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

Abstract

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.

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

  1. 1. Orlando Alandia, artist, 16 December

  2. 2. Rocio Bustamante, environmental NGO activist,16 December

  3. 3. Pablo Ezedin Alarcon Prado, diplomat, 11 December

  4. 4. Marcelo Fernandez Osco, sociologist, 20 December

  5. 5. Javo Ferreira, leader of the Workers League for the Fourth International, 9 and 11 December

  6. 6. Carlos Macusaya, anthropologist, 11 December

  7. 7. Fernando Mayorga, political scientist, 15 December

  8. 8. Nicolas Melendres, Master student in political science, 12 December

  9. 9. Pedro Portugal Mollinedo, historian, 9 December

  10. 10. Oscar Oliveira, public figure, 17 December

  11. 11. Lorgio Orellana, political scientist, 12 December

  12. 12. Jorje Paida, former public servant, PhD student, 10 December

  13. 13. Carlos Deric Salazar, professor of law, 18 December

  14. 14. Ximena Soruco Sologuren, sociologist, 10 December

  15. 15. Vivian Schwarz, sociologist, 15 December

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Acknowledgments

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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Correspondence to Viatcheslav Morozov.

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Morozov, V., Pavlova, E. Indigeneity and subaltern subjectivity in decolonial discourses: a comparative study of Bolivia and Russia. J Int Relat Dev 21, 689–716 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-016-0076-7

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Keywords

  • Bolivia
  • indigeneity
  • postcolonial theory
  • Russia
  • subalternity
  • subjectivity