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Reviewed by:
  • Political Cultures in the Andes, 1750-1950
  • Marc Becker
Political Cultures in the Andes, 1750-1950. Edited by Nils Jacobsen and Cristóbal Aljovín de Losada. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005. Pp. xii, 386. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $89.95 cloth; $24.95 paper.

Growing out of a conference held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000, this edited volume examines political cultures in the "long" nineteenth century in the Andean republics of Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. This was a critical period in which nation-states were formed through political struggles, often with unintended results. The essays examine these processes through a variety of themes such as the drafting of constitutions, taxation, resistance, religion, and political campaigns.

The editors lay out three goals for this collection. First, there is an intent is to provide historical depth to current debates on democracy in Latin America, particularly [End Page 681] as these relate to the exclusion of certain groups of people based on concepts of race, ethnicity, class, and gender. A second goal is to examine these issues through the lens of case studies that examine variances between the different countries under consideration. Finally, the editors pursue a goal of depicting the utility of a political cultural perspective for understanding historical processes. Taken together, the essays point to commonalities throughout the Andes as well as significant local variations on the construction of power, gender, identities, and institutional structures.

Mexicanist Alan Knight provides an introductory essay to the volume that seems to undercut its thematic framework. He criticizes statements about political culture as being too descriptive, arguing that they do not provide "an organizing concept of great value" (p. 51), particularly when applied to large entities such as nation-states. Editors Jacobsen and Aljovín de Losada are quick to respond in the following chapter to validate the volume's thematic structure, arguing that "the construction of national political cultures was a long, fitful process at work" (p. 64) that helps advance our understandings of the contested nature of power relations. After this introductory discussion, the remainder of the book is structured around three thematic sections that address nation-building projects, struggles over citizenship, and local boundaries of popular representation. Issues of race, ethnicity, class, and gender are interwoven throughout the entire volume. The various authors include perspectives both from elites as well as subalterns, in the ways that the latter attempted to insert themselves into these discussions.

The editors cast this work as a Pan-Andean project that includes Ecuador, but in a lengthy volume with fifteen essays that country is represented in one paper by Derek Williams, not presented at the original conference. Williams examines how conservative president Gabriel García Moreno attempted to create a Catholic nation in nineteenth-century Ecuador, using paternalistic mechanisms to incorporate women and native Andeans into the nation. The smallest of the Andean republics is not significantly discussed in the other essays, even though there is growing academic interest in Indigenous political culture Ecuador. The location of Ecuador in this volume is representative of a broader problem with the book. Unfortunately, most of the comparative analysis is done by the editors or in introductory essays rather than by the authors of the individual case studies, which undercuts the potential value of the volume. The editors admit as much in their conclusion when they note that "volumes of collected essays do not easily lend themselves to summations of central, shared ideas" (p. 324). Individually these are excellent essays, but together they do not build a strong coherent or conceptual argument.

On the level of individual essays, there is much to appreciate in this volume. Laura Gotkowitz provides a fascinating examination of the 1945 Indigenous Congress in Bolivia that led to a radicalized native population. Sergio Serulnikov draws important distinctions between the Túpac Amaru and Tupac Katari uprisings, arguing that the second Aymara movement was a caste war and not a precursor of independence. In a concluding chapter, editors Jacobsen and Aljovín de Losada observe [End Page 682] how the Andean environment seems to facilitate the leveraging of local concerns into regional, national, or pan-Andean movements.

The book is...


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