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Reviewed by:
  • Indigenous Revolutions in Ecuador and Bolivia, 1990-2005 by Jeffrey M. Paige
  • Zoe Pearson
Jeffrey M. Paige
Indigenous Revolutions in Ecuador and Bolivia, 1990–2005.
Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2020. 352 pp. Maps, Tables, Illustrations, Notes, References, Index. $65 cloth (ISBN 978-0-8165-4014-3); $65 electronic (ISBN 978-0-8165-4134-8).

Indigenous identity-based politics of late twentieth and early twenty-first century Ecuador and Bolivia have been the subject of much investigation and debate among scholars of Latin American politics. Jeffrey Paige’s Indigenous Revolutions in Ecuador and Bolivia, 1990-2005 contributes to this body of work through a comparative study of the Indigenous movements of these two Andean countries. The book is based on interviews with the experts—leaders of these Indigenous movements. Between the first-hand accounts shared in the interviews, and Paige’s analysis, the reader comes to see how and why unifying (if not unified) Indigenous political movements emerged in each country—out of a refusal and inability to accept the empty promises of “modernity” for Indigenous and poor populations of these countries. We also see clearly the ways of thinking that led the more mainstream veins of these movements to pursue change within the confines of liberal democratic politics.

Paige characterizes the book as an examination of “the relationship between the events of 1990-2005 in the Andes and the nature of revolution itself ” (p. xiv). More specifically, the author determines that what we have witnessed in Ecuador and Bolivia, rather than a classical revolution, is a “symbolic revolution” or “a rapid and fundamental change in the categories that order social life and consciousness, [and] the metaphysical assumptions on which these categories are based” (p. 29) [italics in original]. This change has occurred at the “deepest philosophical level,” making the changes witnessed there “at least as profound as those in classical revolutions and perhaps more so” (p. 29). Paige also presents this book, his third on revolution, as about “the collapse of the neoliberal “Washington Consensus model” (p. xiv). While this is a stretch (even in Bolivia Evo Morales’ MAS party government did not wholesale reject a neoliberal approach to development despite powerful anti-neoliberal rhetoric; I would have liked to see some recognition of the literature on ‘neoliberal multiculturalism) certainly the model has been challenged through the symbolic revolutions Paige is concerned with in this book.

The book’s seven body chapters are organized into two parts—in Part I three chapters [End Page 206] focus on the interviews with leaders in Ecuador; Part II includes four chapters focusing on the Bolivian leaders’ interviews. Paige describes the organization of body chapters by region and symbolic revolutionary “categories” (p. 32). However, “categories” is too hollow a term to capture the richness of shared political ideologies and discursive approaches conveyed in the interviews and grouped by chapter. Each body chapter sets up the main focus of the chapter and provides a short biography of the highlighted leaders; presents excerpts from interview transcripts; and ends with the author’s analysis. Prologue, Introduction, Epilogue and Conclusion chapters provide relevant empirical details and contextual underpinnings, and also detail Paige’s framework and arguments. A Preface and Appendix explain how the study came about and provide a description of methodology and a reflexivity statement on Paige’s position.

Perhaps the most important contribution of the book is the lengthy interview excerpts, giving the reader a first-hand account of the defining discourses and ideologies of the Indigenous movements of Ecuador and Bolivia, and an opportunity to compare them side-by-side. In showcasing these voices, Paige invites us to appreciate the political movements as understood and lived by the speakers themselves. This model of writing alone may be of interest to scholars who take seriously embodied representations of experience, but who lack opportunity for ethno-graphic research—particularly in a Covid-19 context. The presentation of the interviews is an intended contribution of the text: “it is hoped that the interviews may provide grist for many theoretical mills” (p. 10). It would be difficult for readers to do valid interpretive work based on the incomplete interviews published in this book (it...