The discussion will depart from two book chapters from the book State and Statehood in the Global South: Theoretical Approaches and Empirical Studies, edited by Miriam Fahimi, Elmar Flatschart, and Wolfram Schaffar.
"Latin America: The Refounding of the State" by Mónica Mazariegos Rodas proposes an analysis of central debates on the idea of refounding of the State in the twenty-first century in Latin America, emerged both from the critics to colonial continuities along the modern State formation and from the battering of structural adjustment measures in the life of social majorities from the 1990s. The cases of Bolivia and Ecuador are representative for the region. Some other cases such as Colombia, Venezuela, and more recently Chile also present characteristics of that disruption. Along the last decade, refounding is also debated in Guatemala. Thus, this chapter presents a historical and conceptual approach to the relations between State and refounding from the focus of Latin American constitutionalism and thought, and from the contributions of indigenous, social, and popular movements to new constitutional epistemologies. It finally approaches some hermeneutic and methodological challenges in the scholarly research on these categories and processes.
"Ethnography of the State in Plurinational Bolivia: Indigenous Knowledge, Clientelism and Decolonizing Bureaucracy" by Eija Ranta introduces an ethnographic approach to studying state formation, policymaking, and bureaucracy. The ethnography of the state does not commit to any specific normative judgment of what the state is or should be; instead, it denaturalizes liberal expectations of its form and content by examining its actual operations, representations, and meanings through the lens of people’s experiences and practices. To illustrate how it works and the kind of data and knowledge it produces, this chapter focuses on the case of decolonizing state bureaucracy in Bolivia during Evo Morales’ first presidency (2006–2009). It explains what it was like to conduct ethnographic research among Bolivian state officials at a time when they were attempting to transform state institutional discourses and practices through Indigenous knowledge and expertise, as manifested in the notion of Vivir Bien (living well). By documenting the difficulties in translating Indigenous knowledge into technical expertise, this chapter sheds light on the internal discrepancies and contradictions marking processes of change as they materialize in state ministries and institutions. Making visible how issues such as clientelism operate in the lives of state officials, it helps to make better sense of the institutional fragilities of state formation processes in the Global South.
These texts would allow to start a discussion on difficulties and obstacles on the way of decolonial transformation in Latin America and elsewhere, on the long way to go between bright theories and a new political reality. The first article is in constitutional law, the second in social anthropology. Participants may read only one of them, but the two articles complement each other very well.