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International Conference


3rd International Conference of the Research Network for Latin America Ethnicity, Citizenship and Belonging

Mobilizing Ethnicity

Competing Identity politics in the Americas: Past and Present

from July 2nd to 3rd 2012 at the Bielefeld University

This Conference will unite out-standing scholars to debate the ethnic dynamics in political, cultural and economic fields in the Americas.


The International Conference can be visited independently from the Summer School. The Conference will be held in Spanish and English.




Call for Paper

Panels at the Conference:

  1. 1992-2012: Balancing Two Decades of Indigenous Movements
  2. Debating the Future of Ethno-development
  3. Ethnicity in Postmodern Mediaspaces
  4. Ethnicity and Political Communication in Processes of State Formation in 19th Century Latin America
  5. Inter-ethnic Perceptions of Nature Conservation Issues
  6. Global Ethnicities
  7. Gender and Ethnicity in the Indigenous Movement
  8. Commodifying Ethnicity: The Strategic Use of Culture in Post-Fordist Economies

For the Conference please send proposals with not more than 200 words no later than Feburary 29th 2012 to summerschool-ethnicity(a)uni-bielefeld.de indicating the panel you like to speak in. We will try to cover a part of the travel or lodging costs of the speakers, but unfortunately at the moment we cannot guarantee any financial support.


Goal of the Conference

Goal of the Conference

Within the context of the Quincentenary of the European expansion to the Americas in 1492, numerous indigenous groups throughout the continent mobilized to denounce the (post-) colonial legacy of present societies and to express their political, economic and cultural needs. The year 1992 can thus be related to a paradigmatic transition in ethnic identity politics. Traditionally restricted to local or national contexts, ethnic identity politics in the 1990s became much more globally connected, expanding into an increasing range of fields of social practice such as economy, law, academia, ecology and medicine. While social movements from a variety of ethnic backgrounds pushed for institutional change by appealing to the international attention markets, they were joined by a growing diversity of social actors in the re-negotiations of ethnicity and cultural difference in the public space.

Both the Summer School and the International Conference address this prominent role of ethnic identity politics in the ongoing struggle for defining the principles and boundaries of social inclusion and political participation in the Americas with regard to the historical processes and present situations. The aim is to establish a balance of two decades of intensive and conflictive identity politics in the Americas and to identify new tendencies of the strategic use of ethnicity in politics, economics and culture.

Panel 1: 1992-2012: Balancing Two Decades of Indigenous Movements

Since the Quincentenary of European conquest and cultural encounter in the Americas in 1992, indigenous organizations throughout the two continents have expressed claims for cultural recognition, socio-economic self-definition and political participation within, as well as outside, the context of their own national governments and the world society. The politicization of ethnic identities and the ethnicization of political agendas have led, during the last twenty years, to a profound crisis of the legitimacy of the traditional Latin American nation-states, while new concepts of community and social organization (buen vivir etc.) based on presumed indigenous concepts have emerged. The panel will discuss the achievements and conflicts that ethnic mobilization has generated from the early 1990s to the present.

Panel 2: Debating the Future of Ethno-development

In reaction to the rising of a powerful indigenous protest movement, a whole series of development programs were implemented covering such diverse fields as intercultural bilingual education, rural development, ethnic entrepreneurship, social capital and ethno- and biodiversity. Generally it is argued that ethno-development contributes to processes of democratization and recognition by empowering discriminated groups. This vision is put into question by two very different points of views. On the one hand, parts of the established elite have argued that these projects foment social movements that put into question the established order of the nation-states. On the other hand, leftist critics saw strategies in these projects to assimilate ethnic groups and peoples in a neo-indigenous way and to co-opt organic intellectuals of the ethnic movements. Thereby, the concept of development itself was harshly criticized as Eurocentric and, recently substituted by new concepts like “buen vivir.” The panel will discuss these tendencies and will ask for new strategies and projects of ethno-development in the 21st century.

Panel 3: Ethnicity in Postmodern Mediaspaces

Mediating ethnicity today means to position oneself between media production as a form of cultural resistance and processes of hybridization. The digital revolution has profoundly changed the conditions of access to media for subaltern population groups – new cultural circuits have evolved fostering world wide connectivity and attention to the so-called ethnic minorities. Contrastingly, the commercial exploitation of ethnicity has proven to be a viable option for the cultural industries of post-Fordism. The panel focuses these two phenomena in contemporary mediascapes which have been crucial to the currently shifting notions of ethnicity and ethnic identity politics and also addresses the interrelations between both tendencies.

Panel 4: Ethnicity and Political Communication in Processes of State Formation in 19th Century Latin America

Since the late 18th century the nation state is, not only in the Americas, one of the most powerful constructs that structures society. Political participation was constantly negotiated between different social (collective) groups like comunidades indígenas, landowners or representatives of the state. These demands and the struggle for political representation were mostly based upon and legitimated by a supposed collective identity. Therefore the panel aims at analyzing different processes of collectivization, based on an imagined collective identity – referring to regional, national, ethnical criteria – by using approaches from political and cultural history.

Panel 5: Inter-ethnic Perceptions of Nature Conservation Issues

Analyzing and understanding the perceptions of nature conservation issues by different segments of Latin American societies is crucial for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). How do indigenous people, nature reserve managers, agriculture professionals, NGOs, Christians and other denominations, scientists, politicians and other stakeholders view the issues associated e.g. with the establishment of biosphere reserves and other cutting-edge conservation problems like biological invasions? The panel provides a platform for in-depth discussions on recent tendencies of the subject.

Panel 6: Global Ethnicities

While ethnicity is a concept deeply rooted in localized identities, the last decades of the 20th century have witnessed the emergence of transnational, global ethnic organizations and forums. Supranational institutions like the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent or the UNESCO Slave Route-Project are pivotal spaces where global identities of indigenous peoples or members of the African Diaspora are being discussed. This panel invites contributions that broaden upon these global processes of ethnic mobilization and identity politics.

Panel 7: Gender and Ethnicity in the Indigenous Movement

When the question of gender occurs in the context of indigenism, it is usually interpreted as a complementary aspect. It is intended to attribute any deviation from this assumed identity to the conditions of domination characteristic to colonialism, which came to Latin America on board of European ships in the sixteenth century.

But there are many historical sources that reveal the sexist and patriarchic character of various indigenous peoples. Therefore, we propose to discuss the following questions in the panel: What does it mean to be a woman and to be indigenous in today’s society? How is the indigenous performance lived from the female perspective? Are the demands of indigenous women included in the agendas of their movements? Are there indigenous movements for women or are the movements limited to merely "include women"?

Panel 8: Commodifying Ethnicity: The Strategic Use of Culture in Post-Fordist Economies

In post-fordist economies we can observe an ever-growing tendency to make use of cultural identities for economic ends. World Music, aboriginal handcraft and artwork, ethnic food, multicultural literature, indigenous tourism and the experience of authenticity are no longer niche-products in the market but dynamic segments of a growing alterity and diversity industry. This panel explores the strategic use of ethnicity in the Americas from the production and distribution to the new ethnicized consumer cultures.


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