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God, Fatherland, Home: Revealing the Dark Side of our Anthropological Virtue


Abstract and Figures

The article uses ethnographic research on right-wing anti-government movements in Bolivia conducted at the height of social conflict and cultural violence in 2008 and 2009 to reflect more generally on the relationship between anthropological research, ethical commitment, and the politics of knowledge. The article first describes the relevant epistemological and political contexts in which engaged anthropology emerged as an important disciplinary current. It then goes on to consider how and why the author’s research on right-wing political practice in Bolivia diverged from the disciplinary expectations of engaged anthropology. After reflecting on the implications of this shift, the article concludes by arguing for a methodological recalibration that allows anthropologists to take seriously the ideologies and cultural logics of contemporary right-wing mobilization, particularly social and political movements that are animated by what Edmund Burke described as ‘just prejudice’.
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God, Fatherland, Home:
revealing the dark side of our
anthropological virtue
Mark Goodale University of Lausanne
The article uses ethnographic research on right-wing anti-government movements in Bolivia
conducted at the height of social conflict and cultural violence in 2008 and 2009 to reflect more
generally on the relationship between anthropological research, ethical commitment, and the politics
of knowledge. The article first describes the relevant epistemological and political contexts in which
engaged anthropology emerged as an important disciplinary current. It then goes on to consider how
and why the author’s research on right-wing political practice in Bolivia diverged from the disciplinary
expectations of engaged anthropology. After reflecting on the implications of this shift, the article
concludes by arguing for a methodological recalibration that allows anthropologists to take seriously
the ideologies and cultural logics of contemporary right-wing mobilization, particularly social and
political movements that are animated by what Edmund Burke described as ‘just prejudice’.
Loomings (a prologue of sorts)
As it turned out, the shadowy spiritual leader of Bolivia’s far-right opposition, a man
who was spoken of in reverential, if hushed, tones, was a pulmonologist. I had first
begun to hear the name of ‘Dr Santistevan’ in the historic city of Sucre in the weeks
before the January 2009 national referendum on the radical new constitution. The
country had been wracked by regionalist violence that had taken it to the brink of civil
war during the fraught early years of the first Evo Morales government. Morales, who
had been inaugurated in 2006 as the first self-identifying indigenous President at the
head of the Movement to Socialism party (MAS), had overseen the drafting of a new
social contract for the nation that promised to ‘refound’ it as a plurinational state that
would overcome its colonial, republican, and neoliberal legacies.
This revolutionary project had been opposed from the beginning. Centred on
the cities of Sucre and Santa Cruz, the resistance to the national government’s plan
to build an ‘indigenous state’ (Postero 2017) crystallized within the southern and
eastern lowland departments. These formed the shape of a half-moon, or media luna,
which became the name used by the national and international media to identify this
opposition. The Media Luna soon organized itself into a bloc that was opposed to
the Morales government’s transformative ambitions on a range of political, economic,
and ideological grounds. Formally, at least, the Sucre branch of the Media Luna was
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344 Mark Goodale
animated by a long-standing grievance dating from the 1899 Federal War, in which the
country’s political capital was moved to La Paz from Sucre after a struggle for power
among competing regional elites. The Sucre resistance saw the new Morales government
as the latest in a long line of anti-Sucre regimes based in the La Paz highlands; their
fight, again, at least officially, was to have Sucre restored to its historic status as the
country’s ‘full’ capital. (By convention, Bolivia’s legal institutions remained in Sucre,
while the executive and legislative were in La Paz.)
The Santa Cruz branch of the anti-national government resistance was also formally
motivated by historical grievance. The agriculturally rich lowland department of Santa
Cruz, Bolivia’s largest, had long claimed to be a victim of the central government:
first, by being marginalized and isolated for much of Bolivia’s republican history;
and then, after the department’s oil reserves had become a key national resource by
the mid-twentieth century, by being exploited. By the time of the 2009 vote on the
new constitution, Santa Cruz Department had long established itself as the country’s
economic powerhouse. Its claims, therefore, were in some sense formally contrary
to those of Sucre. Instead of demanding more centrality, the Santa Cruz resistance
movement wanted more autonomy within the national political structure: sovereignty
over its economic interests, the right to develop bilateral relations with other countries,
and the freedom to nourish what it argued was a distinct regional ‘Camba’ cultural
But just behind these official grievances, the opposition to Evo Morales and the
MAS government during these years was infused with other, much darker currents.
If opposition press conferences could be filled with the conflictual if arguably noble
rhetoric of autonomy, individual freedom, and regional dignity, the rhetoric on the
streets was often framed in anti-Indian, anti-highlands, and deeply racist terms. Evo
Morales was referred to as an ‘indio de mierda, or ‘shitty Indian’, or a ‘llama de mierda’,
a ‘shitty llama’. Pamphlets distributed in Santa Cruz portrayed the 2009 constitution as
the harbinger of an Indian revolution that would see the wealthy, ‘Camba’ department
overrun by armies of ‘red ponchos’ from the highlands bent on confiscating private
property, destroying civilized institutions, and doing the MAS government’s bidding in
converting the country into a vassal state of ‘communist’ Venezuela. It was this other face
to the Media Luna that brought the attention of international media and institutions,
which saw in the often violent resistance to the government’s ‘process of change’ the
stubborn vestiges of a racist colonial order that would resist the empowerment of
Bolivia’s indigenous populations at all costs.
Which brings me back to Dr Santistevan. While conducting ethnographic research
with the leading proponents of capital´
ıa in Sucre and autonomy in Santa Cruz, they
were only too willing to expound at length on why the opposition to the Morales
government was a movement committed to liberal values of human rights, the rule of
law, and liberty. When I raised the question of the undercurrents of right-wing ideology
that were just under the surface, however, key interlocutors would deny them, or claim
that they were the product of an ostracized minority within their ranks, or describe
them as fantasies of the MAS government’s imagination. Yet with mysterious regularity,
Dr Santistevan’s name would slip out.
Finally, at the end of several days of ethnographic interviews with David Sejas, the
recently ousted leader of the Uni ´
on Juvenil Cruce˜
nista (UJC), a youth paramilitary
organization in Santa Cruz, I had a troubling breakthrough. After pressing Sejas
with some insistence about the gap between the formal discourse of anti-government
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God, Fatherland, Home 345
resistance and the racialized nature of much of the recent street violence, in which the
UJC was among the vanguard, he said, suddenly, ‘If you want to know what I believe, you
should talk to Dr Santistevan’. Although I had heard his name before, during interviews
in both Sucre and Santa Cruz, I replied, ‘Who is Dr. Santistevan?’ In a portent of things
to come, in the moment just before Sejas responded, I happened to glance at a stack of
DVDs on a small table next to his chair. The one on top featured on its cover a shocking
black swastika over a red background; its title was Hitler: the untold story.
So who was Dr Santistevan? Sejas – who was living around the clock in a kind of
self-imposed internal exile in a fortified sanctuary in a municipal building adjacent to
the Plaza 24 de Septiembre in the heart of Santa Cruz – replied with uncharacteristic
equanimity, ‘He is the person who guides us’.
Expectations of engagement amidst the violence of ‘refoundation’
This article is based on ethnographic research conducted in Bolivia over nine years
between 2006 and 2015, with a brief period of follow-up research over two months
in July and August 2016. This broader project examined the historic changes that
accompanied the development of the plurinational state by focusing on shifts in ideology
and cultural praxis in the areas of law, political mobilization, and social identity (see
Goodale 2019). Although the project eventually came to be framed as something of a
‘national ethnography’, research was primarily conducted among a wide range of social
actors in three main regions: La Paz and El Alto; Sucre; and Santa Cruz.
This article narrows the focus of this broader study to one of its most unlikely and
difficult parts: ethnographic research with leaders and foot soldiers alike of the various
anti-government opposition movements. To do so, I draw from research primarily
undertaken in Santa Cruz and Sucre in 2008 and 2009. This was the period in recent
Bolivian history in which the prospect of national ‘refoundation’ through the adoption
of a radical and contested new constitution exposed violent fault lines of racial and
regional difference; revealed the country’s ideological ferment; and demonstrated the
consequences of the explosive politicization of collective memory.
The article is structured in the following ways. In the next section, I place
the trajectory of ethnographic research on Bolivia’s anti-government opposition
movements against both historical and disciplinary backgrounds. I focus, in particular,
on the ways in which prevailing methodological expectations and ethical imperatives
of engaged legal and political anthropology created initial epistemological blind spots
in my research. In attempting to overcome these blind spots, I realized that despite
its important contributions, the pervasive siren song of engaged anthropology had its
costs, which I examine below.
I argue that expectations of engagement – which can be explicit or implicit,
methodological or political, present from the beginning or adopted in later phases
– depend on modes of association that are difficult, dangerous, or ethically untenable
in cases in which the anthropologist is confronted with the prospect of ethnography
with what Nitzan Shoshan (2016b) has described as ‘the disagreeable’. Nevertheless,
I further argue that political and legal anthropology must reconsider the prevailing
disciplinary hegemony of engaged anthropology in order to create the ethnographic
and theoretical space and indeed legitimacy for a thoroughgoing examination of
cultural processes, ideologies, and social practices that many anthropologists would find
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346 Mark Goodale
The article then considers key findings from research on Bolivia’s anti-government
opposition in order to illustrate how what might be described as a ‘non-engaged’
anthropology offers a situated and strategic means through which political and historical
conflict anchored in ideologies of difference can be understood through ethnographic
nuance that might nevertheless be experienced – by the anthropologist and her or his
different audiences – as ethically troubling. Even so, I would argue that the need for
a newly oriented political and legal anthropology that might very well be considered
engaged anthropology’s doppelg¨
anger is more pressing than ever as a disciplinary
response to the disorienting ways in which a kind of anti-politics of recognition is fast
becoming a prevalent logic of contemporary social conflict.
The article concludes with a final section that offers a preliminary theoretical account
of Bolivia’s anti-government opposition movements. This perspective views right-wing
mobilization as an ‘affective cultural system’ shaped by a cultural commitment to
what Edmund Burke, in his critique of the French Revolution, called ‘just prejudice.
It should be the task of a deliberately re-grounded ‘non-engaged’ anthropology
to trace the contours and contemporary ramifications of prejudice in this sense,
which has (re-)emerged as a darkly thick cultural value of increasingly global
Missing the (counter-)revolution
Many political and legal anthropologists, myself included, whose formation had
taken place during the period that former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2000)
described as the ‘age of human rights’ conducted ethnographic research on various
dimensions of this dawning era. Although often critical in orientation, anthropologists
found themselves sharing the general directions of the movements, ideologies, and
institutions that formed the basis of research. In this sense, anthropological research on
women’s or indigenous rights movements, for example, was research that examined the
ethnographic mutabilities and contradictions of campaigns whose ultimate objectives
were, for the anthropologist, worthy of at least appreciation, if not support (see, e.g.,
Kirsch 2006; Speed 2008;Warren2007).
This overlap between the conceptual subjects of legal and political anthropological
research and the background inclinations of anthropologists themselves could, in
the most direct cases, take the form of what later came to be known as ‘engaged
anthropology’ (see Low & Merry 2010). Yet even in more subtle ways, much of political
and legal anthropology during the first decades of the post-Cold War developed a close
thematic association with, and indeed affinity for, the cultures and practices of what
Nancy Fraser (1995) called the ‘politics of recognition’.
This close twining of what I have described elsewhere (Goodale 2017) as the ‘new’
political and legal anthropology with a post-Cold War identity politics had important
implications. First, it meant that anthropologists were on the ethnographic frontlines
as human rights became the ‘archetypal language of democratic transition’ (Wilson
2001:1); the adoption of International Labour Organization Convention 169, the so-
called ‘international bill of indigenous rights’, transformed domestic policy-making
and legal reform under the influence of an ideology of ‘indigenism’ (Niezen 2003);
and transnational NGOs, often infused with a sense of their own benevolent power
as ‘activists beyond borders’ (Keck & Sikkink 1998), increasingly took on governing
functions in an era of state withdrawal under the auspices of the neoliberal Washington
Consensus (Tate 2007).
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God, Fatherland, Home 347
Second, this collective research led to key theoretical interventions on a number
of critical questions regarding the transformation of political action during a ‘post-
socialist age’ (Fraser 1995), including the relationship between influential actors and
institutions at different scales (Merry 2006), the importance of performance to human
rights activism (Allen 2013), and the role that visibility plays as a marker of identity
politics (Baer 2010), among others.
And finally, the emergence of new strands of anthropological research during the
florescence of the politics of recognition as the central logic of the ‘age of human rights’
led many anthropologists to reconsider what it meant to be an ‘engaged observer’
amidst various forms of status-based discrimination and violence (Sanford & Angel-
Ajani 2006). As Monique Skidmore put it, ‘How can anthropologists in particular . . .
fail to engage with the fear, suffering, and hope that infuse our conversations with
repressed people? How could one justify a research methodology or project . . . in
which these turbulent lives are peripheral to the research questions at hand?’ (quoted
in Goldstein 2012:37).
Perhaps not coincidentally, putting ‘turbulent lives’ at the centre of ethnographic
research projects has played a key methodological role in studies of conflict and violence
in Bolivia. For example, Daniel Goldstein’s long-term research among community
members in the peri-urban barrios of Cochabamba was transformed, in its later phases,
when he founded an access-to-justice NGO and community centre at the same time he
was conducting research on local perceptions of rights and security (see Goldstein 2012).
As he puts it, ‘Activism opens doors . . . [E]ngagement can be a critical component of
the research process, one that makes rigorous research possible rather than obstructing
it’ (2012:42;46).
And in a more recent example of the value of an engaged methodology in the
ethnography of Bolivia, Susan Helen Ellison (2018)tookajobinacommunityjustice
centre in El Alto as part of a study of what she calls the ‘politics of conflict resolution’. In
order to both better understand these politics and support the centre’s clients, many of
whom were indigenous women seeking protection from abusive human environments,
Ellison took part in the full range of the centre’s quasi-legal operations.
In a signal moment in this full-spectrum engaged anthropology, Ellison went so far
as to lie in wait for the husband of one of the centre’s clients outside of his workplace
in order to ‘serve’ him with an invitation to participate in mediation. As she describes
this astonishing stakeout (2018:1-4), when he finally emerged from the factory in the
early morning after a long nightshift, she jumped out of the car and confronted him
with the letter, accompanied by a vague threat of future legal action in case he refused
to participate in the mediation. There is no question that this and many other forms of
engaged participation gave Ellison a unique methodological vantage point from which
to unpack the micro-practices of everyday conflict employed by vulnerable women in
El Alto.
Yet despite the epistemological and ethical openings created by the increasing
prevalence of engaged methodologies in political and legal anthropology, I would
argue that this broad shift was accompanied by a corresponding closure that evoked an
earlier and analogous dialectic within the field of Andean anthropology. As Orin Starn
argued, in a polemical 1991 article on the failure of anthropologists to anticipate the rise
of the Shining Path Maoist rebellion in the Peruvian countryside, scholars had been
so determined to valorize the cultures and histories of indigenous Peruvians that they
were incapable of re-focusing the ethnographic gaze on the broader structure of political
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348 Mark Goodale
economic violence in which the Shining Path’s ideology of rural guerrilla warfare was
able to flourish, at least for a time. As he put it, it was precisely the well-meaning
tradition of village-based Andean anthropology, which emphasized cultural continuity
and the distinctiveness of Andean community life, that caused many scholars to ‘miss
the revolution’.
As revealed by my own early experiences trying to conduct research on Bolivia’s
right-wing opposition to Evo Morales and the transformative policies of the MAS
government, political and legal anthropologists who came of institutional age during
the waxing of the global politics of recognition were challenged by a similar limitation.
If anthropologists of human rights, social movements, and justice were being exhorted
to make sure our research ‘engage[d] with the fear, suffering, and hope that infuse[d]
our conversations with repressed people’, what about the actors and institutions that
were responsible for the fear, suffering, and repression? If human rights activism was
based on the principle of universal human dignity, what did anthropological research
have to say about movements and ideologies that rejected this principle? If social justice
campaigners in different parts of the world were fighting for equality or economic
redistribution, what did anthropological research tell us about the institutions and
political parties that opposed these struggles? If transnational legal advocacy sought to
undermine the arbitrary boundaries of the state in favour of a more enlightened legal
cosmopolitanism, what did anthropological research know about its discursive and
ideological opposites: legal nationalism, legal exceptionalism, and what the Slovenian
anthropologist Urˇ
sula Lipovec ˇ
Cebron (2012) has described as legal ‘erasure’?
The dilemma is that, in retrospect, we know that the ‘age of human rights’ was already
in the process of coming to an end during the years in which the political and legal
anthropological reflection on its emergence was flourishing in the form of influential
publications, institutional engagement, and, perhaps most consequentially, teaching
and postgraduate training. It would be fruitless to attempt an exact periodizing to mark
this disjuncture. Yet there is no question that if the ‘endtimes’ (Hopgood 2013) of the
post-Cold War utopia, not of rules (Graeber 2015), but of recognition, had become
a pervasive reality by the time the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European
Union and the United States had elected Donald Trump to the presidency (to take two
prominent transatlantic examples), its beginnings can be traced to the geopolitical shifts
of 2001 and the resulting discursive reversals. In other words, by the time I arrived in
Bolivia in 2008 as a budding engaged anthropologist prepared to conduct research on
the relationship between human rights activism, constitutional reform, and indigenous
empowerment, the images of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners in the full
flush of a dehumanizing nationalism were already five years old and the dislocations
of the global financial crisis were already revealing the true face of ‘savage capitalism’
(Sassen 2014).
Thus, my lack of intellectual and ethical preparation to conduct theoretically
informed ethnographic research among the various currents of Bolivia’s anti-
government opposition was a microcosm of a broader and ongoing problem for the
discipline. As I have argued elsewhere (Goodale 2016), the ‘rise and fall’ (Allen 2013)
of a post-Cold War rights-based politics of recognition was closely connected with
the strengthening of nationalism, cultural identitarianism, neo-racism, and post-truth
know-nothingism, all against a background – or base, in Marxist terms – in which
global economic inequality was exploding amidst what Moyn (2018)hasrecently
called the ‘neoliberal maelstrom’. Yet with certain exceptions, many political and
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God, Fatherland, Home 349
legal anthropologists and their students continued to conduct engaged ethnographic
research as if these nationalist, anti-liberal, and culturalist trends remained annoying
developments on the margins of what was still a globalizing ‘culture of human rights’
(Rabossi 1990:161), when in fact it was the opposite.
The result was that, to paraphrase Starn (1991), political and legal anthropology
has, until quite recently (see, e.g., Bell`
e2015; Cammelli 2017;Holmes2000;Kalb
&Halmai2011; Pasieka 2017; Shoshan 2016a; Teitelbaum 2017), largely missed the
counter-revolution. And despite the growing ethnographic interest in the current
renaissance of illiberalism, scholars have remarked how their work remains well outside
the boundaries of disciplinary norms. For example, Nitzan Shoshan (2016b), who
has studied underground neo-Nazi groups in Germany, laments the fact that the
centrality of a particular demand for engaged anthropology has led to critical lacunae
in anthropological knowledge precisely at the moment in which such knowledge of
‘disagreeable themes’ is most needed.
Indeed, as Daniel Goldstein (2012) has argued, the principles and disciplinary politics
of engaged anthropology have become so deeply embedded in the warp and woof
of contemporary political and legal anthropology as to become epistemologically
fused with it. If this remains so, it will take a concerted process of reformulation to
reopen the subdisciplinary project so that it can be directed with collective purpose
towards understanding the crises and contradictions of our anti-cosmopolitan age.
As my reluctant research in Bolivia demonstrates, the cultural forces of right-wing
mobilization must be carefully unpacked ethnographically even if what emerges defies
easy theoretical characterization.
Por Bolivia con el brazo en alto
WhenIfinallymademywaytotheofceofDrSantistevaninJanuary2009, I did so filled
with a strange feeling of dread, bordering on betrayal. If he was, in fact, the spiritual
guide to Bolivia’s most violent far-right militants, how would I be able to nurture
the kind of intersubjective empathy with him that was the methodological basis for
ethnographic understanding? Even more, how would I, who was still, in those years,
under the thrall of the emancipatory promise of what the historian James Dunkerley
(2007) had described as Bolivia’s ‘third revolution’, be able to fulfil the ethical command
to conduct research that was somehow consistent with a broader ‘struggle for social
justice’ (Hale 2010) with someone whose ideology was apparently diametrically opposed
to such struggles?
Indeed, in those confusing last minutes before I met Dr Santistevan, I even
entertained wild thoughts of anthropological sabotage. With vague recollections flitting
through my mind of having read about Gregory Bateson’s OSS unit in Burma
broadcasting ‘black propaganda’ to Japanese troops during the Second World War
(see Price 1998), I approached the unassuming stucco building in which Santistevan
maintained his medical practice about five blocks away from Santa Cruz’s central plaza.
Shannon Speed has argued that a proper engaged anthropology is one in which we
conduct ethnographic research ‘that is directed toward some form of shared political
goals’ (2008:215). Did this mean I was required to help the Bolivian government by
briefing them on my research with the right-wing opposition, since, broadly speaking,
I shared (with the government) its political goals?
In the event, the first set of ethnographic interviews with Santistevan in January 2009
dispelled many of these illusions of anthropological heroism. This was not because the
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350 Mark Goodale
ethnography humanized him in a way that made it impossible to view him and the
movement he inspired without a troubled understanding. Rather, it was because his
influence was clearly waning during a rapidly evolving moment in Bolivian history in
which the broader anti-government opposition – of which Santistevan represented a
particular strand – found itself in retreat, despite the sound and fury of its performative
spectacles. At the same time, the MAS government was just beginning to tighten the
screws – juridically, politically, and ideologically – in the remaining days before the vote
on the new constitution, the outcome of which was never in doubt. Thus, when I sat
down with the mythic Dr Santistevan to learn more about his role in the regionalist
movement, the black-and-white lines that seemed to divide autonomy from separatism,
revolution from counter-revolution, and ethnic revalorization from racism had already
become less threatening, if ever so slightly.
Juan Carlos Santistevan L ´
opez was 64 years old when I met him in 2009.After
explaining who I was and the reason for my visit – that I was an American
anthropologist who was in Bolivia conducting research on ‘conflict’ (my entirely
accurate, if intentionally vague, standard introduction) – the first thing he said was,
ı. I have treated thousands of Guaran´
ı as a medical doctor. I feel indigenous. My family has
been in Santa Cruz for centuries. Santa Cruz is in my flesh and bones.
Yet Santistevan was also something else. The nominal head of the Santa Cruz wing of
the Falange Socialista Boliviana (FSB), Santistevan was the most influential falangista
in Bolivia, someone whose writings and counsel were sought after by anti-government
militants throughout the country, falangista or not. Although other representatives of
the anti-MAS opposition were more publicly visible, particularly the elected heads of
the departments that constituted the Media Luna, Santistevan was the opposition’s
actual, if obscure, lodestar. While the Media Luna was the face of political opposition to
the Evo Morales government and the new constitution, one whose tactics were based in
regional electoral victories, Santistevan and the FSB were the symbolic core, one with
much deeper historical roots and the capacity to speak directly to what Santistevan
called the ‘mystical’ values that constituted the Bolivian Patria, or Fatherland.
The origins of the FSB proved to be key to appreciating its status during the early
years of the first Morales government (2006-10).TheFSBhadbeenfoundedin1937
in Santiago, Chile, by a group of young Bolivian university students that included
Guillermo Kennig Voss, Federico Mendoza, Hugo Arias, Germ´
an Aguilar Zenteno, and,
most importantly, ´
Oscar ´
Unzaga de la Vega, who became the party’s first leader and
principal ideologue (Mesa, Gisbert & Mesa Gisbert 2008). The year in which the FSB
was founded is important for two reasons. First, it was during a period of terrible
social and moral turmoil in Bolivian history. The country had just signed a peace treaty
with Paraguay as the losing side in the disastrous Chaco War (1932-5), conventionally
believed to have been a proxy struggle for control over oil fields between Bolivia, whose
interests were aligned with Standard Oil of New Jersey, and Paraguay, whose interests
were aligned with Royal Dutch Shell. As Herbert Klein has explained, the Chaco War
was the
most bitter conflict in Bolivia’s history . . . Over 65,000 were killed, deserted, or died in captivity, or
roughly 25 percent of the combatants on the Bolivian side. These out of a total population of just
about 2million persons created war losses equal to what the European nations had suffered in World
War I ( 1982:193-4).
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God, Fatherland, Home 351
This devastation gave birth to the so-called ‘Chaco Generation’ of young people,
who searched in various ways for meaning in the aftermath of the collapse of the ancien
egime. The creation of the FSB represented one important response to the political and
social void in Bolivia; another, from a radically different direction, was the foundation
of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario (POR), or Revolutionary Workers Party, in 1935,
under the influence of Trotskyism and, soon after, the Fourth International.
And second, and more critical, the creation of the FSB was inspired by the example
of the Spanish Falange, which itself had been founded in 1933 (by Jos´
e Antonio Primo de
Rivera) under the ideological umbrella and with the financial support of Italy’s ruling
fascist party (Mesa et al. 2008). By 1937, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, Francisco
Franco had elevated the Spanish Falange to a position of tremendous power as the
militant heart of the anti-Republican rebellion. The Spanish Falange’s manifesto, much
of which was either adopted or adapted by the FSB, was based on the full range of fascist
values, including ultranationalism; an exalted and idealized conception of masculinity
and its corresponding anti-feminism; a ‘military conception of life’; the importance of
sacrifice for the good of the Fatherland; radical anti-communism; the duty to engage in
productive labour; and the valorization of a public spirituality guided by the Catholic
Church (Payne 2010).1
The complicated history of the FSB from its founding in 1937 to the moment I
met Santistevan is relevant in one way in particular: during key conflicts across the
decades, its ideological identity was forged by a number of exemplary sacrifices that
became the FSB’s symbolic ‘chosen traumas’ (Volkan 1997), mythical episodes that
would be used as pedagogical models for subsequent generations of militants. Perhaps
the most important period in this wider history was the violence that occurred in the
late 1950s, when the FSB opposed the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR)
government that had come to power during the 1952 National Revolution. With Santa
Cruz as its base of operations, the FSB emerged as a militant force of resistance to the
government’s wide-ranging reforms. In response, the MNR leadership put in place a
series of increasingly repressive measures, including the use of concentration camps for
political opponents, and, ultimately, the deployment of the national armed forces and
highland peasant militias to crush dissent.
In May 1958, the government formally declared the Santa Cruz-based opposition a
coup d’ ´
etat and sent thousands of armed peasants from communities in Cochabamba
Department to confront a combined armed movement of FSB and UJC paramilitaries,
comprised mostly of students. A small group of FSB and UJC members attempted to
flee along the Santa Cruz-Cochabamba highway, but were intercepted by the peasant
army near the town of Terebinto. According to the legend that was passed down through
the decades by the FSB, the students were ‘tortured and mutilated . . . in a cruel and
bloody manner’ (Dabdoub 2009) when they refused to renounce their loyalty to the FSB
and the anti-revolutionary cause. The principal lesson of the ‘Holocaust of Terebinto’,
one woven into the very fibre of the FSB’s identity, was that commitment to its ethical
pillars was demonstrated through sacrifice, the bloodier and more violent the better.
Although the FSB never rose to national prominence in Bolivia, its status as the
guardian of a mystical fascism deepened and evolved over the decades. For example,
in his memoir of living in Bolivia during the early Morales years, the Spanish writer
Miguel S´
anchez-Ostiz recalls coming across an FSB political mural in the streets of
Cochabamba that said, ‘For a Bolivia of the Raised Arm’ (‘Por Bolivia con el brazo en
alto’), meaning a Bolivia that adhered to the principles of the FSB – signified by the
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352 Mark Goodale
classic raised-arm salute of fascism. S´
anchez-Ostiz then goes on to quote something
that Klaus Barbie supposedly said about the FSB. Barbie, the Nazi war criminal known
as the ‘Butcher of Lyon’, had been a close adviser to the notorious Bolivian dictator Luis
ıa Meza, who had come to power in the Cocaine Coup of 1980 and then undertook
a short-lived reign of terror that marked the beginning of the end of the country’s long
history of military regimes. As S´
anchez-Ostiz relates it, Barbie ‘said that what he liked
most about coming to Bolivia was being able to see members of the Bolivian Falange
marching by with their arms raised high [brazo en alto]’ (2008:232).
Yet Santistevan was careful to reject the historical association of the FSB with fascism.
In fact, as he explained, it was the government of Evo Morales that was closer to fascism,
particularly in the way that ethnic identity had become a cornerstone of the country’s
‘third revolution’. As Santistevan argued at passionate length:
We deeply respect the peasant because the peasant is a worker and we respect, above all, those who
engage in productive labour. But we don’t believe that we should be divided into these different
categories – peasant, indigenous, native [a distinction that would be codified for the first time in
the 2009 constitution]. We believe that the peasant, the indigenous person, and the native are all
the same thing. What is the difference between an indigenous person, a peasant, and a native? . . .
The government has invented this idea of indigenism because they think that the class struggle has
endedintheworldandhasbeenreplacedbyastruggleofblood[lucha de sangre, meaning a racial
struggle] . . . But this struggle of blood is actually the most criminal it can be because it is a Nazi
struggle. It is a fascist struggle in which the government both invents certain races and then believes
that some are more powerful than others. And for Evo Morales, the only really powerful race is the
Aymara race. Mestizos [mixed populations], which is what we are, a cross between indigenous people
and the Spanish, apparently don’t exist for the government. According to the [MAS] government,
we [mestizos] don’t have a Fatherland, we don’t have anyone to defend us. For them, there is only
the ideology of indigenism, one that even excludes all the indigenous people living in the valleys
and the llanos [the Amazonian lowlands, grasslands, and plateaus]. For the government, the only real
indigenous people are the Aymara, who are the most radical and fundamentalist, no? They have rituals
in which they kill dogs, or each other, in which they fight each other, in which they slaughter animals
in front of children . .. For these and many other reasons, the Falange opposes the government
because we are Christian humanists and we believe in the family as the moral basis for society. This
is why our motto is ‘God, Fatherland, Home’.
Yet despite, or perhaps because of, these qualifications and denials, the question of
how to locate the FSB – and, by extension, the other currents of the anti-MAS opposition
– ideologically was rendered even more ambiguous when considered in relation to
the party’s propaganda. Santistevan was eager to share various documents with me,
including a record of the FSB’s founding principles, adopted in the late 1940s. These
included something called the ‘Falange Ten Commandments’. Although ‘fascism’ is not
formally invoked, many of the commandments either expressed classically fascist values
or used a discursive logic associated with fascism: for example, ‘love your Fatherland
above yourself’; ‘devote yourself absolutely and eternally to the cause of falangism,
which is Bolivia’s cause’; ‘always practise discipline, which is the subordination of the
person in the service of the collective’; ‘do your duty out of a love for duty itself, not
because you will be paid anything’; ‘be willing to disdain life if you must sacrifice it
for your ideals’; ‘be dignified, loyal, and willing to sacrifice yourself’; and the tenth
commandment, ‘scorn the comfortable life. A falangista is above all a fighter. Fight and
you will conquer!
In another piece of FSB propaganda given to me by Santistevan, an undated
organizational manual that was likely produced in the 1990s based on certain internal
references, imagery and slogans are used that also seem to belong within a fascist
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God, Fatherland, Home 353
Figure 1. Bolivian Guaran
ı give the fascist brazo en alto salute in an FSB propaganda manual. (Manual
author and illustrator unnamed.)
genealogy. For example, ‘Falange’ is defined as the ‘militant organized force that both
builds and guides the Fatherland’. An image of two people shaking hands in front of
a crucifix is captioned, ‘We are Christians, we adhere to the law of God. Everyone is
equal before God and the Fatherland’. On another page, over the traditional fascist
Celtic cross, a fist clutches a torch, another fascist symbol with close associations to
Nazism (as can be seen, most infamously, in Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film Triump h of th e
Will). The image is captioned, ‘Falange is Order. Discipline completes one’s character.
Everyone has value and utility to the Fatherland’. A drawing of an athletic young couple
standing together, both holding a torch, proclaims, ‘The torches of the FSB illuminate
at this hour the conscience of all Bolivians’. And in what is certainly the most bizarrely
revealing of the images in this pocket-sized propaganda manual, a group of what appear
to be Guaran´
ı face their leader, all of whom raise their arms in the brazo en alto salute
(see Fig. 1). The caption begins with, ‘Falange is moral’.
This pre-existing FSB tradition, which assumed natural alliances with the Guaran´
represented a different, but analogous, form of appropriation to the one described by
Nicole Fabricant and Nancy Postero (2013) during this same period. As they explain,
urban elites in Santa Cruz constructed an opposition narrative in which they claimed to
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354 Mark Goodale
speak for the human rights and social interests of the department’s indigenous peoples,
in addition to the cultural and especially economic interests of the region itself. Similarly,
the FSB claimed to speak for the Guaran´
ı – albeit in a highly idealized way – except
that instead of human rights, here it was the Falange belief that its values found natural
expression among the Guaran´
ı that served as the logic of appropriation.
But if interviews and documentary research with Dr Santistevan in Santa Cruz during
these fraught weeks before the vote on the new constitution revealed an ethnographic
picture of the Bolivian right that could appear ambiguous, what about FSB praxis?
The situation in Santa Cruz was complicated by the fact that many FSB militants were
also active members of the UJC and often engaged in street violence and acts of civic
unrest under its banner rather than that of the FSB. The UJC had been founded in
1957, at the height of the regional opposition to the revolutionary MNR government.
It was created as a paramilitary civic organization for men and boys 35 years old and
younger who, as its statute put it, would serve as the ‘guardian[s] of the ideals and the
memory of the civic struggles and of the founders of cruce˜
nidad and the mysticism of
its heroes, intellectuals, and martyrs’. In January 2009, there were about two thousand
active members under the leadership of an engineering student at the department’s
public university.
When I asked Santistevan about UJC tactics, specifically the use of violence, he was
adamant that his organization played an historical role in the defence of Santa Cruz
against waves of attacks from indigenous peoples from the highlands, whose animosity
towards the ‘Cambas’ was based in racialized cultural differences. As he put it, in
justifying the importance of violent resistance,
For us, it depends on the situation, no? I want to return again to the question of difference, of different
personalities. These people, these indigenous peasants, according to history, they have invaded Santa
Cruz several times, in ’57,in’71, in the ’60s, they have always wanted to take power from the East . . .
uh, and they have committed many atrocities against our people, no? So there is always a fear here
that these people will return again and again to commit the same kinds of crimes, the same violations.
That’s why we must prepare ourselves, we are facing the hate of all the peasants, the militants, the
In practice, the relationship between the FSB and the UJC was closely symbiotic.
During these years, the most active FSB militants were young men who were also
members of the UJC. Although the UJC’s nominal leadership changed every several
years during the organization’s departmental congress, its spiritual and more enduring
leadership was provided by the FSB, which was understood as the historic paterfamilias
for the region’s young right-wing radicals. This was the case even though the UJC
was housed in the same location as the Comit´
e pro Santa Cruz, its official parent
organization, which had been founded in 1950. Nevertheless, the mobilization of
FSB/UJC cadres was always contextual, since the UJC was formally a civic organization,
meaning it was committed to the defence of quite regional and local interests, while the
FSB, as we have seen, was a national movement with historical links to South American
and European fascism.2
This political relationality was particularly important at the height of the resistance
to the Morales government and the new constitution. For example, it was impossible for
young right-wing militants to only struggle for local autonomy since the constitutional
project was seen as a threat to the very existence of the Fatherland as they conceived it.
This was the reason why FSB commandments such as ‘devote yourself absolutely and
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God, Fatherland, Home 355
eternally to the cause of falangism, which is Bolivia’s cause’ were so compelling during
this moment of crisis in Bolivian history.
Stoically prepared and steadfast in the face of the communist hordes
The relationality of right-wing opposition was similar in Sucre and swung back and
forth on what might be thought of as an equivalent ideological-temporal pendulum.
Although much of the rhetorical violence was shaped by local pro-Sucre discursive
categories, the existential threat of the new constitution demanded a more capacious
imaginary. For this, young Sucre c´
ıvicos turned to the FSB, whose local ‘cell’ had
become newly resurgent. Working in collaboration with Santistevan as a guiding force
and through exchanges with FSB ‘brothers’ in Santa Cruz, the Sucre falangistas emerged
as the most ideologically radical and violent presence in the chaos around the drafting
of the new constitution (which had taken place primarily in Sucre) and during the
months leading up to its adoption in January 2009.
The young head of the Sucre FSB branch was Horacio Poppe Inch, the 29-year-
old scion of a prominent family of so-called ‘bluebloods’: that is, the small group
of families who exercised tremendous, yet hidden, control over local political and
economic affairs while national and international attention was focused – as the
blueblood families intended – on the region’s civic and elected officials (see Goodale
2019).PoppeInchembracedthefalangista cause with what can only be described as
ferocious zeal. Poppe Inch’s father was Ren´
e Poppe, a distinguished Bolivian mining
historian. His mother was Marcela Inch Calvamonte, who was during those years the
director of the National Archives and Library of Bolivia (ABNB), one of Latin America’s
leading historical repositories. The extent to which Inch Calvamonte supported her
son’s political ambitions is not clear, although photographic evidence shows that she
participated in some of the more violent anti-government protests in 2007 and 2008.
Yet what is certain is that while her son was spreading the gospel of falange militancy
and engaging in anti-MAS and anti-peasant violence, Inch Calvamonte was playing an
active role within various international scholarly communities, including the Bolivian
Studies Association, which counted many well-known anthropologists and historians
among its members.
Like Dr Santistevan, Poppe Inch harnessed the power of imagery to advance the
falangista cause at one of the most socially disordered and politically fragile moments
in recent Bolivian history. In place of the more localized struggle for capital´
Inch and his FSB brothers drew from a much deeper falangista tradition, one that was
shaped by the complementary logics of Manichaean conflict and heroic sacrifice for
the Fatherland. For the former, this meant above all the historical conflict between the
forces of freedom and the forces of communism. A piece of propaganda that Poppe Inch
and the Sucre FSB circulated widely at the time said on one side, ‘Bolivia is Beleaguered
by Communism, Falange Seizes the Torch for the Battle’. The other side depicted a
grotesque image of Evo Morales: he is smiling and raising his left arm with a clenched
fist in the international gesture of left-wing resistance associated early on with Spanish
Republicans, who used it explicitly as a contrast with the fascist brazo en alto;butoutof
his right shoulder is growing a macabre human skull, which has a hammer and sickle
on its forehead.
As for heroic sacrifice, this meant for Poppe Inch and the other Sucre FSB cadres a
willingness to engage in violent attacks against the various political and social forces that
were ‘beleaguering’ the country. For example, the FSB was on the frontlines during the
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CRoyal Anthropological Institute 2020
356 Mark Goodale
clashes in Sucre around the drafting of the new constitution in November 2007,which
left three dead and hundreds wounded. But perhaps the FSB’s most prominent moment
of public confrontation on behalf of the Fatherland was its role during what turned
out to be the darkest episode in the racialization of the anti-government movement.
On 24 May 2008, the MAS government organized a provocative rally in Sucre that was
intended to both showcase a number of development initiatives planned for Chuquisaca
Department (of which Sucre is the capital) and coincide with the city’s annual 25 May
celebrations, which marked the ‘shout of liberty’ that took place in the city in 1809
the first major act of rebellion against the Spanish colonial empire.
The event was provocative because the city and its anti-MAS movements were still
reeling from the violence of November 2007. The three locals – two university students
and one lawyer – who had been killed in clashes with military units that were mobilized
to try to re-establish order at the height of the civic rioting, had recently become martyrs
honoured by an elaborate mortuary installation at the city’s historic cemetery. At the
same time, Poppe Inch had held a press conference on behalf of the FSB in which
he demanded that a formal legal complaint be opened at the International Court of
Justice in the Hague against Evo Morales and the MAS government for what it claimed
were the government’s crimes, perhaps not fully appreciating the irony in an arguably
fascist organization’s appeal to international law.
With Sucre still simmering, the events of 24 May quickly escalated into a day
of historical infamy. Hundreds of pro-MAS peasants – men, women, and children
– had begun arriving early in the morning in open-bed camiones of the kind
that transport people and supplies throughout rural Bolivia. They were coming to
support the country’s first self-identifying indigenous President at a massive rally that
ımpico Patria, where Morales was scheduled to
arrive in the afternoon by helicopter directly from La Paz. However, unbeknownst to
the arriving supporters, an advance team of MAS officials had decided to cancel the
event since local leaders had issued a call for a general mobilization in language that
suggested the city needed defending against an invading army.
Thus, throughout the morning of 24 May, hundreds of pro-MAS peasants tried
to enter Sucre while thousands of locals – in a city in which business, schools, and
government offices were closed for the 25 May celebrations – formed into a massive
and volatile civic army in order to drive the peasants from the city. Moreover, the
heavy criticism of the use of national military units against civic rioters the preceding
November meant that the MAS government was not prepared to call out the army to
protect the peasants, who continued to arrive without any warning that the event with
President Morales had been cancelled and that they were walking into an anti-MAS
civic buzzsaw.
As I recount in more detail elsewhere (Goodale 2019), the pro-MAS peasants were
violently assaulted along the city’s main points of entry. They were met with astonishing
levels of brutality, in which the city’s mobilized throngs used rocks, clubs, and even
dynamite as weapons in what was a concerted and unmediated hours-long attack
against young and old, men and women alike. Most of the peasants eventually managed
to flee back through Sucre’s neighbourhoods, beaten and traumatized. But a group of
about forty men were captured by the civic army and marched into Sucre’s historic
Plaza 25 de Mayo.3
As the afternoon dragged on, in scenes that recalled the carnivalesque sadism of
lynching parties in the Jim Crow US South, hundreds of townspeople gathered in the
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God, Fatherland, Home 357
Figure 2. Horacio Poppe Inch (at right) leads fellow FSB cadres during racialized violence against
pro-MAS peasants in Sucre on 24 May 2008. (Defensor
ıa del Pueblo, Chuquisaca Department; image
given to the author.)
plaza to watch the spectacle of the peasant men being repeatedly struck, humiliated,
and threatened with death by the most militant of their capturers. Poppe Inch and his
fellow FSB cadres were key protagonists in this orgy of racial violence; indeed, he had
started the day early by marching FSB members to a strategic thoroughfare, where they
erected a burning barricade and awaited the arrival of the pro-MAS peasants with FSB
shields, steel pipes, and wooden clubs (see Fig. 2).
In the Plaza 25 de Mayo, the peasants were forced to strip to the waist, a highly
shameful act; they were beaten until they shouted obscene curses against Morales;
they were given the local flags of Sucre to carry, which had become a symbol by that
time throughout the highlands of anti-indigenous animus; and, in a bitter moment
of symbolic cruelty, in front of the jeering crowds, they were forced to put to the
torch with their own hands their many wiphalas, the multi-coloured flag of Bolivia’s
indigenous peoples. As the afternoon lengthened, without any intervention from the
police or military, the question became, what would happen next? Although some in
the crowd demanded that the peasants be killed, for reasons that perhaps will never be
understood, the most active of the capturers, including members of the FSB, eventually
released their captives, most of whom had wounds of various kinds.4
As images of what became known as the Plaza de Rodillas,or the Place of Humiliation,
were broadcast around the country and eventually throughout Latin America and
globally, a key turning point was reached in the crisis over regionalist opposition to
the new constitution and, more broadly, to the transformative vision of the MAS
government. Although middle-class and urban mestizos had played an important role
in the early criticism of Evo Morales, particularly centre-left intellectuals who had
found themselves excluded from the government’s more radical indigenist orientation,
they now recoiled from the idea that the anti-government opposition was becoming
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358 Mark Goodale
violently racialized. In retrospect, this marked the beginning of the end of the right-
wing opposition in Bolivia, at least as a powerful counter-movement that had brought
the country to the verge of a civil war shaped by the lines of ethnic division that the
millenarian ‘Indianist’ writer Fausto Reinaga had described, as far back as 1970,as
the ‘two Bolivias’: one comprised of ‘Europeanized mestizos’, the other of Bolivia’s
historically oppressed ‘Indians’ (1970:174).
Yet for Poppe Inch and the Sucre FSB, the series of subsequent setbacks to their cause
within Bolivia – the overwhelming electoral support for the new constitution in 2009; the
arrest and prosecution of leading opposition politicians; the re-elections of Evo Morales
in 2009 and 2014; the eventual alliance forged between the MAS government and leading
business owners and regional trade associations in Sucre and Santa Cruz (Goodale 2019)
– only hardened their sense of historic destiny and commitment to sacrifice on behalf
of the Fatherland. For example, the Defensor´
ıa del Pueblo for Chuquisaca Department,
the departmental office of the national human rights institution, gave me a PDF copy
of a letter supposedly sent from Poppe Inch to Felipe P´
erez, the head of the Spanish
Falange. According to the Defensor´
ıa, the letter had been obtained by Wilson Garc´
erida, the activist editor of the journal Sol de Pando, who would later be forced into
exile in Brazil after publishing a series of articles about an alleged human trafficking
and prostitution ring connecting Bolivia and Brazil that Garc´
ıa claimed implicated the
powerful government minister Juan Ram ´
on Quintana.5
In the letter, Poppe Inch rails against the ‘international left’ and its shadowy efforts
to direct the process of internal politics in Bolivia. Nevertheless, as he puts it to the
Spanish falangista, the FSB is ‘the main force of opposition and the most feared by
the government, because our force doesn’t just come from the numerical extent of our
thousands of adherents, but from our spiritual devotion to the cause and our historical
convictions’. Poppe Inch then says to P´
erez that ‘all well-born Spaniards know perfectly
well what it means to live through a civil war’, and that in this case, ‘the governments
of Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Ecuador, and the communist-loving NGOs of
Europe . . . have all conspired against us, we who are the guardians of Western and
Christian culture in Bolivia’. Yet despite these odds, Poppe Inch says, ‘thanks to God,
the falangistas are stoically prepared . . . despite the severe limitations imposed by our
material poverty . . . to remain steadfast in the face of the communist hordes’. Stoically
prepared or not, Poppe Inch ends the letter to the Spanish Falange leader with a request
for financial support that mentions the vital system of remittances that Bolivians in
Spain send home along with specific instructions for how P´
erez might transfer funds
using MoneyGram, Western Union, or international wire transfer.6
Conclusion: Toward an anthropology of ‘just prejudice’
suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail
themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages. Many of our men of speculation,
instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discoverthe latent wisdom which
prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to
continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and
to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give
action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence . . . Prejudice renders a
man’s virtue his habit; and not just a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty
Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
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God, Fatherland, Home 359
To conclude, let me first draw together the several key findings from research on the
anti-government opposition in Bolivia by way of reflecting more generally on what these
findings suggest for understanding the status of political and legal anthropology as a
form of intellectual and ethical engagement. I then finish by considering the ways in
which a reformulated political and legal anthropology might contribute to a deeper
understanding of our post-cosmopolitan age through a more purposive collective
ethnographic project that takes seriously the cultural centrality of what Edmund Burke
described as ‘just prejudice’.
One of the more confounding aspects of research with the anti-government
movements in Bolivia, and with the FSB in particular, was the sheer difficulty in locating
them ethnographically within the various discursive registers that assumed neat and
tidy ethnic, ideological, and historical divisions. This difficulty was compounded by
the fact that I was completely unprepared to treat these slippages with the same kind
of critical ethnographic nuance with which I approached the claims and practices
that constituted the MAS government’s ‘process of change’. Moreover, the use of
ethnographic scrutiny – that is, the close attention to (in this case) the relationship
between ideology and practice – seemed to want to pull in very different directions.
With research among the political protagonists and ideologues behind the ‘third
Bolivian revolution’ (Dunkerley 2007), the tendency was to identify tensions between
rhetoric and reality as simply the result of the inevitable practical problems in
implementing a revolutionary vision amidst any number of economic, geopolitical,
and cultural obstacles. But there was never a question that these tensions pointed
to deeper and more structural contradictions, or cast doubt on the viability of the
MAS government’s transformative project, especially in these early years before a
series of crises called into question the Morales government’s commitment to its early
By contrast, ethnographic research among Bolivia’s various anti-government
movements was shaped from the beginning by something like an opposite magnetic
pull. Having studied the descriptions of violence in Sucre and Santa Cruz, I arrived in
2008 with a set of unacknowledged preconceived notions about Bolivia’s surging anti-
government forces: that they were simply Bolivian variations of a more globalized
‘right’; that they were motivated by deep-seated racism; that they resisted radical
change because the old order, in which their members flourished, was one in which
political and economic power was based on ethnic discrimination; and that, in the
case of the FSB, some branches of the Bolivian right were coming dangerously close
to reproducing a form of fascism with which they were, in any case, historically
When the ethnography seemed to problematize at least some of these assumptions,
such as the predominance of racism over other right-wing cultural values, the tendency
was to hold on to the assumptions while questioning the legitimacy of the ethnography.
This was most easily – and troublingly – done by simply attributing the gap between
expectation and ethnographic reality to a kind of vast conspiracy of deception on the
part of interlocutors among the anti-government opposition. Of course, they all would
deny their true political and ideological intentions. Who, by 2009, except those on
the fringes, would want to be associated with Nazis? This dismissive approach to the
ethnographic subtleties among the anti-government movements was pervasive even at
the highest levels of the MAS government, perhaps for obvious reasons. As Antonio
Peredo, a leading MAS senator, explained to me,
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360 Mark Goodale
Tell me one person here in Bolivia who would say, ‘I’m on the right wing’. No one wants to be on the
right in Bolivia. The most anyone will admit to is being on the center-right, but most will identify
with the centre-left. But this is the worst kind of lying, the epitome of lying, because those on the
right say they are fighting for leftist positions, which only creates confusion and contradiction.
And yet Santistevan expressed a sense of the FSB that neither fitted with a simplistic
account of ideological deception nor fully contradicted certain elements of the party’s
historical origins.
Do you know what one of our slogans is? ‘Neither with the exploitative right nor with the anarchic
left’. The right detests us because we are going to regulate earnings in order to redistribute them to
the workers. But the left detests the Falange because its mode of struggle, the class struggle, is going
to disappear when we make the workers the owners of their own enterprises . . . We are neither with
a government that exploits man, who is the nucleus of society, nor with the private business owners
who exploit him. We believe above all else that man is the owner of himself, of his work, of his liberty,
and more than anything of his thoughts and the freedom of thought. That is what it means to be
Falange. Yet from the beginning, from the time of the MNR government of ’52, they painted us as
fascists, as a species of the ultra-right . . . . But you want to know who we in the Falange consider an
example of the extreme right? S´
anchez de Lozada [the neoliberal President who privatized Bolivian
industries in the mid-1990s and later went into exile in the United States].
Nevertheless, as we have seen, both the formal organizational propaganda and
working tactics of the FSB seemed to overlap quite clearly with a wider conception
of right-wing praxis: imaginary Guaran´
ı giving the fascist salute; FSB cadres awaiting
the arrival of pro-government peasant activists with wooden clubs at the ready; the
commitment to violent sacrifice in the sacred struggle against the forces of communism.
So how to make sense of these multiple methodological, conceptual, and ethnographic
Theoretically, it seemed fruitful to bracket the assemblage of ideological claims
about the anti-government opposition in Bolivia during these years. Both the
ethnographic and conceptual terrains were riddled with projections, representations,
self-representations, and anxiety-infused half-understandings (including, as we have
seen, my own). Instead, I approached the most important moments of anti-government
opposition praxis as expressions of an affective cultural system, one in which collective
memory was weaponized through the use of textual, historical, and political symbols.
At the same time, these localized affective cultural systems reflected, in part, a broader
heritage of non-liberal political ideology that rejected the very idea of revolutionary
upheaval, the very notion that existing social, economic, and political structures could
be swept away and replaced by something better, more equitable, more emancipatory.
And methodologically, it was important to set aside any lingering epistemological
effects of my training in engaged anthropology. To a certain extent, this involved the
application of a kind of reverse reflexivity. Rather than identifying how unacknowledged
negative biases or my own privileged subject position were shaping my ethnographic
research, I had to turn the reflexive gesture around to identify what I believed to be
progressive or emancipatory biases. In other words, in order to view the ethnography
of the anti-government opposition in Bolivia – and, by extension, any movement that
fits, however problematically, within the swirling constellation that comprises the ‘right
wing’ – as it was, it was necessary to cleanse the doors of perception, to paraphrase
William Blake. Otherwise, the ethnography of the Bolivian right was doomed, in a
way, to be seen ‘thro’ narrow chinks of [the] cavern’ formed by the walls of engaged
anthropology and the wider political terrain on which it was located.
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God, Fatherland, Home 361
To try to understand the complexity of right-wing mobilization – in Bolivia or
elsewhere – from the standpoint of engaged anthropology (i.e. from the standpoint of
much of contemporary political and legal anthropology) is to settle for an analytical
output that simply mirrors an ethical input. In thinking of the new political and legal
anthropology as a companion to the post-Cold War rights-based politics of recognition,
we must also consider how this intertwined emergence has created unfortunate blind
spots or disciplinary limitations. One can say that the pervasive ethnographic focus
on the complicated relationship between identity and progressive politics has blinded
much of political and legal anthropology to the rapid proliferation of diverse logics of
ethnic and religious nationalism, apocalyptic transnationalism, neo-sexism, Western
chauvinism, and anti-anti-racism, among others. To again make use of paraphrase (in
this case, of the critical legal scholar David Kennedy [2004]), in our collective inability
as political and legal anthropologists to give these dangerous logics the serious and
sustained ethnographic attention that they demand, we have fallen victim, however
unintentionally, to the dark side of our anthropological virtue.
To resist the limitations imposed by this virtue is to suddenly open the ethnographic
imagination to the spectrum of the widely diverse movements and ideologies that are
increasingly shaping the contours of a world that is both post-socialist and increasingly
trapped in the global rotation of a ‘neoliberal maelstrom’ (Moyn 2018). In response,
a strategically deployed ‘non-engaged’ political and legal anthropology is one that
would take the ethics and cultural logics of this brave new world seriously, yet without
nostalgia, and certainly without the need to ‘infuse’ the conversations that result with
political concern, solidarity, or empathy. As an ironic homage to Edmund Burke, the so-
called father of modern conservatism, the kind of urgent alternative political and legal
anthropology I have in mind can be thought of as an anthropology of prejudice, one that
takes collective methodological and theoretical aim at the many ways in which political
and social movements that believe that ‘[t]hrough just prejudice, [a person’s] duty
becomes a part of his nature’ have begun to dictate the terms of our precarious present.
1For reasons of space, I am not able to discuss the important ways in which the history of right-wing
politics in Bolivia was – and continues to be – deeply embedded in regional networks that approximate what
Agnieszka Pasieka (in press) has described as a ‘transnational neo-fascism’.
2Important anthropological studies of the performative dimensions of right-wing mobilization in Santa
Cruz include Fabricant (2009), Fabricant & Postero (2013), and Gustafson (2006).
3Although I was not present in Sucre on 24 May, I was able to study the events through hours of raw video
footage that I obtained from both the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the office of the Defensor´
ıa del Pueblo
for Chuquisaca Department. Some of this raw footage formed the basis for the later prosecutions against
Sucre’s civic movement leaders.
4For an insightful analysis that seeks to ‘make sense’ of the events of 24 May 2008 in Sucre through the
lens of historic racial antagonism, see Calla (2011). Calla, who is the director of the Observatorio del Racismo
in La Paz, has played a leading role as a scholar and activist in bringing attention to the interconnections
between racism and politics in Bolivia and throughout the Americas.
5For a longer description of the case of Garc´
ıa M´
erida and Quintana, see Reporteros sin Fronteras (2016).
See also a study of the use of sedition charges against Garc´
ıa M´
erida by the Bolivian government as an example
of ‘legal’ press censorship (Guardia 2018).
6After spending several years in the shadows during the period in which the anti-MAS opposition
confronted various forms of legal and political annihilation (see Goodale 2019), Horacio Poppe Inch re-
emerged as a savvy manipulator of social media, which allowed him to pursue a more virtual form of
the falangist cause (see and =en).
In 2015, Poppe Inch was elected to the Plurinational Legislative Assembly as a member of the Christian
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 26,343-364
CRoyal Anthropological Institute 2020
362 Mark Goodale
Democratic Party, where he quickly gained a reputation for far-right positions on, among others, questions
of gender identity and sexual orientation.
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Dieu, la patrie et le foyer : la face obscure de notre vertu anthropologique
L’article part de recherches ethnographiques sur les mouvements antigouvernementaux de droite en
Bolivie, au paroxysme des conflits sociaux et des violences culturelles de 2008 et 2009,pourr
plus largement aux relations entre recherche anthropologique, engagement ´
ethique et politique de la
connaissance. Il d´
emologiques et politiques pertinents dans lesquels
l’anthropologie engag´
ee est devenue un courant important de la discipline. L’auteur examine ensuite
comment et pourquoi ses recherches sur la pratique politique de droite en Bolivie s’´
ecartent des attentes
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 26,343-364
CRoyal Anthropological Institute 2020
364 Mark Goodale
de la discipline vis-`
a-vis de l’anthropologie engag´
ee. Apr`
es avoir r´
echi aux implications de ce d´
l’article se conclut par un plaidoyer pour un r´
etalonnage m´
ethodologique permettant aux anthropologues
d’aborder s´
erieusement les id´
eologies et la logique culturelle des mobilisations de droite contemporaines,
notamment des mouvements sociaux et politiques anim´
es par ce qu’Edmund Burke a d´
ecrit sous le nom
de « juste pr´
Mark Goodale is Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology and Director of the Laboratory of Cultural
and Social Anthropology (LACS) at the University of Lausanne. He also directs a four-year (2019-23)project
on energy industrialization in Bolivia funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The author or editor
of a number of books, his most recent is A revolution in fragments: traversing scales of justice, ideology, and
practice in Bolivia (Duke University Press, 2019).
Laboratory of Cultural and Social Anthropology (LACS), University of Lausanne, G´
eopolis 5514, Lausanne, 1015,
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 26,343-364
CRoyal Anthropological Institute 2020
... Mujeres por la Nación relata que su experiencia de trabajo comunitario está siendo replicada en España y Chile. 22 La consolidación de una movilización latinoamericana es descripta también por Rodrigo Fernández Madero, especialista en comunicación que participó de la fundación de Unidad Provida como un profesional independiente. Fernández Madero nos comentó ...
... 21 Entrevista personal a Frente Joven, junio de 2020; Entrevista personal a JUCUM, julio de 2020; y Entrevista personal a Mujeres por la Nación, octubre de 2020. 22 Entrevista personal a Mujeres por la Nación, octubre de 2020. 23 Entrevista personal a Rodrigo Fernández Madero, octubre de 2020. ...
... Mujeres por la Nación relata que su experiencia de trabajo comunitario está siendo replicada en España y Chile. 22 La consolidación de una movilización latinoamericana es descripta también por Rodrigo Fernández Madero, especialista en comunicación que participó de la fundación de Unidad Provida como un profesional independiente. Fernández Madero nos comentó ...
... 21 Entrevista personal a Frente Joven, junio de 2020; Entrevista personal a JUCUM, julio de 2020; y Entrevista personal a Mujeres por la Nación, octubre de 2020. 22 Entrevista personal a Mujeres por la Nación, octubre de 2020. 23 Entrevista personal a Rodrigo Fernández Madero, octubre de 2020. ...
... This positioning as an (semi-)insider (Ohnuki-Tierney 1984;Tsuda 2015), however, were always subject to negotiation because of the ever-increasing divergence between the socio-political outlooks of my interlocutors and myself. Reflecting the difficulties in conducting ethnographic research 'at-home', I had to reflect on ethnographic conventions around rapport, ethics, and sympathy (for our interlocutors and their causes), given the sheer prevalence of nationalist rhetoric as well as the occasional outbursts of societal violence targeting minorities and dissidents in the region (see, Beek and Göpfert 2013;Goodale 2020;Jones and Rodgers 2019;Saglam 2021). ...
May narratives of treasures be interrelated to remembrances of past societal violence? Attending to imaginations of and hunts for treasures across seemingly natural interfaces, this article explores these practices not simply as quests for material riches but as occasions through which past societal violence is recounted in the present across human and non-human assemblages. The article engages with two interrelated domains of scholarly debates. The first is the emergent field of scholarly discussions and presumptions about the ways in which past conviviality, displacement, and violence (both by civilian groups and state forces) are remembered by ordinary people who identify as part of the Turkish-Muslim majority in contemporary Turkey. The second, and much wider, scholarly debate the article aims to contribute to focuses on the way non-human entities exert a forceful (psychosocial and political) effect on social relations, which, in turn, invites us to rethink the interrelationship between humans and non-human entities.
Full-text available
This article uses reflections on chronopolitical praxis during the period 2006‐19 in Bolivia in order to make a more general contribution to the anthropology of time and temporalities. The article proposes the theoretical concept of ‘timerendering’ in order to examine the ways in which time emerged as a pervasive register that mediated and also deepened political, social, and ethnic conflict in Bolivia. After illustrating the mechanisms through which timerendering in Bolivia gave way to forms of allochronic denial that are described as ‘hypertemporal exclusion’, the article explains how and why the MAS government's timerendering strategies unravelled, which left it susceptible to the right‐wing coup of October/November 2019. The article concludes by narrating the endtimes of the Morales government in Bolivia, before considering what this moment and its afterlives have to say more generally about the anthropology of time as a disciplinary orientation.
After the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan's military government unleashed a program of extrajudicial detentions to surveil and track down “Islamic terrorists.” These men are known as the “missing” or “disappeared” persons in the movement mobilized by their families to protest the abductions. Ethnographic research with the families of “missing persons” in Pakistan, however, involves working with people whom I call “imperfect victims”—that is, persons who do not easily fit the subject position of those occupying the “suffering slot.” Such imperfect victims often rely on nonnormative ethics of grief and sacrifice to help them make sense of violence stemming from larger political‐economic structures of power. An ethnography of imperfect victims responds to calls for going beyond the “suffering subject” in anthropology. It does so by questioning the humanitarian assumption in anthropology that suffering is a common, apolitical ground for all humanity and that a politics of solidarity can be built on the suffering of others. [witnessing, suffering subject, ethnography, human rights, disappearances, missing persons, Pakistan, South Asia]
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up to deal with the human rights violations of apartheid during the years 1960–1994. However, as Wilson shows, the TRC's restorative justice approach to healing the nation did not always serve the needs of communities at a local level. Based on extended anthropological fieldwork, this book illustrates the impact of the TRC in urban African communities in Johannesburg. While a religious constituency largely embraced the commission's religious-redemptive language of reconciliation, Wilson argues that the TRC had little effect on popular ideas of justice as retribution. This provocative study deepens our understanding of post-apartheid South Africa and the use of human rights discourse. It ends on a call for more cautious and realistic expectations about what human rights institutions can achieve in democratizing countries.