In Bolivia, the discourse on indigenous peoples intensified in the last few decades, culminating in the election of Evo Morales as president in 2005. Indigenous people are portrayed by the Morales
government as modest, communitarian, humble, poor, anti-capitalist, and economically marginalized. In his 2006 inaugural speech, Morales famously described indigenous people as “the moral reserve of
humanity.” His rhetoric has reached all levels of society, most notably via the new political constitution of 2009. This constitution initiated a new regime of considerable ethnic character by
defining thirty-six indigenous nations and languages.
“Alessandra Pellegrini Calderón has lived, worked, and accompanied coca growers over several years, and paints a rich picture of the workings of this economic sector.”—Nancy Postero, author of Now We Are Citizens: Indigenous Politics in Postmulticultural Bolivia
Beyond Indigeneity offers new analysis into indigenous identity and social mobility that changes the discourse in Latin American social
anthropology. Author Alessandra Pellegrini Calderón points out that Morales’s presidency has led to heightened publicity of coca issues and an intensification of indigeneity discourse, echoing a
global trend of increased recognition of indigenous people’s claim. The “living well” attitude (vivir bien) enshrined in the new political constitution is generally represented as an indigenous
way of life, one based on harmony and reciprocity, in sharp contrast to the capitalist logic of “living better” that is based on accumulation and expansion.
In this ethnography,
Pellegrini explores the positioning of coca growers in Bolivia and their reluctance to embrace the politics of indigeneity by rejecting the “indigenous peoples’ slot,” even while they emerge as
a new middle class. By staying in a space between ethnic categories and also between social classes, the coca growers break with the traditional model of social mobility in Latin America and create
new forms of political positioning that challenge the dominant culturalist framework about indigeneity and peasants.