Social anthropologist Calderón (Univ. of Zurich) provides an ethnography of a coca-growing region in the Yungas region of Bolivia. The book builds on, and in a sense updates, Catherine Allen’s classic work from neighboring Peru, The Hold Life Has: Coca and Cultural Identity in an Andean Community (CH, May'89, 26-5129). Calderón challenges essentialist notions of the constructions of Indigenous identities and employs a community study to disrupt how scholars think about indigeneity. She defines people from the Yungas as comprising an emerging peasant middle class with increasing levels of entrepreneurial activities. Through a discussion of different labor models, Calderón explains how coca cultivation led to an increase in a standard of living along with an accompanying social mobility. A result is a group of people who are entering the middle class but still retain a peasant—rather than an explicitly Indigenous—identity. They sit at an intersection between traditional identity constructions, while not belonging to any of those standard categories. Calderón’s goal is to go beyond culturalist analyses and focus instead on how economic relations shape those identities.
Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.