Laura Gotkowitz's edited volume is a welcome contribution to the scholarship on race and ethnicity in Latin America. It contains sixteen chapters, written by historians and anthropologists, most of whom are based in the US. Half the chapters deal with Bolivia, the others with Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador. The volume starts with a helpful introduction, written by Gotkowitz, which frames the individual chapters in the broader scholarship on race in Latin America and beyond. Gotkowitz identifies a series of approaches to the study of race which the volume tries to overcome. It does so, she tells us, by asking not what race is, whether it is biological or cultural or some combination of the two as much of the literature does, but rather what work race does or, put differently, what effects it has. In so doing, Gotkowitz identifies four major “moments” of racialization, understood as “the construction of racial stereotypes via political discourse, cultural performance, social policy, censuses, physical or verbal violence, and other acts of marking” (p. 11).
These major moments of racialization correspond to the four sections of the volume, with the first section focusing on the colonial period, the second on the “long” nineteenth century (although the chapters deal primarily with the second half of the century), the third on the twentieth century (although the chapters deal primarily with the first half of that century), and a final section that looks at racism and anti-racism “today”. The first section includes two fascinating chapters by Kathryn Burns and Sinclair Thomson. Questioning the pan-historical meanings of race, Burns considers what meaning race had, and what work it did, in the early colonial period. She argues that race had less to do with phenotype than with blood purity and ancestry. The work race did was shaped, she suggests, not only by the local context of colonialism in the Americas, but more generally by the imperial politics of Spain. Thomson meanwhile looks at the ways in which racialized categories, particularly indigenous ones, were sharpened in the context of the Great Andean Rebellion of the late eighteenth century in ways that suggest emerging, if contested, political, even national, projects.
Sections 2 and 3 work well together, as is to be expected given that they saddle the period c.1850–1950, and the chapters could be thought of as variations on a common theme. Brooke Larson, for example, looks at education policy towards the indigenous in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Bolivia. She focuses on how racial ideologies informed the projects of Bolivian letrados (the educated urban elites) to develop a system of indigenous education. In a context of growing indigenous assertiveness, even rebellion, these letrados sought to reconcile attempts to incorporate the indigenous population into the nation-state as productive actors while maintaining a social structure based on racial hierarchies and exclusion. They envisaged a system of indigenous education, limited to rural environments, that would focus on increasing the Indian's labour productivity but that would not enable the indigenous to use their schooling to make claims on the lettered city. If Eugen Weber's peasants were turned into Frenchmen thanks to schooling, Indians in Bolivia were to be turned into agricultural labourers at the service of the creole elites.
The other chapters in these two sections similarly explore how the tension between nation-formation and racialized exclusion played out (or was reconciled) in different countries and at different times in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What arguably links these chapters, and indeed Larson's chapter, is that they all focus on the racialized effects of what we could call technologies of state and nation-making (in the concluding chapter, Florencia Mallon uses the term “techniques of state domination”, p. 329). This is the case with liberal legal policies towards land and labour in the case of Arturo Taracena Arriola's chapter on nineteenth-century Guatemala; the census in the case of Rossana Barragán's chapter on systems of racial, gendered, and social classification in Bolivia; archaeology in the case of Seemin Qayum's chapter on debates over Tiwanaku in Bolivia; folklore, the politics of identity, and elite strategies of governmentality in the case of Deborah Poole's chapter on Oaxaca, Mexico; and, finally, the US–Mexico border in the case of Claudio Lomnitz's chapter on migration, identity, and the emergence of the notion of a unified Mexican race.
As a minor point, I was surprised that the chapter by Esteban Ticona Alejo, included in the final section, was not bundled in with these chapters, since it deals with the educational and political activities of the indigenous Aymara intellectual Eduardo Leandro Nina Qhispi in the early twentieth century. This chapter offers several interesting, if largely undeveloped, points of dialogue with a number of the chapters in these two sections, particularly Larson's and Qayum's.
The final section shifts the focus to the ethnographic present and complicates in interesting ways the work of race in the context of the rise of multicultural neoliberalism. Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, for example, draws on longstanding research on Otavalo and elsewhere in Ecuador to explore how the ethnic politics of that country have sharpened the identification of the indigenous with the rural and of the non-indigenous with the urban. This situation, Colloredo-Mansfeld shows, has driven indigenous artisans in places like Otavalo to redefine the urban as indigenous through increasingly organized political activism. Meanwhile, Charles R. Hale's chapter, based on ethnographic research in Chimaltenango, examines the ways in which multicultural neoliberalism – but also deeper ethnic ideologies – in Guatemala create no space for intermediate groups of ethno-racial identity, such as mistados or cholos. These neither identify with ladinos, or hispanicized Guatemalans, nor with the indigenous but represent, arguably, a politically valuable form of “mestizaje from below” rejected by both ladinos and the leaders of indigenous movements.
María Elena García and José Antonio Lucero's chapter, written in a reflexive, even confessional mode, deals with the emergence of two opposed national indigenous organizations in Peru, one aligned with, and expressive of, transnational activist networks, foremost among them Oxfam-America, the other with a more radical, Indianista, indigenous movement and leadership. The chapter offers an interesting discussion of how this rift reflects the often complicated process whereby, at a time of far greater visibility for indigenous movements (even in Peru, which the authors suggest has a far more active indigenous movement than is often acknowledged), some indigenous voices come to be heard and others are silenced. Finally, two shorter chapters by Andrés Calla and Khantuta Maruchi, and Pamela Calla and the Research Group of the Observatorio del Racismo explore cases of racist and racialized violence in Bolivia in the last decade or so, focusing on the violence that occurred in the context of the establishment of the Constituent Assembly and attempts to establish anti-discrimination and anti-racism legislation.
The volume ends with a conclusion by Florencia Mallon, who offers a series of reflections on the chapters’ contributions to the volume and, among other things, makes helpful connections to regions of Latin America and periods of history, as well as important historical and cultural processes, such as the rise of indigenismo, not much covered in the volume. As Mallon points out, although the subtitle of the volume suggests that the book deals with the Andes and Mesoamerica, it could be argued that this is really a book on Bolivia, with the other countries, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador, serving as a counterpoint to the Bolivian chapters. This is a potentially enlightening counterpoint, but it is a counterpoint that is implicitly rather than explicitly explored. Certainly, some connections are made in Gotkowitz's introduction between the Bolivian case and the other countries, but I wonder whether a different structure would have created further opportunities for developing this counterpoint in the individual chapters.
Overall, this volume reflects, and contributes to, the important and very fine work that is currently being done on race and racism in Latin America in a historical and contemporary perspective. It will be read profitably by historians and anthropologists, indeed by all scholars, who work on race and ethnicity in Latin America or elsewhere. Though certainly scholarly, it is also accessible and could be used successfully in upper-level undergraduate courses as well as postgraduate courses.