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Making Indigenous Citizens. Identity, Development, and Multicultural Activism in Peru.

Making Indigenous Citizens. Identity, Development, and Multicultural Activism in Peru, by Maria Elena Garcia. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 2005. xi, 213 pp. $52.95 US (cloth), $19.95 US (paper).

In the late 1990s, in the wake of a fifteen-year civil war that left nearly 70,000 dead--most of whom were Quechua-speaking highlanders--Peruvian government and civil society began supporting reforms, recognizing the nation's cultural diversity. One such reform required that indigenous school children receive instruction in Quechua as well as Spanish. The idea sounded quite progressive to the country's multicultural advocates. Imagine their surprise, then, when their reforms were soundly rejected by Quechua-speaking parents throughout the Peruvian highlands. This is the scenario that anthropologist Maria Elena Garcia details in her important work, Making Indigenous Citizens. Garcia brilliantly illustrates how the strong disconnect between the Peruvian state (and civil society) and the indigenous people they claim to represent has fomented indigenous mobilization in recent years.

Making Indigenous Citizens contributes to a Gramscian-inspired literature that over the past decade has been concerned with state-peasant relations. Historians, such as Florencia Mallon (1995), Mark Thurner (1997), and, most recently, Brooke Larson (2004), have examined the ways in which Andean peasants and states have negotiated state formation processes. Anthropologists, such as Aurolyn Luykx (1999) and Nancy Postero (forthcoming), tend to ask how Andean peasants are enabled or precluded from exercising citizenship rights. Garcia's work combines the two disciplinary approaches, placing indigenous Peruvians' contemporary struggles for citizenship within a broader historical context of Peruvian state formation.

Garcia's monograph is the product of nineteen months of field work conducted in the highland department of Cuzco, Peru. Research involved extensive interaction with peasant parents, NGO workers, teachers, and directors of rural schools, government officials, educational reform advocates, linguists, and Peruvian graduate students studying abroad. The author pays particular attention to the sector of education, seen here as an institution vital to the construction of citizenship. According to Garcia, it is in challenging the educational reforms drafted by state officials and NGOs that Andean parents are able to negotiate the terms of indigenous citizenship in Peru.

An earlier version of chapter one appeared as an article written conjointly with Jose Antonio Lucero in The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Latin America (Postero and Zamosc, 2004). This chapter settles rather uneasily between the introduction and chapter two, focusing more on the Shining Path guerrilla insurgency and its aftermath than on debates over educational reform in Cuzco. Taken on its own, however, the essay is noteworthy for its critique of scholars such as Marisol De la Cadenza (2000), who have attempted to explain why Peru failed to develop a cohesive indigenous social movement. Garcia maintains that it is misleading to label Peru an "exception" simply because its indigenous citizens have not mobilized on the scale of those in Ecuador and Bolivia. Garcia's microregional analysis demonstrates that indigenous Peruvians have mobilized frequently and effectively in recent years.

In chapter two, the author provides a historical context to her case study. Relying on secondary literature, Garcia outlines the historical role of education in the construction of race and citizenship in Peru. Tracing indigenista politics from its origins in the 1920s on through the 1990s, she illustrates how state makers in Peru have repeatedly relied on education as a means of moulding "Indians"--seen as backward, barbaric, and uncivilized--into "citizens" (p. 63). Here, we are presented with the work of an anthropologist who recognizes the importance of historical developments in shaping contemporary situations.

Chapters three to five detail and explain highlanders' rejection of intercultural education. The initiatives were proposed by public officials, NGO activists, and linguists who had no prior connection in peasant communities. Peasants saw this as yet another case of outsiders trying to decide what was best for them without consulting them first (p. 92). To be sure, many of these advocates had good intentions and honestly believed that they were providing communities with a desired service. Yet, in Garcia's words, "we should be careful not to confuse activist voices with the voices of those they claim to represent" (p. 111). More importantly, villagers felt that it simply was not practical to have their children taught in Quechua in a country where the Spanish language dominates all social and economic transactions.

Garcia frames this contestation as an exercise of citizenship by subaltern indigenous subjects. But what does she mean by citizenship here? The indigenous actors themselves rarely appear in the text verbally advocating citizenship. Instead, "the association of indigenous language, indigenous identity, and low socio-economic status seemed absolute to parents, who preferred concrete results (seeing their children speaking and reading in Spanish) to abstract talk of social and economic rights" (p. 89). More than political participation, one may conclude that highlanders are really concerned with their sons and daughters achieving upward social mobility in a society that has historically privileged urban, non-indigenous Spanish speakers.

Nor does the author consider that the advocates of bilingual education may actually share this same objective. Far from thinking in a strictly colonialist cultural logic, public officials, NGO activists, and linguists may possess cognitive evidence that Quechua-speaking children learn Spanish better when first taught to read and write in their native tongue. A more nuanced discussion of the logic behind the intercultural reforms would have added a greater degree of subjectivity to this portion of the analysis.

These minor shortcomings aside, Making Indigenous Citizens is a valuable contribution to Andean studies. Maria Elena Garcia effectively challenges scholarship that only examines large-scale social movements. Garcia validates the local-level actions that lay between these large-scale mobilizations and everyday forms of peasant resistance: "One can imagine national-level protest being full of sound and fury but leading to disappointment, while local-level action may silently change the terms of programs that policy makers design at their desks in Lima or Washington" (pp. 175-76). Moreover, Garcia illustrates how these local actions interact with and influence developments at the national and international levels. An excellent example of this appears in chapter six, where the author explains that as indigenous Peruvians gain access to and control over modern technology, they are simultaneously challenging pre-conceived notions of "Indians" as backward and barbaric, renegotiating their space within Peruvian civil society, and creating new opportunities to expand their politics beyond national borders (p. 142). Garcia's ability to articulate the interconnection of local, national, and global developments is one that few scholars have been able to duplicate.

Miguel La Serna

University of California, San Diego
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Author:La Serna, Miguel
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2006
Words:1077
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