Former Ciriacy-Wantrup Fellow in Geography Penelope Anthias publishes new book on indigenous territorial claims and the limits to decolonization in Bolivia

May 11, 2018
Penelope Anthias's new book Limits to Decolonization: Indigeneity, Territory, and Hydrocarbon Politics in the Bolivian Chaco has been published by Cornell University Press as the flagship volume in the new Cornell Land Series: New Perspectives on Territory, Development, and Environment edited by Wendy Wolford, Nancy Peluso, and Michael Goldman. Penelope completed the manuscript during a Ciriacy-Wantrup Fellowship in Berkeley Geography in 2014-2016, under the supervision of Michael Watts. 
Based on the experience of thirty-six Guaraní communities in the Bolivian Chaco, Limits to Decolonization reveals how two decades of indigenous mapping and land titling have failed to reverse a historical trajectory of indigenous dispossession in the Bolivian lowlands. Through an ethnographic account of the “limits” the Guaraní have encountered over the course of their territorial claim—from state boundaries to landowner opposition to hydrocarbon development—Anthias raises critical questions about the role of maps and land titles in indigenous struggles for self-determination. 
Anthias argues that these unresolved territorial claims are shaping the contours of an era of “post-neoliberal” politics in Bolivia under the government of Evo Morales. She shows the surprising ways in which indigenous peoples are reframing their territorial projects in the context of this hydrocarbon state and drawing on their experiences of the limits of state recognition. Limits to Decolonization rethinks current debates on cultural rights, resource politics, and Latin American leftist states. In sum, the book brings to light the creative and pragmatic ways in which indigenous peoples contest and work within the limits of postcolonial rule in pursuit of their own visions of territorial autonomy.


Advance Praise:

"With this book Penelope Anthias has the potential to shape scholarly debates around indigenous struggles, neoliberalism, and postcolonial rule in important ways. Limits to Decolonization is a thoughtful challenge to the prevailing scholarship."—Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Associate Professor of Politics, Whitman College

"Limits to Decolonization is a sensitive account of a peoples' struggle for land and livelihood against the weight of centuries of colonialism and the power of the new extractivism. It is a great piece of work."—Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Sociological Anthropology, Washington University

"Anthias offers an entirely new and compelling account of the relations between hydrocarbons, identity, and space. Ethnographically rich, historically framed, and theoretically sophisticated,Limits to Decolonization is a provocative and powerful account of contemporary extractivism, movements from below and the operations of power in indigenous struggles."—Michael J. Watts, Class of 63 Professor, University of California, Berkeley