New publication: "strata of the state: resource nationalism and vertical territory in bolivia"
If all goes well, this one will eventually be part of a special issue in Political Geography titled Earth Politics: Territorialization and the Subterranean, which I'm co-editing with Matthew Himley. Look for it in 2020.
Marston, A. (In Press) Strata of the State: Resource Nationalism and Vertical Territory in Bolivia. Political Geography. DOI: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.102040.
This paper examines the relationship between resource nationalism, state territorialization, and geological knowledge production in Bolivia. Focusing on two historical moments of post-revolutionary state-building – post-Independence (1825) and post-National Revolution (1952) - I show how the subterranean was produced as vertical state territory not only in law but also through science. By charting this history, I argue that anti-Indigenous racism was historically built into resource nationalism through ongoing collaborations between earth scientists and various iterations of the Bolivian state. In the post-Independence era, French naturalist Alcide d’Orbigny was hired by the nascent Bolivian state to produce the country's first geological map. His writings, which ranged from the geological to the ethnological, conceptually grafted Indigenous peoples to the surface of the earth while representing the subterranean as empty save for natural resources. In the post-National Revolution era, d’Orbigny's work reemerged as influential when it was taken up by both political theorists and geologists. Through a close examination of works from these two eras, I show how the subsoil became the rationalized realm of the state. I further suggest that the contemporary tension between state-led resource extraction and Bolivia's “plurinational” constitution, which pluralizes the nation and ostensibly supports Indigenous autonomy, can be understood as a spatial tension between the subterranean, which is held in perpetuity by the state, and the surface, which can be owned privately or communally and imbued with place-specific meanings. Although resource nationalism might appear to be a progressive effort to redistribute resource wealth, capable of countering the neoliberal privatization of decades prior, such extractive projects threaten Indigenous territorial rights, compromising the purportedly decolonial goals of the Plurinational State.
Excited that this article has finally come out - it has been in the works for over two years. You can follow the citation below to find it online.
Andrea Marston (2019) Vertical farming: tin mining and agro-mineros in Bolivia, The Journal of Peasant Studies, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2019.1604511
Throughout Bolivia, collectives of small-scale miners known as ‘mining cooperatives’ have developed a reputation for cutthroat extractive practices that were shaped by neoliberal restructuring starting in the 1980s. Charting a history that starts at the turn of the twentieth century, this paper argues that cooperative mining in the tin belt of Northern Potosí has emerged as a vertical instantiation of small-holder farming practices that migrated, along with miners themselves, from surrounding indigenous ayllus. In the subterranean, however, these practices interacted with the legacies of tin mining, which was characterized by labor hierarchies that corresponded with vertical variation in ore quality. New social striations crystallized as small-holder farming customs settled into the subterranean structure, creating sharp social differentiation across these subsoil‘family farms.’ The class composition of mining cooperatives at the national level has been shaped by these entangled underground histories, with implications for the country’s economic and environmental futures.
Dissertation Exit talk
Berkeley doesn't have proper dissertation defenses, but we do have required exit talks. It's a celebratory occasion - it's so great to see what everyone has been up to for the last six or seven years. Feels good to put this out there!
Earth writing conference presentation
I had the chance to present a snippet of my research at a conference called Earth Writing hosted by the Institute for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley. The focus of the conference was on the "graphy" part of geography - how do we write about the earth? Full lineup printed here.
Excited to be giving a lecture at Queen's University in the Global Development Studies department this Wednesday, November 8th at 10:30am. If you happen to be in the Kingston area - it's free and open to the public!
I'm excited to be giving two conference presentations over the next month:
In the first presentation I will be exploring the relationship between material rock formations and what is read as evidence "consciousness" in a Marxist tradition, also pointing to the racism embedded in this term.
Two New publications
Two papers that have been in the pipeline for a while have just come out:
The first is an invited review article that examines the state of scholarship about water and mining, while the second is a piece coauthored with Tom Perreault about the role of Bolivian mining cooperatives in maintaining an extractivist hegemony in highland Bolivia.
Speaking of an extractivist hegemony, here's a photo from biennial national meeting of mining cooperatives held in September 2016, in the wake of Deputy Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes's violent death at the hands of miners. This was an important meeting because cooperative miners were rethinking their political stance while taking stock of their losses, which include a few dozen imprisoned compañeros and the overthrow of their previous leadership:
interview on the young Turks
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Dave Koller of The Young Turks about Bolivian mining cooperatives. We discuss the violent events that transpired in late August, when cooperative miners tortured and killed the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Rodolfo Illanes, and I explain what mining cooperatives are and how they emerged historically and in relation to other social groups such as the miners' unions and Indigenous organizations.
A few weeks ago, Bolivia's Deputy Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes was killed by a group of cooperative miners with whom he was allegedly trying to bargain.
The miners had set up a roadblock in Panduro to protest a change to the General Law of Cooperatives, which was passed in 2013. The change was slated to make explicit that third-party employees of cooperatives can unionize. While it was aimed at service cooperatives (electricity, telephone lines, water, etc.) who often employ technicians and accountants, it was a threat to cooperative miners who employ laborers to mine on their behalves - a very common practice among the gold cooperatives of northern La Paz and the silver cooperatives in the city of Potosí.
More importantly, however, the mining cooperatives were using the media attention generated by their protests to launch a 10-point list of demands that included flexible environmental standards, the right to mine in protected areas, and the ability to negotiate partnerships with private companies (which they have been demanding since the passage of the new Mining Code in 2014).
Illanes went to the roadblock to negotiate but was taken hostage. In the wee hours of the morning on August 25th, he was tortured, killed, and left in the street wrapped in a sheet. Some of my contacts within the mining cooperatives say that they took Illanes hostage because he appeared to have come as a spy, without any identification or body guards. They also say that Illanes's killers were drunk and stricken with grief and rage because they had recently found out the police had shot and murdered several miners at the roadblock.
In the aftermath of the murder, many cooperative miners were taken into custody. Most of these had nothing to do with the murder - they were the people the police could grab most easily - and are being held without a clear set of charges. The president of FENCOMIN (the national federation of mining cooperatives), Carlos Mamani, was also imprisoned in the maximum security prison Chonchocoro.
On September 1st, Evo Morales announced five supreme decrees that are clearly designed to curb the influence of the mining cooperative sector:
new op-ed in embassy news
I published an op-ed in Ottawa's Embassy News about a scandal in Bolivia that cost President Evo Morales a referendum that would have allowed him to modify the constitution and run again for a 4th presidential term in 2019. Just weeks before the referendum, it was revealed that in 2007 Morales had an affair with Gabriela Zapata, a Bolivian liaison for a Chinese company that is now deeply embedded in resource extraction in Bolivia. I analyze the relationship between fear of Chinese imperialism and national resource sovereignty in Bolivia here.
PhD Candidate, Geography, UC Berkeley