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Assembling Economic Citizenship: Indigenous Women’s Work in Post-Neoliberal Bolivia



Change log


Warrington Brown, Sibylla 


Despite a wide-ranging literature on the ‘post-neoliberal’ shift in Bolivia post-2006, there has been limited attention to women’s working lives. Furthermore, literature on urban indigenous women’s work in Bolivia, as with the Andean region more widely, has centred on highland women’s work as (informal) market venders and traders, while lowland indigenous women as economic subjects have been largely invisibilised. Through a qualitative case study with Guaraní and other low-income women in peri-urban Santa Cruz de la Sierra, this thesis explores how lowland indigenous women have been incorporated as economic citizens during this ‘process of change’. Through a feminist political economy perspective, the thesis adopts an assemblage lens to interrogate how intersectional labour market stratification is reproduced or shifting. Developing the concept of the ‘gender-ethnic assemblage of labour’, the thesis argues that despite new women’s rights legislation, development planning continues to marginalize and misrecognise (low-skilled) women’s labour and the gendered work of social reproduction, with implications for the persistence of unequal gender norms around work and limits to women’s substantive economic citizenship. Yet, Guaraní women are further disadvantaged in comparison with other low-skilled women given the specific socio-spatial and material configuration of labour in the peri-urban area and city. Unlike other diverse peri-urban women or the paradigmatic highland market vender of the Andean literature, Guaraní women are generally not traders or street venders, but often work in casual, paid labour. This uneven assemblage encourages the circulation of racialised representations of Guaraní women as new forms of gendered ethnic-class differentiation are set in place. Despite new equalities legislation reducing the worst direct racist abuse, subtle forms of (embodied) status distinctions persist, highlighting reconfigured ‘power-geometries’ of ethnicity and race at work through misrecognition. However, the new legislation has resulted in some limited compliance with women’s labour rights and possibilities for decent work. Furthermore, an important shift in citizen-subjectivities has taken place, symbolically challenging entrenched forms of colonial-patriarchal-classed power, with material effects for women’s agency. Despite limited opportunities for collective action, Guaraní women exercise constrained agency at work through some ambiguous acts of economic citizenship.





Radcliffe, Sarah


Latin America, Bolivia, Post-neoliberalism, Indigeneity, Gender, Intersectionality, Race-ethnicity, Guaraní, Labour, Work, Employment, Citizenship, Assemblage, Inequality


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
ESRC (1644159)
ESRC (1644159)
ESRC Studentship, ESRC Award for Overseas Fieldwork and Difficult Language Training Simón Bolívar Fund Award, Centre of Latin American studies