Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, University of North Carolina / Charlotte

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, New York University (NYU)
Revolution in the Countryside: Agrarian Reform and Rural State Formation in Bolivia, 1936-1964

Bolivia’s 1952 National Revolution – which overthrew the land-owning and mine-owning oligarchy, nationalized the tin mines, broke up large estates, and extended suffrage to women and Indians – was the first major social revolution in post-war Latin America. Historians place great emphasis on the revolutionary government’s initiatives, but few studies have studied the underlying causes of the reforms or gauged the social effects of the transformations. As a result, we know relatively little about the revolution’s impact on rural areas where the majority of the population lived at that time. Fundamental questions remain open: What difference did the revolution really make? What was the capacity of society to transform the state through revolution, or of the revolutionary state to transform society? I propose to study the 1952 National Revolution in terms of multiple time-frames from the late 1930s to the 1960s in order to trace both the drastic political and social changes and the slower underlying transformations. I will consider how the balance of power changed before and after the revolution in the relations between the state, the landed elite, and peasants and Indians. I will argue that the events of April 1952 were less of a turning point than we have supposed and show instead a more complex process of change going on in the countryside since the 1930s and intensifying during a period of state crises and popular mobilization in the 1940s. After 1952, I will demonstrate that peasants’ role in the process of land redistribution proved effective and powerful despite the limited capacity of the revolutionary state.