effects of economic development in Latin America, concerns they actively voice to wider audiences (Palomino Flores 1986; Raxché 1989, 1995; Sam Colop 1990, 1991; Montejo and Akab' 1992; Cojtí Cuxil 1994, 1997; Krenak 1996; Vasco 1997; Montejo 1999; Zapeta 1999). In some cases, these intellectuals have created their own research centers, publishing houses, and transnational networks. They are activists as well as scholars.

On many fronts, activist-intellectuals are criticizing foreign research practices which for the last eighty years have used passive "native" informants as sources of data for foreign scholars' analyses, frequently destined for what are perceived as esoteric debates in the foreign academy (Montejo and Akab' 1992; Montejo 1993; Warren 1998). They are certainly correct that only a tiny percentage of research is translated and repatriated to the communities that serve as the "objects" and "subjects" of anthropological investigation. Although there are wonderful exceptions, few foreign investigators spend substantial amounts of time working with indigenous researchers and students, enabling them to gain access to the analytical skills routinely taught at national and foreign universities (for example, OKMA 1993). Still fewer foreigners coordinate their projects with the agendas set by indigenous groups. For all researchers, work on indigenous movements increasingly involves submitting one's own fieldwork and writings to critical scrutiny from the people being studied.

The politicization of research has resulted in many awkward moments as foreign scholars have found their findings and motives being questioned in public forums in Latin America and the United States (Sam Colop 1991). Yet, as the moral contract for research has been rewritten, the possibilities for collaboration with new generations of indigenous activists have opened up (Campbell et al. 1993; Fischer and Brown 1996; Instituto de Lingüística 1997).

The scholars in this volume have pursued different modes of engagement in part due to their contrasting subject positions as insiders or outsiders, indigenous or not, and as fellow citizens with indigenous nationals or not. We have varied our involvements, depending on the issues faced by the individuals with whom we work, and have made distinctive personal choices at different times in our lives. Many of us have found ways to combine our scholarly writing with other kinds of activism. As is evident from a brief accounting of the activities of the contributors to this volume, there are diverse possibilities for engagement.

Colombia—a weak state aptly termed a "façade democracy," which has been plagued by internal violence, the drug trade, and ecological destruction—legislated a new constitution in 1991 that assigns self-administration to the diverse indigenous groups which inhabit their traditional territories (known as resguardos). In aggregate, they make up approximately 1.6 percent of the national population. Joanne Rappaport, an anthropologist and professor at Georgetown University who has worked in the country since 1973, has followed the complicated implications of constitutional reforms in practice (Rappaport 1996) and continues to work closely with local and national public intellectuals. She served as a Fulbright scholar in Colombia in 1999, holding university seminars with Nasa (Páez) and Guambiano students who represent the next generation of indigenous intellectuals. Both she and David Gow, who works as a professor at the Elliot School of International Affairs and focuses his research on community development, have been involved in Colombian earthquake relief and rebuilding efforts. They have been active in stateside endeavors to expose human right abuses and change U.S. foreign policy in Colombia.

Jean Jackson, a professor of anthropology at MIT, has worked in Colombia since 1968, initially among Tukanoans in the Vaupés region. More recently she has looked at the articulation between local organizing efforts and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC). Some of her translated writing has been used by regional indigenous groups in workshops on organizing. She has also participated in efforts to organize opposition to U.S. policy favoring a military solution to ending guerrilla narcotrafficking in Colombia's protracted civil war and to inform concerned citizens about the indigenous communities caught in the crossfire.

For the contributors who work with Guatemala's Mayan majority, the 1978-1985 counterinsurgency war and subsequent indigenous resurgence through the Pan-Mayan movement have been watersheds for engaged research. Anthropologist Victor Montejo, a Jacaltec-Maya who was forced to flee Guatemala during the war, has pursued a binational activist career. He currently works in Guatemala on democratic reforms and the promotion of indigenous leadership, writes on Mayan culture and politics for the Guatemalan press, publishes his work in Jacaltec, Spanish, and English, and teaches at the University of California at Davis as a professor of Native American Studies. Over the last thirty years, he has written widely on Mayan experiences of state violence and exile (Montejo and Akab' 1992; Montejo 1993, 1999).

Kay Warren, a professor of anthropology at Harvard, has worked closely with rural and urban Mayan intellectuals in Guatemala since 1970 and collaborated on conferences and publications for Mayan forums throughout the 1990s. She developed a field methodology that involves ongoing Mayan critique of her research findings as a central aspect of ethnographic research and writing before publication. The Mayan press Editorial Cholsamaj is publishing a Spanish translation of her recent book on the Pan-Mayan movement (1998) which will incorporate commentaries written by young Mayan and non-Mayan scholars on their readings of the work.

To work as an anthropologist in Brazil has long meant to be directly engaged in the human rights struggles allied with dispersed indigenous groups that make up 0.2 percent of the national population and have been subject to forced and sometimes violent displacement from their territories by national "development" efforts. Alcida Ramos, a Brazilian anthropologist and professor at the University of Brasília, has worked for decades with Yanomami communities. Through newspaper articles and academic writings (1998), she has established herself as a public critic of government policy and the violence against indigenous communities.

Terence Turner, a professor of anthropology at Cornell, is famed for the Kayapó media project that he began in 1990. Taking advantage of Turner's technical training in video production, the Kayapó have learned to videotape and edit documentaries for their own purposes. Their videographers have recorded cultural performances for their communities' enjoyment and deployed video cameras—where they knew they would be filmed by the international press—in demonstrations against the government's expansion of hydroelectric dams to their region (Turner 1992).

Laura Graham, an anthropological linguist at the University of Iowa who has worked in Brazil since 1981, has directed the Xavante Education Fund, which provides funds for higher education. She has also worked as a consultant on wildlife management for the World Wildlife Fund and on health and education projects for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Graham also participated in organizing opposition to a development project on the Araguaia-Tocantins River.

Through the experiences of these anthropologists, one can trace the changing tenor of indigenous advocacy in Latin America, from an earlier paradigm where activism meant self-appointed foreigners speaking on behalf of groups, to the repositioning occasioned by the growing recognition that many groups have generated their own spokespeople and agendas for engaging the state and international nongovernment organizations (NGOs). There are still situations where the old-style advocacy is important, especially in the case of isolated groups—such as the Brazilian and Venezuelan Yanomami, the Brazilian Waiãpi, and the Ecuadorian Huaorani—which face genocidal incursions by gold and oil prospectors, massive land clearing by nonindigenous peasants, and other development efforts.6 But one sees an ever-growing range of groups who represent themselves and tactically choose their own collaborators in public arenas, political forums, and state bureaucracies.

The authors in this collection deal with the analytical and ethical dilemma of revealing the inventive character of identity in different ways because the circumstances of ethnic formations and cultural practices they study are so varied. The essays are designed to illustrate important dimensions of activism in Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil and to raise questions for other parts of Latin America. Indigenous groups in these countries share a longer history of organizing; hence the movements are relatively mature when compared to those of Venezuela, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. We chose these countries because they reveal a variety of state responses to multiculturalism and illustrate a range of demographic situations, cultural practices, political tactics, and involvements with movements on the left. They also demonstrate the recurrent tensions that arise from the distinctive political struggles pursued by national and local leaders with their different constituencies and contrasting agendas.

A little more than a decade ago, Greg Urban and Joel Sherzer edited the first volume on indigenous movements and the state in Latin America (1991). A considerable body of literature on new social movements, including Latin American indigenous movements, has appeared in the interim, providing us with the opportunity to pursue the politics of these movements' self-representation. In this volume, we have focused our efforts to produce two essays on each of a narrower field of countries to provide a fuller portrayal of their cultural politics and to illustrate how different framings of the issues reveal distinctive aspects of the interface between national and local politics. The introductory and final essays offer historical and comparative observations on indigenous organizing in a variety of countries.

Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil experienced the democratic opening that occurred in Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s. Indigenous movements in these countries have made the claims that Donna Lee Van Cott considers to be characteristic of indigenous mobilizing in general: self-determination and autonomy, with an emphasis on cultural distinctiveness; political reforms that involve a restructuring of the state; territorial rights and access to natural resources, including control over economic development; and reforms of military and police powers over indigenous peoples (1994a: 12).

Emerging activism has begun to undermine the earlier overly sharp contrast that anthropologists made between highland and lowland groups—the former being shaped by their intimate contact with the colonial process and forced submission to colonial labor policies and institutions over time, and the latter (for those who were not annihilated) maintaining a tenuous independence of state politics and a modified version of their precontact culture due to their dispersed isolation and techno-economies that did not produce surpluses that states could tap. The twenty-first century is marked by the political self-consciousness of highland and lowland groups and the ways they have organized to intervene in policies that affect them. This period of neoliberal integration, we hope, represents the final blow to persistent neo-evolutionary contrasts that have treated some indigenous groups as if they were passive survivors of another age, existing outside historical time and agency (Wolf 1982; Urban and Sherzer 1991).

Finding new colleagues and new ways of positioning themselves in wider fields of engaged research has made anthropologists more aware of the implications of their research for broader audiences. In this situation, another dilemma faced by anthropologists working on indigenous movements is that our methods are to a certain extent "deconstructive"—albeit in a social scientific sense. Ethnographic studies demonstrate that identities which appear enduring often have a more recent genesis than many would expect and that collective advocacy for self-determination often involves tenuous coalitions and complex groupings. As anthropologists, we seek to do justice to the intricate social fields of people's lived experience. In this instance, we seek to show how complex the on-the-ground situation is for communities organizing for their local needs and wider goals. Researchers examine crosscutting identities—among them gender, class, religion, language, place, and political affiliation—to demonstrate the richness of social life and to show how partial ethnic (or any other) claims are, given that other identifications routinely make counterclaims on people's interests and loyalties.

Anthropologists have struggled to represent the strategic essentialism of indigenous leaders who are busy creating the possibility of unification across historical cleavages and linguistic, cultural, and economic differences. "Essentialism" refers to discourses of enduring commonalties—common ethnic roots and historical pasts, cultural essences, and experiences that are seen as naturally binding people together. Essences can be defined in terms of a transcendent spirituality, ties to place, common descent, physical differences, cultural practices, shared language, and common histories of suffering. Discourses of racial difference and inferiority are another form of essentialism, and their virulence in Latin America reminds us that essentialism can be coercively imposed by the state as well as deployed by indigenous groups as a form of resistance to demeaning political imaginaries and policies.

A recent essentialist tactic has involved the borrowing of anthropological terminology, particularly the "culture" concept. It is not uncommon to see indigenous groups forging their sense of identity around the organizing idea of a coherent and bounded common culture. In many countries, indigenous communities must legally establish their legitimacy through the rhetoric of cultural continuity in order to gain official recognition, protection, and access to resources including their lands. Ironically, the notion of uniformly shared culture rooted in a particular place has been abandoned by the discipline of anthropology. Instead, anthropologists favor studies that engage multiple interacting identities, globalized flows of culture and people, and conflicting views and subject positions in contemporary society (Clifford 1988; Rosaldo 1989; Fox 1991; Gupta and Ferguson 1992; Appadurai 1996; Kearney 1996).

Yet critics of indigenous movements who question their legitimacy by pointing to signs of cultural hybridity often miss the point, because groups inevitably mix strategic essentialism with other lines of argument to legitimize their existence (Guha and Spivak 1988; Gupta 1998; Warren 1998; Fischer 1999). For anthropologists, the issue is not proving or disproving a particular essentialized view of culture but rather examining the ways essences are constructed in practice and disputed in political rhetoric. As activists have pointed out, there is an inherent polyvalence and ongoing selectivity in the markers of identity that indigenous groups single out for themselves. For instance, a woman's hand-woven blouse in Guatemala incorporates emblems of ancient Mayan cosmology and markers of her place in a woman's life cycle. It also signals the community from which the woman hails. During the counterinsurgency war, however, politicized women used Mayan dress rather than Western tops and skirts to reaffirm their cultural existence and thus to communicate their resistance to genocidal violence. Currently, upscale professional women amass collections of beautifully crafted woven blouses from different Mayan communities to mark their class mobility, visually illustrating the continual refashioning of indigenous self-presentation and their transcendence of place in the rural landscape (Urban and Sherzer 1991; Hendrickson 1995; Otzoy 1996). Graham (in this volume) refers to such deliberate appropriation of a symbol to build on its meaning as "second-order indexicality."

The politics of interethnic inclusion and exclusion is striking for its diverse and changeable outcomes. For instance, it is not uncommon to see indigenous "separatists" unexpectedly join mainstream political parties to press for cultural rights or sponsor intercultural curriculum reforms in the public schools (Esquit Choy and Gálvez Borrell 1997). Consequently, it would be a mistake to freeze groups in formulaic sorts of essentialism or activism. Many indigenous groups and development institutions use the rhetoric of "culture," "a culture," "intercultural," and "multicultural," so the issue is to trace the circulation and usage of these terms while not assuming consensus or stability about their meanings and politics.

The issue of "authenticity" is closely related to debates about essentialism. Whether contemporary indigenous culture is authentic has preoccupied many of the critics of these movements. One line of argument points to the evident cultural hybridity of communities since the colonial period, when many were forced to adopt Christianity and other colonial-era practices that local communities reworked and made their own. In the present, the process of cultural synthesis has been intensified once again by the eager consumption of transnational organizing tactics, popular culture, and new technology, alongside reborn indigenous ritual, by some indigenous youth and bicultural leaders. This collage of cultural practices is used by some observers to argue that the emerging indigenous leadership on the national level is illegitimate. Mario Roberto Morales (1998) asserts that indigenous culture has become a commodity promoted by entrepreneurial leaders in Guatemala to take advantage of a historical moment when the tourist industry and international funders are fascinated by the exotic.

One response to critics like Morales is to point out that anthropology, with its current more dynamic notion of culture, sees no absolute standard of authenticity. Rather, our focus is on the authenticators—on the authorities in indigenous communities and the experts beyond who determine what is deemed authentic at any one time. That authorities have changed from the days of community governance by tribal leaders or ritual elders to new kinds of leaders in local and national affairs is a crucial part of this history. For instance, in an attempt to create authentic modernized forms of their languages in Guatemala and Mexico, indigenous linguists (often with advanced training and university degrees in linguistics) are creating neologisms for modern technology and constitutional politics and are working to purge indigenous languages of loanwords from Spanish. Whether local communities will incorporate these changes into everyday speech, as their advocates hope, is an open question and the subject of ongoing research. Our analytic strategy would focus on the production and consumption of authenticity rather than on the elaboration of criteria for an objective standard (see Jackson 1989, 1995). To these concerns, we would add the intense cultural debates between indigenous movements and their national societies over the commodification of their culture in tourism and national folklore exhibition and performance. At issue are the immense profits generated by these businesses for urban entrepreneurs that rarely trickle down to benefit the local communities which serve as the source of the cultural forms.

It would seem that anthropological analysis both supports indigenous movements' claims of discrimination and complicates the central goal of many movements to achieve recognition through the unproblematic cultural continuity of current practices. The focus on official recognition by many movements is the result of the legal leverage that the 1989 International Labor Organization's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169 and other international legal agreements have given to indigenous groups, a strategy that has been widely disseminated in regional indigenous meetings throughout the Americas. This is one of several ways in which indigenous activism has reached out globally to challenge the coercive power of the state. For groups that have faced extreme pressures to assimilate national urban culture, one important rhetorical move centers on "renewal"—that is, on the assertion of a common past which has been suppressed and fragmented by European colonialism and the emergence of modern liberal states. In this view, cultural revitalization reunites the past with the present as a political force.

In these circumstances, the anthropology of indigenous organizing becomes the study of the choices that people in different settings make in the ongoing process of their own identity formation. Clearly these are not unencumbered choices; rather they are contingent on wider political and economic pressures as well as on local history. Communities with indigenous roots find themselves in very different demographic situations. In some countries, such as Brazil and Venezuela, they are dispersed micro-minorities with divergent pasts, social organizations, languages, and beliefs. In other cases, such as Guatemala, Bolivia, and Ecuador, they form a substantial proportion of the national population, arguably the majority, and some populations are in a position to argue for a common history, cosmology, and genealogy of languages. As is clear from these essays, there are many models for self-identification and unity. Cultural and linguistic diversity as a strength and a source of common interests is advanced in many ways—from the common goal of challenging histories of marginalization to the idea of biodiversity.

From the onset, then, certain presuppositions should be clear across the case studies offered in this volume. First, the "indigenous" in our title is itself, of course, a historical product of European colonialism that masks enormous variations in history, culture, community, and relations with those who are considered nonindigenous. As a result of this diversity, we can expect that the peoples identifying themselves as indigenous will pursue a variety of struggles and accommodations in different parts of the Americas. Even when activism is phrased in terms of being a people (as opposed to class, religion, or political affiliation), the definition of belonging—the terms of inclusion and exclusion developed by these communities in their practice of self-identification—is variable and often situational.

Second, "movements" rarely emerge in the singular and most often come in the highly contested plural. Rarely are indigenous movements as standardized in vision or coherent in organization as their supporters suggest. Their heterogeneity may be an asset in some situations and a liability in others. Some are community or regionally based, while others—fluent in the transnational language of cultural rights—still manage to maintain local, often weaker, ties. Some are long-standing; others ephemeral. Some movements incorporate class politics; others resist this framing. Such movements defy political scientists' attempts to categorize them in neat typologies, such as "resource focused" or "culturally focused" (McAdam et al. 1996), because they clearly do both and because culture itself is an important internal resource—one, in many instances, relevant for attracting international funding at this historical moment (Melucci 1989; Alvarez et al. 1998; Warren 1998).

Many situations depicted in this volume involve the interplay of local leaders and their communities with pan-community activists who operate primarily in national affairs. To the extent that these movements have been generated across the post-Cold War political transition, some activists may have long histories of Marxist organizing or histories of seeking a third way outside the grammar of insurgent-counterinsurgency politics. The Cold War is an important backdrop for understanding national politics, but it is insufficient to explain the development and current dilemmas of indigenous organizing.

Third, "self-representation" is double sided. Analysts need to examine the ways communities represent social life and the media, politics, and hermeneutics of self-knowledge which they create for their own consumption and for negotiations with regional and transnational others. Yet the alternative significance of representation is relevant as well—that is, the dynamic question of who represents whom, who collaborates with whom, and how this dimension of representation is debated in ongoing politics.

In this moment of transnationalism, the state remains a crucial focus of indigenous activism because state politics continues to mediate the impact of global political and economic change on local communities. Despite economic globalization, it does not make sense to dismiss the state as irrelevant. Given the way states continue to repress indigenous communities, such generalizations fail to capture the crosscurrents of change in late capitalism. Each case study in this volume questions monolithic images of the state by revealing the inner workings and discursive practices of its heterogeneous institutions. The national state has not withered in the face of economic neoliberalism, multistate trading blocs such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and suprastate structures such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Community, or multinational corporations. The continuing importance of "national security" concerns to Latin American states, even in the face of multistate economic blocs such as NAFTA, belies the assumption that states with weakened sovereignty will weakly react to internal challenges to their hegemony. Yet it is vital to be aware of the concessions that states are making to international commerce in order to stay in business and important to question the models of decentralized federalism that Latin American states are promulgating in response to cost-cutting measures mandated by foreign lenders such as the IMF. Indigenous struggles for greater autonomy are enacted within the pressured context of global capitalism, which makes the nexus of state and transnational affairs an important backdrop to the histories of activism in this volume.

Global Transformations and Indigenous Organizing

Ever since the conquest, indigenous communities in Latin America have been contesting the dominant ideology of the sixteenth-century European colonizers and the institutionalized exploitation and oppression it legitimized. As leftist and labor movements suffered continuing repression during the 1970s and 1980s, however, mobilizing switched to the new discourses of collective rights and cultural diversity. Working with International Labor Organization (ILO) and United Nations templates for indigenous rights, indigenous movements strove to create political space for groups to make claims on the basis of being a distinct "people" rather than as an ethnic group or minority. In sixteen Latin American countries, constitutional reforms have challenged the dominant imaginary of the nation by redefining the legal status of indigenous communities and transforming the meanings of citizenship. While territorial rights continue to be a focus of struggle, activists speak of other, newly formulated demands, such as the right to use their own languages in public affairs, to read about their own cultures and histories in schools and the media, and to have decision-making powers over how they are to be represented. Activists have sought new opportunities, as distinct peoples rather than as marginalized minorities, to confront institutionalized discrimination and prejudice.

The pan-American discourses that emerged to celebrate indigenous otherness often stress a nonmaterialist and spiritual relation to the land, consensual decision-making, a holistic environmentalist perspective, and a reestablishment of harmony in the social and physical worlds. Implicit in these values is a critique of occidental forms of authority, desires to control and commodify nature, and the sovereign nation-state model with its accompanying power to define democracy, citizenship, penal codes, jurisdiction, and legitimate violence (see Assies 2000: 3-22; Van Cott 2000). The new indigenous rhetoric engages the "modern" state in terms of its political, legal, and moral dimensions, with the terms of engagement in constant revision due to the embryonic nature of indigenous discourses of "difference" and the racist discrimination that is still hegemonic in many quarters (see Wade 1997). Although the symbolic reach of these movements has often exceeded their policy impact, activists and their allies have contributed in significant ways to discussions of how the state itself needed to be restructured. In cases such as Colombia and Mexico, where questions about government legitimacy have fueled calls for democratic reform, observers have advanced the truly remarkable argument that indigenous people's highly participatory norms for decision-making have the potential to help achieve democratization throughout the country (Van Cott 2000; Nash 2001).

How these struggles play out varies from country to country. The history and successes of indigenous movements have varied. For example, in Mexico the San Andrés peace accords did not produce the constitutional reforms that might have emerged, but it is significant that claims pertaining to many cultural and political domains in addition to land titles were negotiated, as was the case for the Guatemalan peace accords (Programa de Desarrollo de los Pueblos Mayas 1995; Cojtí Cuxil 1996b; Warren 1998; Plant 1999). A surprising success story is Venezuela's new constitution, legislated after lengthy battles, which provides consociational participation of indigenous groups at the federal level.

This volume argues in support of juxtaposing rich ethnographic case studies to promote contrasts and comparisons across political systems. We are particularly interested in the tensions of multiculturalism and democracy in the post-Cold War era. The goal is to highlight diverse responses to current global transformations in economics, politics, and communications while not marginalizing the locally practiced social forms and meanings that mediate the impact of these transformations on community life. The local and global have complex relations, given that communities continually incorporate and rework global forms. The ethnographic project is to specify how this cultural reweaving occurs in particular circumstances and the consequences of these cultural dynamics for local power structures, divisions of labor, and engagements with the wider world. The synthetic reworking of wider influences by communities is reflected in patterns of intergroup cooperation and conflict, histories of colonial intrusion, and waves of globalization.

The case studies in this volume trace the ways in which indigenous activism responds to (1) global pressures of economic integration, (2) liberal democratic reforms generated by the international community's focus on rights, (3) state politics in response to the continued erosion of national sovereignty, and (4) diverse locally generated issues and social formations. Key questions emerge in these essays: To what extent is the turn to new forms of activism due to the increasing gap between the rich and poor and the erosion of land bases as national governments have been pressured by international lenders to cut governmental services and subsidies and promote free market economies? How do activists react to political pressures from the United Nations to promote liberal democracy and to extend political and civil rights to individual citizens?

Global economic integration has brought with it yet another wave of free market social ideology that foregrounds the individual as the economic agent, bearer of rights and obligations, and owner of property, while in many cases indigenous groups are arguing in favor of collective rights and communal forms of cultural expression and control over resources. As one would expect, what stands as communal and how the micropolitics of authority over resources play out within communities are extraordinarily variable. The slippage between "the individual" in liberal democratic discourse and "the communal" in indigenous claims is negotiated by some groups in a way that asserts the incommensurability of their own and the wider cultural systems (see Gow and Rappaport, this volume).

There may be no compelling reason for groups to translate their cosmologies or social practices into the Westernized language of the mainstream, though many groups routinely prepare bilingual representatives to mediate wider politics and represent the groups in national and international forums. As in the case of the Kayapó of Brazil, their common goal is greater territorial autonomy and self-administration, which states resist because these demands directly challenge state authority and the state-centric grammar of contemporary politics (McClure 1997). State sovereignty has also been eroded by the communications revolution, which has created new international opportunities such as the development of transnational electronic networks of indigenous activists who share strategies and agendas across borders and their international allies, among them NGOs, which make other resources and kinds of leverage available (see Nelson 1999: 245-282).

How indigenous leaders represent themselves and how audiences react to their presentations in national forums reveal the complicated layering of meaning and politics in intercultural communication, especially when the cultural systems are incommensurate. Laura Graham's essay deals with the double binds faced by indigenous leaders as they deploy cultural signs in national forums in Brazil and Venezuela. If indigenous leaders choose to speak in the national language in these settings, they are open to accusations of inauthenticity, of being puppets of nonindigenous activists. However, if they speak in their own language, given the incommensurability of cultures, many such signs will be untranslatable. Indigenous translators routinely erase the ways Xavante speech patterns represent a radically non-Western vision of social and political realties, anticipating that the audience will not understand them. Her analysis offers a framework for understanding the linguistic dilemmas of speaking and being heard in situations where the performance of a radical non-Western vision is required if the speaker is to be granted the authority to represent an indigenous community's position. Graham's chapter and Turner's chapter on the Kayapó ritual of reconciliation demonstrate how every speech act sends nonreferential, social information, even when no referential information is received by some of the audience.

Graham's essay also explores the advisability of an indigenous self-representation strategy that employs an ecologically informed lexicon utilizing Western concepts like biodiversity, so that basic goals such as recuperation of land or funding for locally initiated development projects can appeal rather than repel, as her example of Xavante requests for tractors illustrates. It is as much a reflection on their audience as on the values of the speakers that many indigenous organizations campaigning for land rights in lowland South America argue from an environmentalist perspective.

Other indigenous groups have chosen to translate their efforts directly into the language of state politics in order to press for the reform of state institutions such as the school system and the courts. The recent focus of activism on constitutional reforms in many Latin American countries raises the issue of the impact of state discipline on distinctive cultural systems. Indeed, there is often no neat way in which the terminologies and norms of Western legal systems and the conventions and values central to indigenous practices can be mapped onto each other. "Customary law" and "indigenous language" educational programs are constructions subject to political maneuver in a complex field of social relations (Gustafson 2001).

States' recognition of customary law or implementation of educational programs in local languages can bring a cascade of other changes—including moves to standardize community practices and decentralize decision-making—which have wide ramifications for communities that have long been marginalized. Anthropologists face important choices in how they interpret the actions of international funders, states, and indigenous leaders when they involve creating standardized representations of heterogeneous local practices (Sánchez 1992; Sieder 1997). Formalizing the power of customary law and standardizing spoken language for textbooks can be seen as a grassroots triumph in the struggle to create a multicultural state or, alternatively, as a hierarchical process of forcing diverse local communities into alignment through the discipline of state power. Clearly this situation complicates the distinction of working within or outside the system, because multiple "systems" are at play, as is evident in many of this volume's case studies. The trick for anthropological analysis is to find a way of mirroring the process we are attempting to study—to pursue multiple lines of interpretation to see if they yield insights into the highly situational and dynamic process of indigenous organizing, rather than to prematurely classify the outcome of these changes as either one of structural autonomy or one of subordination to the dictates of the wider system (Centro de Estudios de la Cultura Maya 1994; Esquit Choy and Ochoa García 1995; Esquit and García 1998).

Gow and Rappaport's essay illustrates the multiple systems in which indigenous leaders participate and the ways in which knowledge and thought are appropriated from the wider society and hybridized to create new categories of indigenous identity and thought. Their materials illustrate in rich detail how indigenous movements are changing in response to a new generation of bilingual leaders, some with university educations. They argue that characterizations of indigenous representatives as members of bounded ethnic groups who interact with peers from other groups or with state representatives need to be expanded to include what they term a pan-community "inside." Following Paul Gilroy (1987), this sphere of operation is tangibly experienced by the actors themselves, who now define themselves collectively as native Colombians—an identity distinct from their identification with specific indigenous communities. Such a process, like the united voice which indigenous citizens of a nation-state hope to achieve through pan-indigenous organizing in Guatemala, Mexico, and Brazil, emerges out of lengthy and oftentimes unresolved conflicts inside this "inside."

The indigenous leaders in Gow and Rappaport's examples attempt to decolonize knowledge by creating novel hybrid categories of thought and, in so doing, to decolonize representation itself, taking it out of the hands of nonindigenous scholars and those indigenous players who go along with such scholars' characterizations. This contrasts with the leaders at the national level that Jackson discusses, who for the most part rely on Western discourse. In both situations, political discourses from the dominant society continue to intrude in the Realpolitik of collective decision-making, however, because so many interested parties with complex and varied agendas participate. The theme of the "conflicts inside this inside" created through the process of indigenous groups who are redefining themselves as they seek to contest the power of the wider society and to heighten their own spheres of autonomy resonates throughout the volume. Central to the chapters by Montejo, Warren, and Turner are discussions of the contested positionings of groups within the various organizations involved in indigenous political decision-making.

Victor Montejo's essay builds on the themes of pan-community identity and on the conflicts that indigenous leaders like himself must face within the movement for self-reaffirmation. He compares the two prevailing forms of Mayan leadership following the signing of the Guatemalan peace accords and provides, in addition to a scholarly analysis, political recommendations for his own people. Analytically, he points out the different histories, positions, and strengths of the two main strands in the Mayan movement, the leftist populares and the culturally based mayanistas. Because he is a Maya from the community of Jacaltenango who writes in his own community language as well as in Spanish and English, his work is further anchored in the specificity of his natal language and home community. His goal is to craft the strongest possible Mayan political front, to allow all of Guatemala's indigenous people to speak with as powerful a voice as possible. Although the Maya represent a majority in the country, a great deal of both the formal governmental machinery and the informal, backroom deal-making sector remains in the hands of a small minority of privileged nonindigenous (Ladino) politicians. Montejo offers advice about the most effective ways to incorporate the Mayan worldview into leaders' political strategizing, in order to empower the leaders and promote a strong foundation for the nationwide Mayan identity that must emerge.

Central to the analytic genre that Montejo creates for the message of Mayanness is his decision to depart from standard scholarly convention and stress his own unique perspective and spirituality as a Jacaltec-Maya. This perspective exemplifies what Lila Abu-Lughod (1986) has termed the status of being a "halfie," with a subjectivity that is both "native" and "anthropologist." In this case, Montejo is a "halfie" in two senses: as an anthropologist and a Mayan intellectual; and, "inside the inside," as a Jacaltec, a speaker of a minority Mayan language, and a Maya in the transcendent sense he works to establish on a national scale. Montejo employs this multiple vision in a dynamic fashion, shifting, combining, or, temporarily, completely embracing one of his subjectivities. As he says, by being an insider he can envision several ways to contribute to forging a unifying self-representation of the Mayan people that draws on the complex linguistic diversity and adequately encompasses the wide variety of Mayas found in the country today.

In practice, Latin American states have supported constitutional and judicial reform efforts that give indigenous communities the conditional right to settle their own internal affairs, so long as the basic law of the land is not violated. As is evident, anthropologists have important choices in how they interpret these changes. On the one hand, we can emphasize the ways in which the application of customary law in criminal cases and internal governance gives real substance to the official recognition of indigenous groups and how this conceptualization carries with it implicit if not explicit notions of dignity and parity with other sectors. The manner in which customary law plays out in the wider judicial system is one domain in which self-representation in both senses of the term makes a difference, for on it rest the quality and extent of state recognition, valorization, and protection of cultural distinctiveness. Success here provides a form of insurance that a community's other demands (for example, to control its own natural resources) will be taken seriously (see Van Cott 2000).

On the other hand, localized power to adjudicate disputes between indigenous parties has appeared at various times in Latin American history from the colonial period to the present. When disputes have involved indigenous and nonindigenous parties, however, the national legal system has almost inevitably taken precedence, revealing the basic hierarchy rather than parity of the legal systems. Guatemalan indigenous activists in the 1970s rejected older forms of legal and religious separatism in closed corporate communities as fostering their own subordination rather than giving them greater autonomy (Warren 1978, 1998). For them, the issue was challenging wider structural hierarchies in an interethnic world, including a court system that was subject to political manipulation by the dominant ethnic group. Nevertheless, since 1990 the activists operating at the national level have promoted customary law in national affairs to create a sphere of administrative autonomy which mirrors, if only in miniature, the dream of a federalist political system with regional autonomy for indigenous communities. Given an electoral system which has largely been unresponsive to indigenous concerns, tactics for organizing are fluid and heterogeneous, pressing for wider change in interethnic affairs and seeking realms for wider self-administration at the same time.

By contrast, in Colombia the establishment of a Constitutional Court that privileges the exercise of customary law whenever possible has resulted in jurisdiction and accumulated case law on indigenous rights far more extensive than elsewhere in Latin America. The formal support of local juridical systems seeks to reduce case backlogs, eliminate extrainstitutional conflict resolution and violence, and formally recognize the legitimacy and effectiveness of local institutions that are often perceived as more legitimate than state courts (Van Cott 2000: 74, 112, 113-116). This case raises important issues for the rest of Latin America, where the courts are often corrupt and unable to act independently to carry out the rule of law in rural affairs, whether it be in land disputes, theft, or interpersonal violence. These conflicts frequently soar after civil wars, when the demobilization of guerrillas, soldiers, and police is accompanied by rising rates of organized criminal violence in the wider society.

In many countries, debates about the recognition of customary law have opened up spaces for indigenous citizens to rethink the state in its entirety and to contest the parameters of all political institutions. If a nation's citizens are so diverse, what does citizenship consist of? What other demands can indigenous groups advance in these newly created domains of participation? In this sense we can say that the notion of "identity politics" must include the identity of the state as well, and needs to be seen as a far-reaching element of Latin America's democratic transition.

Note, however, that the interface between local decision-making and state law is extremely unstable, in part because both sides are continually constructing and negotiating spheres of authority. Attempts by the state explicitly to recognize and explain the nature of customary law illustrate the dangers of over-codification and decontextualization (see Assies 2000: 19). Conversely, the risk that indigenous communities run when trying to articulate their rights derives from an underlying worry that in so doing they concede some of their autonomy to outside authorities.

In many realms, governments have complicated stakes in "representing" indigenous communities to their constituents and to international markets. Governmental policy and media representations are often complex and ambivalent, partaking of the attractively different (mysterious, alluring, exotic) and the repulsively different (dirty, stupid, lazy) virtually at the same time. Images often slip easily between idealized and deprecating judgments. The ambivalence of national authorities is evident in the theatrical celebration of the indigenous past in high nationalist ritual and the tourist industry yet the failure to see contemporary communities as modern protagonists and citizens. When indigenous groups break the mold of these conventional representations—by joining the market economy and, for example, building a casino with hundreds of hotel rooms—they are often seen as illegitimately discarding their indigenousness and hence are no longer entitled to occupy the "savage slot" that the nonindigenous "mainstream" has created for them (see Trouillot 1991).

This ambivalence has powerful implications for national responses to activism and for the political imaginaries that nonindigenous groups evoke to justify their preference for monocultural government policies. In Guatemala, the military and Ladino elites have a long history of tactically deploying images of "the rebellious Indian" who may at any moment rise up against Ladinos (the country's term for non-Indians) and whites (Montejo 1987; Smith 1990; Sam Colop 1991; Hale 1996; Warren 1998). These fears have been used to justify preemptive violence and to inflame nonindigenous resistance to reforms that would reconfigure power relations.

In Brazil, government agents' sense of their role is shaped by notions of "the savage innocent" who needs state paternalism because Indians cannot represent themselves to the wider system (Ramos 1998). This imagery reveals much more about nonindigenous identity and the modes of control perpetuated through nationalist culture and state bureaucracies than it does about the capacities of the country's indigenous peoples. Inevitably, this imagery is used by a variety of individuals and institutions to reproduce older patterns of racist discourse that naturalize indigenous inferiority and nonindigenous superiority. Mainstream nationalism is frequently hispanicized in a way that robs indigenous communities of an independent voice in crafting public culture. It is telling that this imagery, with its deep historical roots, has survived the post-Cold War transition to democracy in Latin America.

In turn, indigenous responses are often ambivalent and fluid. Mapuche activists in Chile may brilliantly employ official discourse on democracy and justice while simultaneously making it clear that negotiating in these terms by no means implies acceptance of the discourse (see Briones n.d.). The same could be said of the elder Pan-Mayanist leaders in Guatemala, who formally agree with the "women in development" initiatives promoted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) but, once off stage, openly oppose women's education and involvements outside the home because of the idealized role they construct for women as the promoters of Mayan language and culture across generations. Activists' behavior can elicit impressions of savvy strategizing, innocence, contempt, resistance, complicity, or genuine perplexity that rapidly appear and disappear—all behavior difficult to characterize in categorical terms. Rarely are activists totally opposed (save for rhetorical purposes) or totally coopted.

One way of understanding indigenous movements is to see them as a postnationalist phenomenon (Geertz 2000). Their increasingly public face reveals what nationalist rhetoric has obscured since the nineteenth century in Latin America: that nation and national culture are not coterminous with the state (see Gellner 1983; Hobsbawm 1990; Anderson 1991). Rather, Latin American countries are homes to communities with diverse family forms, religious beliefs, judicial processes, and modes of cultural expression. For every nationalist narrative of mestizaje (the biological and cultural blending of Europeans, indigenous groups, and enslaved Africans over the conquest and colonial period), there are other histories of communities resisting the state-sponsored implementation of such ideologies (Hale 1994; Howe 1998) and histories of indigenous ethnogenesis (Stern 1987; Smith 1990; Mallon 1996; Hill 1997). Our mistake, perhaps, has been to see ethnogenesis as a distant one-time affair rather than—as Mayan cosmology would have it—as the ongoing result of violent disjunctures through which the world is clarified, only to give birth to other moments of rupture (Warren 1998).

Since the end of the Cold War, the "efflorescence" (Hale 1996, 1997) of a politicized indigenous identity has caused anthropologists to move definitively past the community-studies tradition that had guided earlier research toward multisited considerations of social movements, state politics, and globalization. Just as African-American and Latino Studies programs in the United States have generated a reconsideration of white identity, so Indigenous Studies programs are provoking a reconsideration of mestizo identity in Latin America. One interesting trend is the ethnification of identities and literatures that shunned cultural identity in favor of class issues in the past. One can read this post-Marxist project as an attempt to resituate research on inequality after the Cold War and the apparent end of revolutionary socialism as the major opposition to the status quo of continuing inequality.

On the one hand, in Guatemala urban Ladinos in the intelligentsia are beginning to talk about their own ladinidad (Ladino ethnicity), though whether this will become a personally compelling identity movement is not clear. On the other hand, historians and anthropologists are contributing to a reappraisal of bipolar constructions of indigenous vs. nonindigenous identities and of the demonization of Ladinos as anti-indigenous racists (Warren 2002b; see Ramírez n.d. for a Colombian example). At issue for these analysts is the Ladino underclass, whose members are often as exploited and marginalized as impoverished Mayan peasants and wage laborers. Poor Ladinos are further marginalized when analyses of inequality focus on anti-indigenous racism as if Ladinos were a homogeneous block of privileged mestizos. The emerging argument is a fascinating one: that Ladino ethnogenesis has had its own neglected history (Smith 1990) and that the focus on the antagonism between indigenous and Ladino ethnic groups has obscured the reality that poor Ladinos may be of recent indigenous background, a sociological fact that families suppress for a variety of reasons.

Kay B. Warren is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. Jean E. Jackson is Professor of Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"In summary, this is an excellent book that I would highly recommend. It is well written and very thought provoking, and is certainly going on the reading lists for at least two of my courses. Though the focus is on Latin America, I think that this would be an enlightening read for anyone interested in indigenous movements in other parts of the world."
Social Anthropology

"This book fills an important niche. Its focus on movements, the politics of representation, and its anthropological and activist orientation make it unique. Furthermore, it has very timely material and is framed in a manner that fits the reality of globalized indigenous politics in the twenty-first century. I strongly recommend it."
—Lynn Stephen, author of Zapata Lives! Histories and Cultural Politics in Southern Mexico