Cristóbal Kay
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands


This article discusses the manifold contributions of Willem Assies to the social sciences and Latin American studies. It focuses on his writings on agrarian and peasant studies, social movements, and indigenous peoples. In particular, he made important contributions to our understanding of multicultural citizenship, the multiethnic state, and plurinational democracy. His writings had a major impact on those working on rural and indigenous peoples’ issues, although the Dutch academic establishment largely failed to appreciate his exceptional talents. It is argued in this article that he never wavered from his early recognition of the importance of class in social analysis, while acknowledging its limitations. In his view, one of the central challenges facing the indigenous peoples’ social movements was how to link indigenous issues to general national problems. To what extent had they met this challenge? His premature death prevented him from exploring this key issue further, but hopefully other scholars will take up the baton and continue to debate his ideas.

Keywords: Willem Assies, social movements, agrarian and peasant studies, indigenous peoples, multicultural citizenship, multiethnic state, plurinational democracy, Latin America.