Indigenous Peoples of Latin America: The Politics of Knowledge

Liaison Person: Nancy Postero, npostero@ucsd.edu

Group members:
Matilde Córdoba Azcárate (Communication)
Paul Goldstein (Archaeology/Anthropology)
Christine Hunefeldt (History)
Luís Martín Cabrera (Literature)
Nancy Postero (Anthropology)
Paula Saravia (Anthropology)
Matthew Vitz (History)

Graduate Students:
Amy Kennemore (Anthropology)
Josh Jones (SIO)
Sofia Lana (Anthropology)
Jorge Montesinos (Anthropology)
Jessica Ng (SIO)
Jorge Ramirez (History)
Nancy Turtletaub (Anthropology)
Ninna Villavicencio (Anthropology)

Since the time of the European conquest of Latin America, indigenous communities have borne the brunt of colonialism. During our first year’s faculty group, this group focused on one significant dimension of colonialism: natural resource extraction. In colonial times, Europeans extracted gold and silver, fueling the Industrial Revolution with these riches. Today, extractive development such as mining, dams, and oil and gas extraction continues to threaten indigenous lands and livelihoods across the continent. Scholars and activists have described how this development model has exacerbated racial inequalities, fomented socio- environmental conflict, and, more recently, contributed to climate change. As extractivist development continues to threaten indigenous peoples’ lands, they face pressing issues of loss of control over local resources, migration, loss of biodiversity and indigenous languages, pollution and toxins, and climate change with melting glaciers.

In the second year’s faculty group, we expanded beyond our focus on extractivism and resource governance to a wider angle, focusing on the related questions of sovereignty, nature, and agency. We asked: What does indigenous sovereignty mean? What sorts of agentive and sovereign practices do they exercise? How do they perceive and manage “nature”? What political and economic projects are they currently engaging in, and what forms of justice are emerging? What spatial practices and projects are emerging? How are the debates about coloniality of power influencing the ways indigenous knowledge is portrayed and deployed by various actors? This year, our group continues to be strong, with 7-10 people attending most meetings. We chose a different strategy this year, spending the first part of the year discussing readings on these issues, and then hosting a final one-day workshop to synthesize our ideas. (We will use almost all our funding on this event.) We are collaborating with another faculty group, the Nature, Space, and Politics group, to hold a conference on June 10th, called: Nature, Space, and Politics: Investigating Diverse Ways of Knowing. We are thinking together about the many divergent ways we “know” nature, and the practices of development, extraction, and
inhabitation that result. We are bringing together indigenous scholars and activists with scholars thinking about natural resource management, in order to cross pollinate seemingly different disciplines. What different ways of knowing, managing, and living in nature and space exist, and how do they overlap or conflict?