Abstract

The conflict at the Mallku Quta mine in North Potosí, Bolivia, becomes world news in 2012 when opponents of the Canadian junior mining company South American Silver threaten to bury hostages alive. By the end of the year the Bolivian government has nationalised the mine and militarised the region quashing social unrest. Government, presented by president Evo Morales Ayma, never came closer. This paper explores the indigenous perceptions of the legitimacy of the main protagonists in the conflict (opposing Andean communities, mining cooperatives, South American Silver, indigenous movements and the state) singling out the local experiences of (central) government. The indigenous communities of Mallku Quta (re)produce a fetish of government that is characterised by legal instruments such as dry seals and decrees. This fetish instantiates aspirations of social justice along with a lack of expectations that government will actually have much influence on daily life. Like the Spanish Kings before them, Bolivian presidents are supposed to behave like benevolent yet distant government. However, Evo Morales gets actively involved in the Mallku Quta conflict. He does so convincingly that people start to address him as jatun patrón Evo, big landlord Evo, marginalising the fetish of government. My arguments, then, provide a dense cultural framework explaining the local ‘frictions’ of global challenges such as the transnational mining industry.

 

About the Presenter

Schooled as an anthropologist at Goldsmiths College (London), Into Goudsmit has explored the ethnography and theory of ritual and cognition, mining and indigenous movements, and the shifting relations between the state and its indigenous citizens resulting from decentralisation reforms and the politics of indigeneity. He currently takes part in several UN consultancy rosters on local governance, political economy analysis and democracy.

About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.