Redefining the State Plurinationalism and Indigenous Resistance in Ecuador
Cooper, David Heath
University of Kansas
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Since the 1990s, the Ecuadorian Indigenous movement has transformed the nation's political landscape. CONAIE, a nationwide pan-Indigenous organization, and its demands for plurinationalism have been at the forefront of this process. For CONAIE, the demand for a plurinational refounding of the state is meant as both as a critique of and an alternative to what the movement perceives to be an exclusionary and Eurocentric nation-state apparatus. In this paper, my focus is twofold. I first focus on the role of CONAIE as the central actor in organizing and mobilizing the groundswell of Indigenous activism in Ecuador. After an analysis of the historical roots of the movement, I trace the evolution of CONAIE from its rise in the 1990s, through a period of decline and fragmentation in the early 2000s, and toward possible signs of resurgence since 2006. In doing so, my hope is to provide a backdrop from which to better make sense both of CONAIE's plurinational project and of the implications of the 2008 constitutional recognition of Ecuador as a plurinational state. Second, I focus on an analysis of CONAIE's vision for a plurinational and intercultural Ecuador. While much has been written about the successes and failures of CONAIE, the literature that exists has tended to concern itself almost exclusively with questions of how and why the movement emerged or of which factors facilitate or hinder the movement's success. Missing from this scholarship is any serious attempt to engage the intellectual content of the movement's demands, their struggles, or their visions for the future. Rather than remain narrowly focused on these issues of coherence and efficacy, my analysis highlights the intellectual contributions of these activists. I argue that CONAIE's plurinational project represents a new vision of national unity and social inclusion that: 1) is based on the principles and values of Indigenous epistemologies; 2) simultaneously demands both the direct participation in state policy and communal territorial autonomy of Indigenous communities; and 3) illustrates a bottom-up attempt to reconstruct the state in such a way as to promote the common good while protecting the interests of particular groups.
- Sociology Dissertations and Theses 
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