Appropriating Indigeneity

“Whether it was for fear of the rabble or to follow the agenda of their financiers, the elites
were sensitive to the demands for recognition and political participation of indigenous social movements and adopted a rhetorical and essentialist discourse centered on the notion of “original people.” This recognition—truncated, conditional, and reluctant—of indigenous cultural and territorial rights allowed for the recycling of the elites and the continuation of their monopoly on power. What did this reappropriation mean, and
what were its consequences? The Kataristas and Indianistas, based in the western Andes, had a schematic view of the eastern peoples and spoke of “Aymaras,” “Qhichwas,” and “Tupiguaranís” or simply of “Indians.” Simultaneously, the notion of origin refers us to a past imagined as quiet, static, and archaic, which allows us to see the strategic recuperation of indigenous demands and the neutralization of the decolonizing impulse. A discussion of these communities situated in the “origin” denies the contemporaneity of these populations and excludes them from the struggles of modernity. They are given a residual status that, in fact, converts them into minorities, ensnaring them in indigenist stereotypes of the noble savage and as guardians of nature.”

Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, “Ch’ixinakax utxiwa: A Reflection on the Practices and Discourses of Decolonization,” South Atlantic Quarterly 111.1 (2012), 99.


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