A Contemporary Micropolitics of Indigeneity

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Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies


Sociology & Anthropology


Contemporary studies of the relationship between indigeneity and neoliberalism in Latin America have focused primarily on how indigenous groups have negotiated the contradictory effects of political decentralization and multicultural reforms, which both recognize and yet continue to exclude indigenous subjects. In order to more fully comprehend the nature and the implications of these transformations in governance, as well as their relationship to different kinds of indigenous subjects, I argue that we need an analytical approach that takes us beyond the frame of national politics to shed light on the micropolitics of indigeneity. An analysis of micropolitics asks how the shifts in governance associated with neoliberal multiculturalism have brought into question forms of authority and governance within the indigenous community. Specifically, this approach illuminates how the forms of knowledge and identity that have been validated by state and international development policies articulate with pre-existing forms of difference within the indigenous community to authorize new configurations of indigenous knowledge and authority. In this article, I draw on ethnographic encounters among Guatemalan Maya activists as well as local indigenous community leaders in order to illuminate the contours and the stakes of a micropolitics approach.