Who is Marching for Pachamama? An Intersectional Analysis of Environmental Struggles in Bolivia under the Government of Evo Morales

Anna Kaijser

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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Evo Morales and the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) took office in Bolivia in 2006, riding on the wave of fierce popular protests against previous, neoliberal regimes. Morales was depicted as the country’s first indigenous president. His government promised a radical transformation of national politics and rebranded Bolivia as a “plurinational state”. Under MAS, indigenous subjectivity has moved from a marginalized position to center stage, and become a key condition for political legitimacy.

This development is reflected in environmental politics. In international forums, the Bolivian government has claimed to represent a green indigenous alternative, a “culture of life”, as opposed to a Western, capitalist “culture of death”. However, on home ground, critics have accused MAS of coopting aspects of indigenous identity for its own interests and not applying its green agenda within the national borders. The national economy is dependent on intense extraction and export of natural resources, a trend which has not diminished under Morales. Thus, the first Bolivian government to frame itself as indigenous now stands behind initiatives for resource extraction and infrastructural expansion. This raises questions about whose rights are privileged when different actors express conflicting claims based on indigeneity.

In this thesis, two salient themes are explored: MAS’ positioning in international climate change negotiations, and the conflict around the plans to construct a highway across the TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory. Drawing on poststructural and postcolonial feminist theory, I analyze intersecting processes of power in Bolivian environmental struggles by unwrapping two figurations: the endangered glacier and the ecological indigenous. These have become emblematic, and are mobilized by various actors for different purposes. Situating these figurations in national and international discourses, I show how they may shift in meaning and both reinforce and challenge relations of power. The research material was generated through ethnographic fieldwork and collection of written texts. Through this study of contemporary Bolivia, I shed light on how power dynamics play out in the framing of environmental problems and their solutions; questions which should be central to research on environmental issues in all contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
  • Jerneck, Anne, Supervisor
  • Kronsell, Annica, Supervisor
Award date2014 May 9
ISBN (Print)978-91-979832-6-6
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2014-05-09
Time: 13:15
Place: Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Canessa, Andrew
Title: Professor
Affiliation: University of Essex, Great Britain

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • political ecology
  • environmental discourse
  • subject formation
  • feminist theory
  • multi-sited ethnography
  • scales
  • figurations
  • indigeneity
  • climate change
  • glacier retreat


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