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Event Report: The New Vertical Archipelago: Small-Scale Mining and Ch’ixi Livelihoods in the Bolivian Tin Belt

The New Vertical Archipelago: Small-Scale Mining and Ch’ixi Livelihoods in the Bolivian Tin Belt

At the first meeting of the Indigenous Studies working group, Andrea Marston (assistant professor of Geography) gave a terrific talk on the current participation of Bolivia’s native peoples in mining their own lands. The talk showed how small-scale mining has the capacity to redistribute subterranean wealth across Indigenous communities, which can counterintuitively support autonomy projects –even as its detrimental environmental and health impacts make it a politically ambivalent livelihood strategy. Given this ambivalence, Marston argued that this practice is thoroughly ch’ixi (“motley” in Aymara) in that it integrates colonial histories and capitalist practices with contemporary expressions of Indigenous autonomy, and thus might be supported rather than dismissed as “improperly” Indigenous.

A lively Q & A followed, involving the audience of more than 20 people. This meeting was remote, and the next one will be as well, but beginning in March, we are determined to gather together in person. We look forward to seeing you!

Camilla Townsend