Intercultural Utopias

Public Intellectuals, Cultural Experimentation, and Ethnic Pluralism in Colombia

Intercultural Utopias

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 2 b&w photos, 1 map, 11 figures Published: September 2005

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Andes

Although only 2 percent of Colombia’s population identifies as indigenous, that figure belies the significance of the country’s indigenous movement. More than a quarter of the Colombian national territory belongs to indigenous groups, and 80 percent of the country’s mineral resources are located in native-owned lands. In this innovative ethnography, Joanne Rappaport draws on research she has conducted in Colombia over the past decade—and particularly on her collaborations with activists—to explore the country’s multifaceted indigenous movement, which, after almost 35 years, continues to press for rights to live as indigenous people in a pluralistic society that recognizes them as citizens. Focusing on the intellectuals involved in the movement, Rappaport traces the development of a distinctly indigenous modernity in Latin America—one that defies common stereotypes of separatism or a romantic return to the past. As she reveals, this emerging form of modernity is characterized by interethnic communication and the reframing of selectively appropriated Western research methodologies within indigenous philosophical frameworks.

Intercultural Utopias centers on southwestern Colombia’s Cauca region, a culturally and linguistically heterogeneous area well known for its history of indigenous mobilization and its pluralist approach to ethnic politics. Rappaport interweaves the stories of individuals with an analysis of the history of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca and other indigenous organizations. She presents insights into the movement and the intercultural relationships that characterize it from the varying perspectives of regional indigenous activists, nonindigenous urban intellectuals dedicated to the fight for indigenous rights, anthropologists, local teachers, shamans, and native politicians.


Intercultural Utopias is extremely useful for thinking comparatively about indigenous movements, particularly the sections on bilingual education, the role of the national left, implementation of customary law, and dealings with transnational religious authorities.” — Diane Nelson, Journal of Anthropological Research

“[A] complex and nuanced ethnography. . .[T]he book also reflects a particular kind of engagement: collaborative research with the indigenous intellectuals whose discourses and practices she describes.” — Nancy Postero, American Ethnologist

“In this path-breaking book, Rappaport describes and analyzes the work of ‘intellectuals’ that have during recent decades informed and shaped the indigenous movement in the province of Cauca (Colombia). . . . One of the book’s major insights is its challenge to the idea that Colombia’s indigenous movement is monolithic, with a homogenous set of actors.” — Esteban Rozo, Comparative Studies in Society and History

“Required reading for anyone interested in indigenous cultural activism and its relationship with the nation-state. . . . Rappaport’s book is a rich, sophisticated and much-needed ethnography of how a ‘social movement’ works in practice.”
— Peter Wade, Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies

“Joanne Rappaport takes engaged anthropology a whole step further in this brilliant experimental ethnography. Through intercultural dialogues involving new generations of Nasa intellectuals and their nonindigenous collaborators in Colombia, we witness creative tactics to decolonize knowledge and produce novel hybrid political culture. Intercultural Utopias offers a rigorous, indigenously inflected analytical approach to issues such as indigenous politics, autonomy, and conflict ‘inside the inside’ of highly fluid arenas of indigenous activism.” — Kay Warren, author of Indigenous Movements and Their Critics: Pan-Maya Activism in Guatemala

“This book is a major intervention in discussions of interculturalism among scholars and activists committed to indigenous movements. Joanne Rappaport’s theoretical and methodological innovation and politically engaged practice model the transformative power of horizontal conversation between and among intellectuals from distinct linguistic and cultural traditions.” — Florencia E. Mallon, author of Courage Tastes of Blood: The Mapuche Community of Nicolás Ailío and the Chilean State, 1906–2001


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Joanne Rappaport is Professor of Spanish at Georgetown University. She is the author of The Politics of Memory: Native Historical Interpretation in the Colombian Andes, also published by Duke University Press, and Cumbe Reborn: An Andean Ethnography of History.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Acknowledgments xi

A Note on the Orthography of Nasa Yuwe xvii

Abbreviations for Colombian Organizations xix

Introduction 1

1. Frontier Nasa / Nasa de Frontera : The Dilemma of the Indigenous Intellectual 23

2. Colaboradores: The Predicament of Pluralism in an Intercultural Movement 55

3. Risking Dialogue: Anthropological Collaborations with Nasa Intellectuals 83

4. Interculturalism and Lo propio: CRIC’s Teachers as Local Intellectuals 115

5. Second Sight: Nasa and Guambiano Theory 152

6. The Battle for the Legacy of Father Ulcué: Spirituality in the Struggle between Region and Locality 185

7. Imagining a Pluralist Nation: Intellectuals and Indigenous Special Jurisdiction 227

Epilogue 262

Glossary 277

Notes 281

Works Cited 299

Index 325
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3599-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3561-0
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