BRETÓN, Víctor; VILALTA, María José (eds). Poderes Y Personas: Pasado y Presente de la Administración de Poblaciones en América Latina. Icaria: Institut Català de’Antropologia, 2017, 304 pp. Resenha de: RODRIGUES, Isabel P. B. Fêo. Ler História, v.74, p. 280-284, 2019.
1 Theoretically and methodologically inspired by the influential anthropological work of Andrés Guerrero in the Andes, this edited volume is organized around his conception of population control and administration of populations deemed to be inferior or incapable of ruling themselves. The volume fuses anthropology with history in order to interrogate the colonial and postcolonial historical processes as well as the everyday socio-cultural mechanisms that gave rise to a blinding form of domination specifically designed to control and silence entire populations, particularly the indigenous peoples across Latin-America. As nineteenth-century hegemonic conceptions of territory and nation encased Latin America’s nation-states, the act of governing inextricably involved the creation of institutions and daily practices designed to administer entire territories and a plurality of populations that were excluded from the institutions of power that formed the postcolonial state apparatus. All ten chapters that compose this volume, present case studies that illustrate different practices and mechanisms of domination across specific historical times and regions paying close attention to the interface between state domination and its effects on the subaltern groups that were and still are subjected to state control and colonialism. The majority of the case studies are on Ecuador, with Peru and Mexico offering comparative studies that illustrate the vast potential of Guerrero’s theoretical and methodological contributions to understand the dual and paradoxical processes of constructing citizenship while simultaneously and producing exclusion and subjugation of indigenous populations across Latin America.
2 The volume is organized into two parts aimed at bringing together the historical development of mechanisms of rule and population control and those who are subjected and made the targets of such domination. The first part, Administración de poblaciones or administration of populations, aims to provide the historical bedrock on which modern states built their mechanisms of domination. The second part, Poblaciones administradas or administered populations, focuses on the actual view from bellow and the acts of resistance indigenous populations and Afro-Ecuadorian devised to gain access to their land, resist state control, and undermine the actual mechanisms of domination and exclusion.
3 Most case-studies are theoretically grounded on Michel Foucault’s conceptions of power as a capillary instrument operating through multiple agents and institutions designed to discipline, punish, surveil, and regulate daily practices orchestrated to homogenize populations and produce conforming citizens. In addition to Foucault, Antonio Gramsci’s conception of hegemonic power operating through the entwined forces of ideology and praxis, enabling acquiescence and conformity, plays a strong analytical role in all the case-studies. Fittingly, the volume starts with María José Vilalta whose work examines the controversial role of the clergy and parish priests during colonial times in producing population registries which enabled the colonial state to control and administer populations extending its tentacles across the Andes, ensnaring the Quechua population into a regime of servitude. Catholicism operated to evangelize and convert souls for the Spanish empire while simultaneously producing a body of texts and registries —from baptismal registries to marriage and death— which were instrumental in deciphering and organizing data during colonial rule. Furthermore, through religious control and early data basis they enabled the extraction of indigenous tribute or tributo indígena contributing to a process of labor extraction to benefit the colonial state and the Spanish descent population.
4 This state of affairs extended beyond the Andes as María Dolores Palomo’s work shows in the case of Chiapas, Mexico. She argues that the emergence of the nation-state transformed the relationship between the new nations and the indigenous populations into new projects of control. The colonial system invented the indio, and the Indian village organized along Spanish principles of urbanization and Catholic morality. There, they imposed a logic of empire which was subsequently recycled into postcolonial municipalities. In municipalities, the separation between indio and ladino implied the superiority of the latter. Ladinization became an instrumental mechanism of cultural and symbolic control conforming to Catholic morality and its domination over minds and bodies.
5 Along the same lines, but engaging the postcolonial state, Eduardo Kingman’s work examines how nineteenth-century Ecuadorian state developed the notion of national security in order to normalize hierarchies and bring about nation-state consolidation. The city became a privileged site of control and Quito the first city in modern Ecuador to have a standing police force regulating public spaces, imposing order, and administering migrations, many of whom were indigenous peoples escaping the oppressive and decrepit hacienda system. Part and parcel with the development of a police force, was the enforcing of Catholic morality. Hence, the act of policing and moral disciplining went hand in hand with Catholic charities playing an instrumental role in sanitizing urban public spaces and creating a moral economy that enhanced the elite’s social capital. With the consolidation of the modern state, the policing, and particularly the policing of urban spaces, is enhanced by infrastructural developments, which facilitated the regulation of population movements and migratory fluxes. As he shows, the city and the modern nation-state became interdependent. From urban areas emanated the instruments of control, which would play a critical role in forming conforming citizens from the nineteenth century through the present.
6 The development of mechanisms of control, as Ana María Goetschel demonstrates, is indispensable to organize how the state apparatus relates to its population. Critical to this organization is the administration of populations based on census and statistical data. The census creates social categories and produces over time a large body of statistical information, which will be used to regulate populations, create the first criminal registries, and design mechanisms more efficient mechanism of extraction and policing. Not surprisingly, the indigenous population has avoided being counted and participating in national census and registries. Nevertheless, the use of census categories can also be instrumental in the construction of ethnic categories and in enhancing the visibility of certain populations. Such is the case-study of Afro-Ecuadorian populations by Carmen Martinez Novo. She argues that during the 1990’s the indigenous movement in Ecuador was quite powerful and successful in creating effective institutions for the education and development of indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, only 7% of Ecuadorians identified as indigenous people in the census of 2010, suggesting that the indigenous population continues to distrust the census as a mechanism historically used to extract their labor and impose tribute. In contrast, the Afro-Ecuadorian population have only been counted since 2001 and their newly gained visibility is tied to its participation in the census. Influenced by North American hypodescent racial conceptions, Afro-Ecuadorians brought the conception of “raza” through, which is also used by the contemporary neo-liberal state to fracture the population into several ethnicities ultimately enhancing state control.
7 The second part of the volume, Poblaciones Administradas, starts with Víctor Bretón on the political dimensions of identity across the Andes. He argues that the indigenous Identities in the Andes have not been static, but have changed along historical axis tied to access to land and indigenous resistance. The end of the hacienda system facilitated and accelerated new migrations, which led to a pan-indigenous consciousness. Subsequently, the land reforms of the 1960’s and 1970’s in Ecuador accelerated internal process of differentiation among the Quechua population. After the 1980’s, the neoliberal state will open to international ONGs working with subaltern populations coopting indigenous leaders and reinforcing ethnic boundaries as the prime organizational principal of international cooperation producing new forms of ventriloquism and ethnic essentialism. Delegating the administration of the indigenous people to the private realm as was the case with the hacienda system, as Luis Alberto Tuaza shows enabled the domination of the white-mestizo population over the indigenous people and the impunity of a colonial patriarchal regime that has silenced the daily forms of oppression including sexual violence. Resistance and collectivism were among the indigenous strategies of survival still based on ancient systems of reciprocity.
8 Likewise, Jordi Gascon, in his case-study on Peru documents the hacienda as a system of domination overtaking the state’s role in population management and indigenous rural areas. The brutality of this regime left its marks across the region denying basic human and civil rights just as Latin American nations were constructing citizenship and codifying civil rights. As such, resistance to this form of structural violence was key, such is the case with indigenous paintings that Laura Soto studied in Tigua, Ecuador. This naïve art became an alternative language of cultural survival used to inscribe indigenous history and culture and create a new semantics capable of documenting the indigenous way of life in their own terms. As Ecuador’s neoliberal state reinvents new ways to manage populations, the rise of NGO’s across the region and competing foreign economic interests have become new agents of territorial and population control. Particularly in the Amazonian region where Javier Martinez Sastre takes place. As he documents, indigenous people had to reorganize and define themselves along the syntax of ethnicity that was recognized by international players.
9 These rich case-studies altogether highlight regional nuances without losing sight of the interstices between historical similarities and regional specificity deployed to effectively enact the governing of plural populations. Ultimately, all case-studies show how the act of governing and administering subjected populations is processual and deeply embedded in social life and daily forms of producing and enacting power and control, which over time become hegemonic and unchallenged. Thus, the necessity to interrogate the mechanisms that render power and domination invisible must be central to the social sciences as this volume demonstrates in a language that is theoretically well grounded and yet accessible to students.
Isabel P. B. Fêo Rodrigues – Department of Anthropology & Sociology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, USA. E-mail: [email protected]