Coca Growing and the Emergence of a New Middle Class in Bolivia
Beyond Indigeneity offers new analysis into indigenous identity and social mobility that changes the discourse in Latin American social anthropology. Author Alessandra Pellegrini Calderón points out that Morales’s presidency has led to heightened publicity of coca issues and an intensification of indigeneity discourse, echoing a global trend of increased recognition of indigenous peoples’ claims. The “living well” attitude (vivir bien) enshrined in the new political constitution is generally represented as an indigenous way of life, one based on harmony and reciprocity, in sharp contrast to the capitalist logic of “living better” that is based on accumulation and expansion.
In this ethnography, Pellegrini explores the positioning of coca growers in Bolivia and their reluctance to embrace the politics of indigeneity by rejecting the “indigenous peoples’ slot,” even while they emerge as a new middle class. By staying in a space between ethnic categories and also between social classes, the coca growers break with the traditional model of social mobility in Latin America and create new forms of political positioning that challenge the dominant culturalist framework about indigeneity and peasants.