Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Brown University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, Brown University
Decolonizing the State: The Micro-Politics of Transforming Bolivia’s Racialized State Bureaucracy

Bolivia is currently undergoing an epochal transformation in race relations. Since Evo Morales was voted in as Bolivia's first indigenous president in 2006, indigenous men and women have entered the national civil service en masse, occupying authority positions which were largely reserved to the white and mestizo population since the colonial era. This change is the most visible outcome of the Morales administration's initiative to "decolonize" the state bureaucracy in a country where nearly 50 percent of the population is categorized as indigenous. Yet, "decolonization" envisions fundamental changes to the institutional logic of the state and bureaucratic practice that challenge the power and authority of an old generation of bureaucrats. My research examines the micro-politics of "decolonization" of the national bureaucracy. It seeks to understand how decolonization is experienced, perceived, and participated in by old and new bureaucrats on the ground as they attempt to unravel or protect organizational racial boundaries and the institutional logics that sustain them. Relative to countries where attempts have been made to de-racialize state bureaucracies, the currently unfolding project of "decolonization" in Bolivia appears as a much more profound challenge to racial subordination, offering a unique opportunity to examine the micro-politics of racial and institutional change. Through a combination of participant observation within the confines of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and in-depth and semi-structured interviews with bureaucrats across various state agencies, I examine how, in the context of a macro-political and institutional change, bureaucrats interpret, negotiate, and rearticulate racial boundaries and institutional logics in everyday life, and to what effect.