Collective Memories and Social Struggle in Contemporary Bolivia: A Study of Narratives of the Past during the ‘Gas War’ in La Paz (2003) and the Civic Strike in Potosí (2010).
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This thesis focuses on how collective memories appeared during social mobilisation in Bolivia and how they helped social activists to make sense of their struggle and to build a sense of cohesion around it. Two very distinct moments of social struggles are studied: those of September and October 2003 in the province of Omasuyos and the city of El Alto, and that of July and August 2010 in the city of Potosí. The work is based on 70 semi-structured interviews with local activists from the three areas, as well as archival research, particularly from newspapers, and participant observation in public spaces: demonstrations, marches, assemblies, workshops, commemorative ceremonies and local rites. The thesis is structured in three parts, each dedicated to one of the areas and to one main collective memory. Part I covers the struggle in Omasuyos province during the ‘Gas War’ and the memory of the anti-colonial rebellion of Tupac Katari (1781). Part II is dedicated to the mobilisation in the city of El Alto in the same period and to the memory of the War of the Pacific (1879) and the lost seacoast. Part III focuses on the civic strike in Potosí in 2010 and on the memory of the rise and fall of the “glorious” colonial Imperial City of Potosí. Collective memories depicted in this study served as platforms to express the demands of contemporary social struggles, and were particularly powerful because they contained a combination of the following elements. They presented a simplified prototypical story of imbalance, with just and unjust characters (normally identified as the activists and the state), which could be easily projected into familiar spaces and displayed corporal metaphors reproducing the effect of trauma. This narrative has often experienced a path-dependent continuous remembering through history (fed by official nationalism and oppositional movements) and turns out to be both constitutive and instrumental for the activists claiming it. Thus, this work avoids the understanding of collective memories as “latent” or as expressions of “collective unconscious” and makes a contribution to the study of the politics of memory and the mechanisms that explain the strength of storytelling during collective action
AuthorsSerra Iamamoto, Sue Angélica
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