Bolivia in the Age of Gas

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 29 illustrations Published: September 2020

Author: Bret Gustafson

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies > Andes

Evo Morales, Bolivia's first Indigenous president, won reelection three times on a leftist platform championing Indigenous rights, anti-imperialism, and Bolivian control over the country's natural gas reserves. In Bolivia in the Age of Gas, Bret Gustafson explores how the struggle over natural gas has reshaped Bolivia, along with the rise, and ultimate fall, of the country's first Indigenous-led government. Rethinking current events against the backdrop of a longer history of oil and gas politics and military intervention, Gustafson shows how natural gas wealth brought a measure of economic independence and redistribution, yet also reproduced political and economic relationships that contradicted popular and Indigenous aspirations for radical change. Though grounded in the unique complexities of Bolivia, the volume argues that fossil-fuel political economies worldwide are central to the reproduction of militarism and racial capitalism and suggests that progressive change demands moving beyond fossil-fuel dependence and the social and ecological ills that come with it.


“Fossil capitalism, and the calamitous consequences of our dependence on coal and petroleum, is central to any understanding of life in the Anthropocene. Bret Gustafson offers up an original and compelling take on the oft-told tale of oil wealth, petroviolence, and the so-called curse of oil dependency by reinterpreting the colonial and postcolonial history of Bolivia through the country's relation to natural gas, what he calls the gaseous state. Gustafson draws together the temporalities, spaces, and excesses of a world built through the exploitation of gas and in so doing takes the reader on an exhilarating ride through US imperialism, the Bolivian state, Indigenous territoriality, the hard-edged world of pipelines, wellheads, violent corporate capital, and of course the rise and fall of Evo Morales. A book for our time.” — Michael Watts, Class of 63 Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Bolivia in the Age of Gas is without a doubt the definitive account of the Bolivian petrostate and its subjects. It makes important contributions to anthropology, to Latin American studies, and to the emergent interdisciplinary literature in energy humanities. It is also a true pleasure to read, the rare scholarly page-turner that conveys critical analytical insights in terms and ethnographic moments that will captivate readers of all backgrounds.” — Dominic Boyer, author of Energopolitics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene

“Bret Gustafson’s Bolivia in the Age of Gas is an ambitious and exquisitely detailed historical ethnography of Bolivia and its complicated relation with gas (and oil).... Gustafson exudes an enviable clarity even as he insists on nuance, complexity and contradiction.” — Maria Elena Garcia, ReVista


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Bret Gustafson is Associate Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of New Languages of the State: Indigenous Resurgence and the Politics of Knowledge in Bolivia, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Abbreviations  ix
Note on Labels and Language  xiii
Preface and Acknowledgments  xv
Introduction. Gaseous State  1
Part One. Time
1. Heroes of Chaco  27
2. Imperial Maneuvers  50
3. Las nalgas of YPFB  69
Part Two. Space
4. Gas Lock-In  97
5. Bulls and Beauty Queens  125
6. Just a Few Lashes  152
Part Three. Excess
7. Requiem for the Dead  179
8. Gas Work  202
9. Quarrel over the Excess  223
Postscript. Bolivia 2020  247
Notes  255
References  271
Index  293
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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