Current Institutional Affiliation
Instructor, History, City University of New York (CUNY) / Queens College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, State University of New York (SUNY) / Stony Brook University
Coca Nation: The Protean Politics of the Coca Leaf in Bolivian Nationalism (1900 – 1961)

This dissertation is a cultural history of the development, in the twentieth century, of Bolivian coca politics in relation to U.S.-led international anti-narcotics regimes. It investigates the processes through which Bolivians constructed- or reconstructed- coca as an indigenous drug. Challenging essentialist notions of coca as embodying autochthonous Andean culture, my research examines the roles of a broad array of Bolivia's social groups, including but not limited to Indians, in the formation of the cultural politics of the leaf. In order to trace the processes through which coca emerged as a symbol of Bolivian nationalism, I pursue five primary lines of research. These include the development of Bolivian Creole indigenismo, medical and pharmacological modernization, positivist criminology, urban popular and worker culture, and international drug diplomacy. From the point of view of Creoles,I investigate the formation of ambivalent ideas about coca and indigeneity at the intersection of transnational discourses of medicine, criminology, and modernization. I also examine Indian engagement with, and resistance to, Creole efforts to define and regulate coca. Additionally, I examine the entrance of coca into the popular culture of urban mestizos. From a transnational perspective, I consider not only Bolivian geo-politics of drug interdiction, and the impacts thereof, but also the engagement of Bolivians with international discourses on the meanings of both drugs and indigeneity.