Divesting from Coloniality: Decolonial Resistance as a Form of anti-Racism in the Bolivian State Bureaucracy

Marcelo Bohrt, American University

Existing research shows that racialized institutions and organizations constrain how members of historically excluded ethnoracial populations resist racism in such spaces. However, from time to time, social movements can bring about important political and cultural changes that expand the forms of resistance available to people of color. Drawing on semi-structured group interviews with mid-level bureaucrats across executive agencies in Bolivia, this paper examines anti-racism in the Bolivian state bureaucracy in the context of a strong indigenous movement that has problematized the racialization of state practice. It shows that, rather than strategically conforming to white-mestizo logics as much scholarship documents in other contexts, members of historically excluded ethnoracial populations in the organizations that make up the state bureaucracy engage in what I refer to as decolonial resistance. New indigenous-origin bureaucrats and their allies mobilize movement cultural resources to disinvest from Eurocentric logics that buttress the coloniality of state spaces. Specifically, they problematize the coloniality of elite institutions and the parochiality of their organizational logics while revalorizing subjugated epistemes. While social movements can expand the local agency of people of color, this study expands our understanding of how historically specific configurations of symbolic and material resources shape the forms of anti-racist resistance that unfold in racialized institutions.

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 Presented in Session 93. Boundary Making and Resistance: Categorization and Classification Struggles in Africa, Asia, and the Americas