Liberty Time in Question: Historical Duration and Indigenous Refusal in Post-Revolutionary Bolivia
This talk examines Bolivian state discourses of revolutionary historical transformation and tracks the ways those discourses are appropriated, contested and recast by rural Quechua-speakers in the Ayopaya province. During my fieldwork in Bolivia, Quechua-speaking farmers commonly expressed uncertainty to me about the ordering of time and its entailments for state promises of revolutionary political change on the part of the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) party government. Their anxieties echo Bolivian reformers’ concerns with the duration of colonial history and its shaping of rural land practices and productive relations. Yet, in Ayopaya people invoked historical duration not only to distribute blame for wanting state programs but also to renegotiate and even refuse their interventionist tenets. In particular, Quechua-speaking farmers’ lamented the potential of a return to colonialism to raise alarm about the MAS government’s attempt to impose an unpopular agrarian reform program. By tracing these critical redeployments of progressive history in Bolivia, this talk raises questions about the emergence of new conditions of indigenous refusal in Bolivia while also meditating on the broader potency of time and of temporalizing languages in our political present.
Mareike Winchell is an anthropologist working at the intersection of critical indigenous studies, the anthropology of history, and emergent bureaucratic cultures, particularly with respect to environmental governance. Her current book project, After Servitude: Cartographies of Indigenous Justice in Bolivia, tracks the multiple, incommensurate approaches to Bolivia’s bonded past that emerge through land titling proceedings, in disputes among unionists, political leaders, and mining elites, and in exchange relations among the living kin of former hacienda masters and domestic servants. By attending to the generative interplay of these contrasting approaches to a violent labor past, the book foregrounds the material and relational limits to decolonizing state cartographies and their production of new kinds of anti-state collectivity. In addition, Winchell is currently developing a new archival project, tentatively titled Just Documents: Property, Possession, and the Postcolonial Archive, investigating how former domestic servants sought to recast the often-violent intimacies of agrarian servitude as the grounds for land claims following 1953 hacienda abolition. Winchell’s writing and digital scholarship has appeared in Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Cultural Anthropology, and the Journal of Peasant Studies. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from various institutions, including the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center for the Humanities, and UChicago's Center for International Social Science Research (CISSR). She is currently a Faculty Fellow at UChicago's Franke Institute for the Humanities.