Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / San Diego

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / San Diego
"Savages" in an Indigenous State: Human Rights, Race, and Indigenous Territory in the Bolivian Amazon

My research project investigates how indigenous actors are engaging with human rights. Recent international rights conventions, such as the ILO Convention 169 Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, establish indigeneity, historically a category of social and political exclusion in Latin America and much of the world, as the basis for inclusionary rights. In 2009, Bolivia passed a new constitution that dramatically incorporates indigenous rights and makes inclusion of indigenous peoples the basis of national identity and sovereignty. However, since the passage of the constitution indigenous organizations have been in ongoing conflict with the government over the application of indigenous rights. I investigate the contestations that emerge when citizens act to realize their rights as indigenous subjects under the new constitution. This study focuses on the Indigenous Territory and National Park Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS) in the Bolivian Amazon. The TIPNIS has become a major site of political struggle between the government and indigenous organizations, accompanied by the striking use of racial tropes by the government to dismiss indigenous demands. I investigate how histories of race and colonialism continue to shape liberal rights-based practices and politics. My research will invert the usual research question of how universal notions of rights are made meaningful in situated practice. Instead, this study asks how situated attachments to land and territory are made meaningful through the differentiated use of universal notions of rights. I explore this question by investigating the relationship between rights, territory, and race.