Reconfiguring identities: Tacana retribalization in Bolivia's Amazonia

Laura Ann Bathurst
Dept. of Anthropology, University Of California, Berkeley
July, 2005


Engaging current conversations about identity, transnational processes, local/global dynamics, individual agency, and structural power, I analyze how interventions into indigenous Tacana communities in the name of indigenous peoples are changing the meaning of being Tacana, to the Tacana and to outsiders. What it means to be Tacana is being restructured as a result of the reactions of Tacana and those with potential claims to being Tacana to the particular ways in which international aid is targeted towards indigenous populations in Bolivia. My research suggests that a revitalization of Tacana ethnic identity is currently under way due to an international climate that grants special status to indigenous peoples as opposed to non-indigenous people. I argue that these interventions are influencing a process of retribalization in which particular definitions of indigeneity are privileged. My dissertation is based upon 15 months of multi-sited ethnography in Bolivia within two indigenous Tacana communities and in the cities of Riberalta, Trinidad, Cobija, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and La Paz with a variety of governmental and non- governmental institutions (NGOs) involved in this process.