In the Lands of Oligarchs Ethno-Politics and the Struggle for Social Justice in the Indigenous-Peasant Movements of Guatemala and Ecuador
Sammanfattning: The study explores how struggles for social justice by Guatemalan and Ecuadorian indigenous peasant movements are affected by ethno-politics (the strategic political use of ethnicity), by using a comparative historical approach incorporating structural change and strategic agency. The analysis revolves around the partly enduring, partly changing oligarchic structures. The choice of the countries rests primarily upon the composition of their respective oligarchic classes. In Guatemala, the despotic agrarian oligarchs have dominated for much of the past century; whereas in Ecuador, the oligarchy was divided into an agrarian and a modernist fraction.Scholars often locate ethnic politicisation in Latin America within the context of a shift from ‘national popular’ and ‘corporatist’ political orders toward political and economic liberalisation. This shift supposedly unleashed ethnic identities which were previously subordinated by the way indigenous communities were politically incorporated. This study shows that dramatic openings for ethnic politicisation in the 1990s occurred where corporatism had been weak and oligarchic structures persisted. But the elites were unable to use ethnicity as a tool for hegemonic control. Due to the oligarchic legacy, class discourses could not be prevented from being reproduced, and ethnic ones were politicised in a way that is dysfunctional to the elites’ effort to politically disarm the rural poor. Another finding is that the persisting influence of the agrarian oligarchy made the Guatemalan movement more focused on the land struggle and more unwilling/unable to integrate into the political arena prescribed by those in control of the state. In Ecuador, the demise of the agrarian oligarchy and the rise of a strong neo-liberal fraction constituted the context within which the movement moved away from the land struggle. It accessed the ethno-political spaces more firmly but resembled the Guatemalan movement in keeping its strategy of mass mobilisation.
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