From Peasant Struggles to Indian Resistance: The Ecuadorian Andes in the Late Twentieth Century. By Amalia Pallares (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002) 272 pp. $44.95 cloth
In recent years, Ecuador has experienced the emergence of a powerful Indigenous-rights
movement. A 1990 uprising that demanded land rights and respect for Indigenous
cultures shook the foundations of the dominant white society. In 2000, Indians
joined with mid-level military officers to overthrow a president, firmly establishing
themselves as significant political actors.
There has been a tendency among social scientists to interpret the emergence
of the Indigenous movement in Ecuador in an evolutionary framework. Organizations
that existed before agrarian reform in the 1960s are typically seen as
being class-based entities created by the Left who manipulated Indigenous
for their own political purposes. In the 1960s, Indians emerged out of
consciousness” of a class struggle to build their own autonomous ethnic
movements, which were then politicized in the 1990s with the construction
of Indigenous nationalities that struggled for autonomy from a white-dominated
Pallares frames her study with that evolutionary model of Indians discarding a peasant consciousness in favor of a new ethnic identity, but her most important theoretical contributions are those that extend beyond this problematic paradigm. “Class analysis did not suffice to explain contemporary indigenous activism,” she notes, “and the particularities of ethnic difference had not impeded the launching of a cross-ethnic political movement” (29). Pallares proposes that instead of interpreting “indigenous struggle as either a class or an ethnic struggle, or ... as both a class and an ethnic struggle,” we should examine how “class, race, and ethnicity are remade by the activists in the process of political struggle” (34).
It is important to realize that humans can be incredibly complex creatures and it is a false dichotomy, as Pallares notes, to position class and ethnic forms of identity against each other. Rather, she presents “the use of double consciousness as a theoretical tool” that can “prove useful for analyses of indigenous peasant mobilizations” (222). Pallares presents excellent ethnographic data and analyses of political mobilizations that will be useful to scholars of social movements not only in Latin America but throughout the world.