Dilemmas of Difference

Indigenous Women and the Limits of Postcolonial Development Policy

Dilemmas of Difference

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 20 illustrations Published: October 2015

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies > Andes, Native and Indigenous Studies

In Dilemmas of Difference Sarah A. Radcliffe explores the relationship of rural indigenous women in Ecuador to the development policies and actors that are ostensibly there to help ameliorate social and economic inequality. Radcliffe finds that development policies’s inability to recognize and reckon with the legacies of colonialism reinforces long-standing social hierarchies, thereby reproducing the very poverty and disempowerment they are there to solve. This ineffectiveness results from failures to acknowledge the local population's diversity and a lack of accounting for the complex intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and geography. As a result, projects often fail to match beneficiaries' needs, certain groups are made invisible, and indigenous women become excluded from positions of authority. Drawing from a mix of ethnographic fieldwork and postcolonial and social theory, Radcliffe centers the perspectives of indigenous women to show how they craft practices and epistemologies that critique ineffective development methods, inform their political agendas, and shape their strategic interventions in public policy debates.


"Radcliffe’s book, well grounded in theory and research, is an important read for scholars of Latin American development and gender. Highly recommended." — E. E. O'Connor, Choice

"Sarah Radcliffe's recent book offers a rich ethnography of indigenous women in Ecuador which specifically addresses how they encounter and experience development interventions." — Jessica Hope, Journal of Development Studies

"Dilemmas of Difference represents a timely contribution to the critical literature on indigenous women and development and to the debate of neoliberal instrumentalization of difference.... Overall, with a genealogy of development frameworks contrasted with indigenous women’s experience, Radcliffe demonstrates the persistence of postcolonial stereotypes and colonial assumptions of social difference that produce indigenous women’s dissatisfaction with development." — María Moreno, American Anthropologist

"While Sarah is the formal author of the book, she is quite clear in saying that the thinking that underlies the book reflects both long-standing conversations as well as more recent discussions with indigenous women (indígenas) in both the highlands and coastal lowlands of Ecuador. . . . What the indígenas quoted in this book have to say has challenged my thinking about critical development, development practice and post-colonial theory. My intuition is that other readers will be equally challenged by this superb book." — Tony Bebbington, Progress in Human Geography

"This innovative book is a result of the author's committed work. She has undertaken exhaustive and comprehensive research on Ecuadorian indigenous women based on both primary and secondary sources of information. She characterises their problems, the gaps that separate them from other women, and provides extensive evidence of the intersectionality problem that they face." — Myriam Castilla, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"Doubtless, this book is an important attempt to decolonize knowledge production and blur the boundaries between feminist thought and politics, theory and practice, the local and the global. Radcliffe shows women’s diversity, their distinctive viewpoints, and their varied tactics as they demand non-essentialized understandings of intertwined racial, gender, locational, and class differences." — Lisset Coba, The Americas

"Worth inclusion in a graduate course in any social science discipline." — June Nash, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Radcliffe’s book represents a powerful contribution to critical development studies and the discipline of geography." — Emily Billo, Journal of Latin American Geography

"This ethnographic account should inform new development policies that may be seeking to include indigenous women’s voices in the design of policies directed to improve their own lives. Decolonial theories and grounded ethnographic work in this well-conceived and thoughtful book have brought forth the still-muf?ed voices of indigenous women, frustrated but persistent in spite of layers of bureaucracy, patriarchy, and well-intended development policies." — Liliana Goldín, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

"Dilemmas of Difference is an important contribution to postcolonial studies and provides a critical understanding of the durability and malleability of particular development categories and concepts as they are deployed in the development practice. Deeply attentive to the subtleties and contradiction of forms of essentialism, Sarah A. Radcliffe's arguments resonate widely not only in Latin America but across large parts of the Global South. This book will speak to audiences across the social sciences and humanities, both in and outside of Latin America."  — Michael J. Watts, author of Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria

"Sarah A. Radcliffe's wonderful new book shows how race, class, and gender continue to structure inequalities in the postcolonial present. Based on innovative collaborations with indigenous women's organizations in Ecuador, this book is an important intervention into the politics of knowledge. She brings us the voices of indigenous women—the supposed beneficiaries of development—who bring their own situated knowledge to bear to critique both NGO development projects and the alternative model of vivir bien, creating new forms of citizenship in the process."  — Nancy Grey Postero, author of Now We Are Citizens: Indigenous Politics in Postmulticultural Bolivia


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sarah A. Radcliffe is Professor of Latin American Geography at the University of Cambridge and coauthor of Indigenous Development in the Andes: Culture, Power, and Transnationalism, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction. Development and Social Heterogeneity  1

1. Postcolonial Intersectionality and the Colonial Present  37

2. The Daily Grind: Ethnic Topographies of Labor, Racism, and Abandonment  75

Interlude I  121

3. Crumbs from the Table: Participation, Organization, and Indigenous Women  125

4. Politics, Statistics, and Affect: "Indigenous Women in Development" Policy  157

Interlude II  189

5. Women, Biopolitics, and Interculturalism: Ethnic Politics and Gendered Contradictions  193

6. From Development to Citizenship: Rights, Voice, and Citizenship Practices  225

7. Postcolonial Heterogeneity: Sumak Kawsay and Decolonizing Social Difference  257

Notes  291

Glossary 295

Bibliography  329

Index  359
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6010-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5978-4
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