Bolivian Scholar Speaks on Indigenous Ethnicity and Colonialism

February 4, 2014

TIME CHANGE: Due to the inclement weather in New York, the presentation with Prof. Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui has been rescheduled. She is now scheduled to speak on Monday, February 17, 2014, at 12:00 p.m. at the LAII.


Join us on Monday, February 17, 2014, for a special lecture with invited scholar Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, a renowned Bolivian sociologist, historian, theorist, and activist of Aymara descent. Professor Rivera will speak on "Strategic Ethnicity, Colonialism, and Environmental Struggles in Latin America" from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. in the LAII Conference Room (801 Yale Blvd NE). All are welcome and encouraged to attend. For reference, please see the event flyer.

Currently, Professor Rivera is Andrés Bello Chair in Latin American Literature and Culture at New York University, and Professor Emerita in the Department of Sociology at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in Bolivia. A prolific author, Professor Rivera has written ten books, numerous articles for journals and magazines, and has produced documentaries and feature films. In 1989 she was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship for Iberian and Latin American History. Recently, she was named as one of the three most influential writers of Bolivia of the last thirty years.

Professor Rivera's involvement in indigenous social movements is extensive. She has connections with the Katarista movement and coca growers' movement in the Aymaran and yungas regions in Bolivia, as well as the indigenous struggles and protests related to the defense of the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) Amazonian region in Bolivia. She is one of the founders and long-time members of the Taller de Historia Oral Andina (Workshop on Andean Oral History), an independent group that deals with issues of identity, and popular and indigenous social movements.

A frequently invited speaker to various Latin American universities, she has been a visiting professor at New York University, University of Austin, University of Columbia, University of Pittsburg, and The School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris. She was also an invited speaker of the South-South Exchange Program for Research on the History of Development (SEPHIS) 2004 tour, which included visits to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Most recently, Professor Rivera has been heavily involved with El Colectivo 2, a group of cultural activists whose work explores intersections between art, recycling, urban agriculture, and the sociology of image.

For her lecture at the University of New Mexico, Professor Rivera will discuss how the massive popular protests and rallies that took place in Bolivia between 2000-2005, and which eventually led to the rise of MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) and Evo Morales to State power in 2006, have stirred a wave of expectations and hopes for change in the anti/globalization scene around the world, and specially among the popular and indigenous movements in Latin America. Nevertheless, the continuity of a policy of State centralization, classic developmental schemes and elite management of State affairs have soon led to a frustrating sense of cosmetic changes; meanwhile the pervasive influence of transnational corporations and predatory capitalism has remained unchallenged. State repression to popular and indigenous resistance against open pit mining projects in Peru, Chile and Argentina and to Hydrocarbon mega projects in Ecuador; as well as the brutal police intervention to the lowland indigenous march in defense of TIPNIS National Park in Bolivia are sad examples of the gap between public declarations in defense of indigenous and environmental rights and the day to day needs of a redistributive and populist models of development, that the progressive regimes in the region have only adjusted to a certain extent. The presentation will focus in the potentialities and limits of the discourse of ethnicity in Bolivia, with comparative remarks with the cases of the Reservas Extractivistas in the northern Amazonian region of Brazil and the Asambleas Ciudadanas against environmental depredation in Argentina.

Note that a similarly-themed presentation is scheduled for later in the same day, also at the LAII office. The Student Organization for Latin American Studies (SOLAS) presents "Learning From the Zapatistas About Democracy, Land, and Dignity," from 3:00-4:00 p.m.. This special lecture will be presented by Bill Bradly, who will recount his experiences observing Zapatista autonomy in Chiapas, Mexico. Visitors are encouraged to attend both events; the LAII will provide coffee and refreshments to facilitate informal dialogue and conversations during the interim period between Prof. Rivera and Mr. Bradley's lectures.