Indigeneity and subaltern subjectivity in decolonial discourses: a comparative study of Bolivia and Russia

  • Viatcheslav Morozov
  • Elena Pavlova


The decolonial discourse of buen vivir in South America has declared the need to overcome Eurocentrism by tapping into indigenous knowledge. We compare the Bolivian version of this project with the conservative turn in Russian politics to demonstrate that they make a structurally analogous argument and they both end up with a false promise. The fullness of indigenous being that underlies such discourses is a Eurocentric, romanticist myth, which contributes to the silencing of the subaltern by imposing on them political categories not directly rooted in any genuine native experience. We reformulate postcolonial critique using Laclau’s theory of populism to suggest that subaltern subjectivity can only emerge in a bottom-up manner, through the aggregation and universalisation of local demands. While it might still be true that the subaltern cannot speak, there is no way for the subaltern to come into being other than through speaking politically.


Bolivia indigeneity postcolonial theory Russia subalternity subjectivity 



This work was supported by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research personal research Grant PUT260 and institutional research funding IUT20–39. The authors would like to thank Eduardo Gudynas, Rickard Lalander and JIRD’s anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions, as well as all our interviewees for their time and insight.


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Interviews conducted by Elena Pavlova in La Paz and Cochabamba in December 2014

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Johan Skytte Institute of Political StudiesUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia

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