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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Instituting power : power relations, institutional hybridity, and indigenous self-governance in Bolivia Tockman, Jason


Scholars have long observed that institutions and power relations are cyclically constitutive, as institutions shape a given polity’s power relations, and the latter influence the design of institutions. This dissertation unveils how indigenous agents interact with each other, and with the state’s bureaucrats and consultants to create divergent institutional trajectories in a new institutional environment: the construction of 11 pilot institutions of indigenous self-governance in Bolivia, as provided by the 2009 Constitution. The combinations of institutional forms have most significantly been shaped by local relations of power among differently identifying indigenous agents, and by the state-determined socio-territorial boundaries that are the site of institutional construction. Each new “indigenous autonomy” combines liberal and indigenous norms, constituting a hybrid model of indigenous autonomy. Within that model we can discern a bifurcation in which some institutions are more liberal and others are more communitarian. These observations contribute to our understanding of democracy and citizenship in contemporary Latin America as states respond to popular pressures for more rights and inclusion, in what many have called “left turns.” In terms of democracy, this study illustrates how electoral representation is complemented by communitarian democratic forms in ways that enhance Bolivia’s historically exclusionary democracy, yet how elaboration of communitarian democracy is also constrained by the party-based system of representation. Meanwhile, the Constitution’s expansion of rights has contributed to what some observers have called “post- liberal” citizenship. This investigation indicates that state-society relations in Bolivia are not well-characterized as populist, liberal or corporatist; rather, they are concomitantly plural, cyclical and reactive – which I conceive of as interest intermediation by “contentious bargaining.” The contradictions in the construction of these “indigenous autonomies” are a consequence the changing character of the ruling party. As the Movement toward Socialism and its leader, Evo Morales, have shifted from an oppositional force to elected government, they have contended with a complex correlation of social forces and pursued a development program of resource nationalism that responds to widespread calls for economic growth and poverty reduction. In Bolivia’s contentious context, the state’s disposition with regard to indigenous self- governance has been contradictory, simultaneously enabling and constraining indigenous rights.

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