Racial Ideologies, State Bureaucracy, and Decolonization in Bolivia

Marcelo A. Bohrt


Race has shaped the development of the Bolivian state and its institutions albeit with important transformations in the social and political meaning of race. This paper discusses the racialization of the central state bureaucracy in Bolivia along these two dimensions: the distribution of bureaucratic resources and the assumptions and meanings that underpin bureaucratic hierarchy and spaces. It first discusses the relationship between the modern state and the concept of race, and conceptualizes the ethnoracial bureaucracy as a material and symbolic structure. Next, it examines the composition of the public administration sector overall and across the bureaucratic hierarchy in 2001, before the MAS-IPSP’s rise to power. Last, it surveys the narratives of race and nation that Creole and white-mestizo state elites historically mobilized in demarcating the boundaries of state power around whiteness. In contemporary Bolivia, the production of alternative official narratives of race and nation seeks to blur the boundary between indigeneity and statecraft (re)produced since the early republican period, and to legitimize the changing ethnoracial composition of the bureaucracy. The durability of the project is not guaranteed as the sediment of history and competing political projects weighs heavy on this process of transformation and negotiation.




bureaucracy; decolonization; race; racial ideologies; State

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/bsj.2019.200


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