In the Name of Vivir Bien
Indigeneity, State Formation, and Politics in Evo Morales’ Bolivia
Ranta Eija M.
This is an ethnographic study of the politics of indigeneity in the contemporary Bolivian state transformation process. It is a story of an attempt to transform the state through indigenous ideas in a poor and ethnically heterogeneous country in the Global South. By following the notion of vivir bien, good life, a term that has emerged in political and policy discourses since the election of Evo Morales as the country’s first indigenous president in late 2005, it examines contested articulations between indigenous policy, politics, and power. Through ethnographic examination of what is said and done in the name of good life by ministers, public servants, development experts, and indigenous activists, this study aims to develop a critical understanding of the notion of good life both as a democratizing discursive construction and as a contested practice. Amidst global inequalities, there is an urgent demand for the examination of critical political alternatives and perceptions of new kinds of development, which are emerging in the Global South in response to – and often opposed to – the global capitalist political economy. The examination of the notion of vivir bien in contemporary Bolivia pretends to make a contribution to this end.