In this article, we describe the performances of indigeneity during the so-called "TIPNIS controversy" in Bolivia. In 2010, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) government announced its plans to build a highway through lowland indigenous lands and territories. This controversy—particularly the fact that Morales failed to consult with lowland Indians before beginning the project—sparked two spectacular indigenous marches organized by the Confederation of Bolivian Indigenous Peoples (CIDOB) from lowland Bolivia to the highland capitol. This article examines how these protests called into question the legitimacy of the Morales government, which claimed to stand for all indigenous peoples. We make two major interventions. First, we suggest that indigeneity here serves as what Povinelli (2011) calls an "ethical substance," a site of moral reflection and conduct in a certain era or social world. We argue that performance becomes a central site for moral reflection about indigeneity, gender, and the articulation of alternative social worlds. Second, we inquire into the politics of performance, arguing that debates over indigeneity are played out in particular power-laden fields, where actors have differentially distributed capacities and vulnerabilities. We examine how multiple actors perform indigeneity in order to push through their own ethical and political agendas, such as state development or gender equality. How does performance help us theorize indigeneity as an ethical substance, at once semiotic and material, that distinct actors can claim access to and use for their own benefit? How and in what ways does performance become a political tool for challenging the state?


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 905-936
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.