Marisol de la Cadena
University of California, Davis, USA
In Latin America indigenous politics has been branded as “ethnic politics.” Its activism is interpreted as a quest to make cultural rights prevail. Yet, what if “culture” is insufficient, even an inadequate notion, to think the challenge that indigenous politics represents? Drawing inspiration from recent political events in Peru–and to a lesser extent in Ecuador and Bolivia–where the indigenous–popular movement has conjured sentient entities (mountains, water, and soil–what we call “nature”) into the public political arena, the argument in this essay is threefold. First, indigeneity, as a historical formation, exceeds the notion of politics as usual, that is, an arena populated by rational human beings disputing the power to represent others vis‐à‐vis the state. Second, indigeneity’s current political emergence–in oppositional antimining movements in Peru and Ecuador, but also in celebratory events in Bolivia–challenges the separation of nature and culture that underpins the prevalent notion of politics and its according social contract. Third, beyond “ethnic politics” current indigenous movements, propose a different political practice, plural not because of its enactment by bodies marked by gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality (as multiculturalism would have it), but because they conjure nonhumans as actors in the political arena.
Keywords: Nature-culture, indigenous politics, antimining movements, cosmopolitics, pluriverse, Andes, Latin America.