Nancy Postero

Nancy Postero received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 2001 and joined the UC San Diego faculty in September 2001. She was previously a criminal defense and human rights attorney and a journalist. Postero is the Director of the Human Rights Program at UC San Diego and is the new Director of the International Institute. [See cover letter here]

Postero’s research examines the relation between race, politics, and political economy, focusing specifically on indigenous peoples of Latin America.

In her 2007 book Now We Are Citizens, Indigenous Politics in Postmulticultural Bolivia (Stanford University Press), focusing on Bolivia, she examined neoliberal multiculturalism as a regime of citizenship. Comparing this regime to past epochs, she asked how neoliberal policies and practices informed the particular exclusions that marked the era of state-sponsored multiculturalism. Postero examines these issues from the perspective of the Guaraní people of Santa Cruz, in Bolivia’s Eastern lowlands, with whom she has carried out fieldwork since 1994. Through careful ethnographic studies of the effects of the Law of Popular Participation, local indigenous struggles over land rights, and NGO development projects, she argued that despite the rhetoric of indigenous empowerment, Bolivia’s multicultural reforms of the 1990s reinforced the power of the traditional dominant elite class, political parties, and a new set of patrons, the NGOs. The striking protagonism of indigenous people in Bolivian politics from 2000-2005 –which brought about the end of the neoliberal regime and the election of Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales -- must be understood as having emerged from indigenous engagement with the promises and exclusions of these neoliberal reforms. 

Postero has examined the concept of indigeneity, seeking to understand how it is constructed, negotiated, and often forms an important site for claims-making. In the 2004 volume The Struggle for Indian Rights in Latin America, co-edited with UC San Diego sociologist Leon Zamosc, (Sussex Press), Postero and Zamosc make cross-country comparisons of indigenous struggles across Latin America to find patterns in the complex relations between neoliberalism’s effects and indigenous strategies. Focusing on how the “Indian Question” is raised and negotiated by different actors in specific conjunctures, they argue for a careful empirical analysis of indigenous struggles across the region.  In Negotiating Identity (2013), Postero provides a synthetic framework for thinking about the politics of indigeneity in Bolivia.

In recent years, she has turned to the so-called “post-neoliberal” moment in Bolivia, where the government of indigenous president Morales and his MAS party is promoting an agenda that includes decolonizing society and formulating alternatives to neoliberalism. She has explored various aspects of this new project, including the MAS government’s uses of idealist notions of Andean culture to promote its agenda (LACES 2007), and the interesting and productive tensions within the MAS (Latin American Perspectives 2010) press). She has also examined the limitations liberalism may be placing on the MAS’s “radical democracy” project (Latin American Research Review 2010). In Neoliberalism, Interrupted, Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America, co-edited with anthropologist Mark Goodale (Stanford University Press 2013), she examined the possibilities of a post-neoliberal moment across Latin America. The Bolivian, Venezuelan, and Ecuadorian cases point to important challenges to neoliberal economic processes. Does this amount to a more far-reaching transformation in the region? If so, what has changed? Given the neoliberalism was never complete, and always contested, does the “post-“ framework have analytical value? Her research demonstrates that while the Bolivian government has made enormous changes in the organization of state and society, there are fundamental tensions between the social and cultural justice and the ongoing extractivist national development model. 

With colleague Nicole Fabricant, she has also examined political performance and spectacle in Bolivia. In a series of articles focusing on lowland elite opposition to the Morales government, they have explored the role of ritual and emotion in political contestation.  In their 2013 JLACA article, Fabricant and Postero analyze hunger strikes by Right-Wing elites who used the repertoire of the powerless to argue they are victims of an authoritarian state. Examining the role of fantasy in these post-colonial relationships, they argue these spectacles of citizenship can also erase long histories of structural inequality and race/racism, and allow the Right to reposition themselves as the newly oppressed and marginalized peoples. A 2014 article in Identities develops this notion, demonstrating how various actors, including both the State and the Right Wing opposition, utilized notions of human rights and indigeneity, and especially the trope of the “wounded Indian body” to push their interests.

Her newest book, The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia (UC Press, in press) brings together many of these issues. It examines the ten years of the Morales-led plurinational state and evaluates the promises of decolonization. Exploring various sites of interventions, from collective marriages organized by the state to indigenous autonomy initiatives to the TIPNIS controversy, she evaluates what it has meant for Bolivia’s poor and indigenous peoples to have a state controlled by indigenous actors. There is little doubt that this state has improved the lives of indigenous people, and attacked racism. Yet, the central argument of the book is that when Morales took power in 2006, indigeneity and decolonization were sites of liberation, forming what French theorist Jacques Ranciere would call an emancipatory “politics”. Over the arch of the decade, however, the state has consolidated power, in part by performing a state-led version of indigeneity and in part by expanding an extractivist national development project.  As a result, indigeneity and decolonization are now part of the state-building project, serving as a form of governance, or “policing”.

A final project is a forthcoming special issue of Anthropology Theory, co-edited with Eli Elinoff and Nicole Fabricant, titled Political Anthropology in the Era of Post-Politics. This collection argues for the critical need for ethnographic analysis by political anthropologists to counter the forms of consensus governance across the world. They define politics as a “practice of world making that proceeds through constellations of disagreement, difference, and conflict.”

Single Authored Book

In Press  Postero, Nancy.  The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia. Berkeley: University of California Press. 

2007  Postero, Nancy.  Now We Are Citizens, Indigenous Politics in Post-Multicultural Bolivia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. (294pp)

Translation: Ahora Somos Ciudadanos.  Translation into Spanish by Hernan Calla Ortega. Muela del Diablo Editores, La Paz, Bolivia. (2009)

Edited Volumes and Special Journal Issues

2013 Nicole Fabricant and Nancy Postero, eds.  Performance Politics: Spectacular Productions of Culture in Contemporary Latin America, Special Issue of Identities 21(4).

2013. Postero, Nancy, ed. The Politics of Indigeneity in Bolivia, Past and Present. Special Issue of Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies (LACES).  Authored the Introduction: Negotiating Indigeneity, vol. 8(2).

2013 Goodale, Mark, and Nancy Postero, eds. Neoliberalism, Interrupted: Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America (Stanford University Press).

2010 Oxhorn, Phillip, and Postero, Nancy, eds.  Living in Actually Existing Democracies, Special Issue of Latin American Research Review 45(4). In that issue, co-authored Introduction to the Special Issue, Actually Existing Democracies

2004  Postero, Nancy and Leon Zamosc. The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Latin America, Nancy Postero and Leon Zamosc, eds.  Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press.

Translation:  In La Lucha por los Derechos Indígenas en América Latina, eds. Nancy Postero and Leon Zamosc. Quito, Ecuador: Abya Ayala Press.  (2005)

Research Articles and Book Chapters

Forthcoming. Fabricant, Nicole, and Nancy Postero. Indigenous Sovereignty and the New Developmentalism in Plurinational Bolivia, Anthropology Theory.

Forthcoming. Nancy Postero, Elinoff, Eli, and Nicole Fabricant. Introduction: Political Anthropology in the Age of Post-Politics, Anthropology Theory.

Forthcoming. Fabricant, Nicole, and Nancy Postero, The Indigenous Turn, in New Approaches to Latin American Studies: Culture and Power, edited by Juan Poblete, Routledge: London, 2017.

2016  Postero, Nancy. Raza, desarrollo y naturaleza en la Bolivia plurinacional, in Intersecciones en Ecología Política, Angel Aedo, Piergiorgio Di Giminiani y Juan Loera, eds. Santiago, Chile: Catholic University Press.

2015 Fabricant, Nicole, and Nancy Postero. Sacrificing Indigenous Bodies and lands: The Political-Economic History of Lowland Bolivia in Light of the Recent TIPNIS Debate, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 20(3): 452-474.

2015 Postero, Nancy. Even in Plurinational Bolivia: Indigeneity, Development, and Racism since Morales in Geographies of Power, Re-Cognizing the Present Moment of Danger, Heather Merrill and Lisa Hoffman, eds. University of Georgia Press.

2015 Postero, Nancy. El Pueblo Boliviano, de Composición Plural: A Look at Plurinationalism in Bolivia, in in The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, Carlos de la Torre, ed. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, Carlos de la Torre, ed. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, p. 398-431.

2014 Fabricant, Nicole, and Nancy Postero, Performing the “Wounded Indian:” A New Platform of Democracy and Human Rights in Bolivia’s Autonomy Movement, in Performance Politics: Spectacular Productions of Culture in Contemporary Latin America, Special Issue of Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 21(4): 395-411.

2013  Fabricant, Nicole, and Nancy Postero. Contested Bodies, Contested States: Performance, Emotions, and New forms of Regional Governance in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 18(2):187—211.

2013  Goodale, Mark and Nancy Postero, Revolution and Retrenchment, Illuminating the Present in Latin America, in Neoliberalism, Interrupted: Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America (Stanford University Press) (pp. 1-22).

2013  Postero, Nancy. Bolivia’s Challenge to “Colonial Neoliberalism”, in Neoliberalism, Interrupted: Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America, Goodale, Mark, and Nancy Postero, eds. (Stanford University Press (pp. 25-52)

2013  Postero, Nancy. Protecting Mother Earth in Bolivia: Discourse and Deeds in the Morales Administration. In Environment and the Law in Amazonia: A Plurilateral Encounter, James M. Cooper and Christine Hunefeldt, Eds. (Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press), pp 78-93.

2010  Postero, Nancy.   Morales’s MAS Government: Building Indigenous Popular Hegemony in Bolivia. Latin American Perspectives 37(3):18-34.

2010 Postero, Nancy.  The Struggle to Create a Radical Democracy in Bolivia. Latin American Research Review 45(4): 59-78.

2007 Postero, Nancy.  Andean Utopias in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies 2(1):1-28.

2005  Indigenous Responses to Neoliberalism: A Look at the Bolivian Uprising of 2003.  In Political and Legal Anthropology Review (POLAR) 28(1): 73-92.

2004  Postero, Nancy and Leon Zamosc.  Indigenous Movements and the Indian Question in Latin America.  In The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Latin America, Nancy Postero and Leon Zamosc, eds.  Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press.  (pp. 1-31)

Translation:  Movimientos Indígenas y el Tema Indígena en América Latina.  In La Lucha por los Derechos Indígenas en América Latina, eds. Nancy Postero and Leon Zamosc. Quito, Ecuador: Abya Ayala Press.  (2005)

2004  Postero, Nancy.   Articulations and Fragmentations: Indigenous Politics in Bolivia.  In The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Latin America, Nancy Postero and Leon Zamosc, eds.  Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press. (pp.189-216)  (2004)

Translations

a) Movimientos Indígenas Bolivianos: Articulaciones y Fragmentaciones en la Búsqueda de Multiculturalismo.  In La Lucha por los Derechos Indígenas en América Latina, eds. Nancy Grey Postero and Leon Zamosc. Quito, Ecuador: Abya Ayala Press. (2005), and

b) Movimientos indígenas y estado en Bolivia, Luis Enrique López y Pablo Regalsky, eds. Luis Enrique López and Inga Sichra, La Paz, Bolivia: Editorial Plural (2005)