In 1993 Kicza predicted that the remaining indigenous resistances in Latin America would disintegrate and assimilate. Similar, other authors, as for example Young, concluded that indigenous people in Latin America had suffered from such brutal fragmentation and cultural starvation that it was highly unlikely that a mobilization could take place within a Latin American context ( Warren & Jackson, 2003 :1). However, despite these pessimistic predictions, Latin America has experienced an increasing and growing indigenous uprising and mobilisation during the last two decades. In some cases, the mobilisation have lead to the election of indigenous presidents, as exemplified by Juan Evo Morales Ayma in Bolivia. In others, they are still an opposition to governments, yet an opposition that is managing to influence those governments’ decisions.
Indigenous populations in the Americas are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the continents. Nevertheless, they have arguably been profoundly shaped by centuries of colonisation and by more modern processes of globalization. Scholars have argued that the recent uprising of the indigenous populations, can be seen as a response to, and a critique of the neo-liberal economic trends of the Washington Consensus that swept over the continent in the 1980-90s. The critique of the neo-liberal paradigm is arguably reflected by the emergence of an indigenous discourse, which celebrates the otherness of the indigenous people. An agenda which emphasizes the non-materialist, non-consumer and spiritual relations to the land, consensual decision-making, a holistic environmentalist perspective, and a reestablishment of harmony in the social and physical worlds (Morrissey, 2009; Warren & Jackson, 2003: 13).
The seemingly contradiction between indigenous tradition and western thinking can be approached and analysed from a number of different perspectives. Due to the immense amount of indigenous population groups situated around the globe, it is not possible to investigate all cases. I have, therefore, decided to explore the indigenous peoples’ territorial struggle inside Argentina and what importance the access to territory has for the identity of an indigenous population. Furthermore, I have limited my case-study to one indigenous people, the Kollas. They were selected for the case-study as I in 2012 undertook a three month internship with their organisation – Qullamarka, which gave me an opportunity to observe them more closely2. The Kollas are an indigenous people living on the high planes of the Andes in Argentina and Bolivia. According to themselves, and scholars, they are descendants of the native peoples that formed part of the Inca Empire (Valente, 2006). In Argentina the Kollas are found in the provinces of Jujuy and Salta3, and are according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “the most developed of the Argentine indigenous groups”. However, economically and socially they remain disadvantaged in comparison to the majority of the Argentine population (UNHCR, 1993). According to the Kollas themselves, the main problem they face is the controversy over land. Land is regarded as a common good, and for that reason they have never held individual ownership titles to the land on which they live (Qullamarka 2012a). For centuries the Kollas have been displaced from their ancestral land, and today they find themselves without a legally valid document demonstrating their rights to the land (UNHCR, 1993) for which they have been fighting for more than a 150 years. The main research question that I seek to answers is : To what extent, if any, has the Kolla’s perception on territory been seen as an opposition to development in Argentina? To explore the issue above, we need to, first of all, undercover, how the Kollas perceive territory. In order to do this, ideas of identity and nation-state are to be utilized. The modern nation is seen as a part of the modernizing project of industrialized societies (Guibernau & Rex: 1997: 2), thus to explore whether their held perceptions can be considered as an barrier to development, the notions of the modernization theory will be applied. Based on the above question the paper is structured as follows: Section two outlines the methodological foundation on which the paper is resting. Section two is split into two sub-sections. Sub-section one, advances a number of definitions of key concepts and formulates a framework for the analysis. Sub-section two formulates a theoretical framework for the analysis, based on the modernization theory. Section three presents an analysis and discussion, based on the gathered qualitative data. Finally, a conclusion – based on the findings from the analysis – will be provided. Download the full report here