lucas bessire on the hypermarginality of a stigmatized few


Lucas Bessire, ‘The Rise of Indigenous Hypermarginality: Native Culture as a Neoliberal Politics of Life’, Current Anthropology 55, 3 (2014).

Scholars have suggested that the current era of indigenous citizenship in Latin America is characterized by a postmulticultural political order that effectively reverses the historical marginality of native populations in the region. This conception, however, minimizes the established insight that the social apertures of neoliberal culturalism depend on the creation of new exclusionary regimes based on the very same mechanisms of celebrating cultural difference. Drawing on a decade of field-based inquiries into indigenous experiences of marginality in South America’s Gran Chaco, this article identifies how the widespread political empowerment of an indigenous majority is structurally predicated upon the hypermarginality of a stigmatized few. I describe the general features of hypermarginality as lived experience and emergent political regime, in relation to three properties of the stratifying craft of the neoliberal state: the contraction of authorized culture, the culturalization of legitimate indigenous life, and the state management of a global economy of cultural preservation. This essay illustrates how hypermarginality is a concrete political quandary that holds significant implications for social analysis and policy, including the need to rethink the relationships between the neoliberal and the indigenous in Latin America.

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