This thesis studies collective action and social change in indigenous rural organisations (IRO) in the Bolivian Andes. I focus on the effects and importance that these organisations have in the historical process of regional development as social spaces that encapsulate different projects of social, political and economic modernity. I reconstruct the practices and situations that turn rural indigenous organisations into significant spaces in which individuals and groups of people put into practice their life projects and their aspirations of modernity. The main question of this thesis is: what are indigenous rural organisations in the Bolivian Andes and what are their contributions to regional development?
To answer this question, I argue that we need to leave aside social constructivism and rational action present in current studies of indigenous rural organisations in the Andes that use the concept social capital. These organisations are not essences, totalities, nor are they are stable. Also, they are a more complex process than mere rational and technocratic action. IRO are contextual and situational spaces of social life that contain significant elements or objects, which are material and immaterial. These spaces are heterogeneities of humans and objects united by shared significant objects that are emergent, original and intensive. In this sense this organisations represent meshworks that interweave the changeable relationships between entities (humans and objects) and practices, and encompass the possibility of social change. These meshworks have different dimensions (economical, social, cultural, political). In each one of those, the flow of practices, interactions and experiences of individuals and groups of individuals simultaneously unify and break meaning, identity, affect, materiality and also regulation.
I study three kindsof indigenous rural organisations fromthe Perisalar (the Bolivian Southern highlands): communities which are based on kinship relationships, ayllus which are ethnic groups and quinoa producer organisations. Communities are social spaces that contain significant elements of modernity, such as the desire for access to State education and to enjoy citizens’ rights, the wish for agricultural machinery and to produce for the global market, the diversity of livelihoods and the affirmation of racial and class identity. Ayllus are made by community assemblages and many comunarios belong to quinoa Producer Organisations. In this sense ayllus and producer organisations are important social spaces as they contain significant elements present in the communities. I present the social life of IRO starting from the intersection of local development practices and experiences with other social spaces: the market, migratory destinations, education, social movements and institutional intervention. In order to better understand the effects of social change and IRO, I chose a long-term historical vision, considering the emerging effects of the intersection of local and external practices and experiences, before and during the quinoa commoditisation process.
The study concludes that IRO in the Bolivian Andes, are meshworks made by vibrant humans and objects with social vitality and intensity. They have the capacity to actualise significant elements of an economic, social, cultural and political character, in interaction with the Nation-State and the global market. These organisations increase through global market the vibrant character of significant elements such as quinoa, and by their recognition by the State they provide semi-autonomy to their members, and a space to make recognised their citizenship and their trade union, racial and class identities, and to locally redesign the State. Memory, identity and affect reveal the potential of IRO in repositioning past reminiscences and ancestral properties, and at the same time claim for a future that does not contain the same substance of that which is “the Andean”, “the Aymara” or “the Quechua”, rather incorporates new elements that lead to multiple “(neo)Andeans”, “(neo)Aymaras” and “(neo)Quechuas” forms, present in each and every one of the partial connections.
These organisations contain a variety of symbols, discourses and practices that correspond to heterogeneous knowledge and forms of socialisation and thinking of modernity that sometimes result in tension, fissure and conflict without however being fragmented. That is why structuralism, institutionalism and rationalism partially explain the agency in ambiguous and eclectic social spacessuch areIRO, whose limitsare constantly redefined by the flow of experience of its members. Development through these organisations is a social process, experiential and unpredictable, reflexive and corporeal, cognitive and performative, that contains both cohesion and tear. For understanding IRO contribution to rural development we must describe the relational and the imaginative in the wishes and processes of social change and regional developmentand grasp the relevance of its individual members’ experiences and practices in the creation of social ties. Methodologically this leads us to dissolve analytical categories and to follow and observe individuals past and present practices and their intersections with other individuals, groups, structures and significant objects. Our study underlines the significance of human-object relation as a starting point for generating new analytical frameworks in indigenous Andean organizations.