Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .

From Tribal Village to Global Village: Indian Rights and International Relations in Latin America
Alison Brysk

Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2000
374pp. Index. Biblio. Pb.: ?15.95; ISBN 08047-3459-3. Hb.: ?37.50; ISBN 08047-3458-5.

If, to quote Rigoberta Mench? (p.301 of this book), "Any attempt to ignore difference is a form of violence", then this is a study of how Latin America's Indian/indigenous rights movement has responded to a legacy of five centuries of violence. From Tribal Village to Global Village charts the growth of Indian/indigenous identity politics in the region and considers how it has engaged with state and interstate politics, global market capitalism and international civil society. The goal is both to document challenges and responses and to draw broader conclusions for social movements of self-empowerment.

Beginning with the crimes of the European colonizers, the resistance that soon emerged, and the support of outsiders, the author then traces the construction of Indian identity-based politics, arguing that `many forms of ethnic conflict seem to be less an atavism than a defensive response to globalizing pressures' (p.15). Brysk shows the range of national and local Indian struggles, ranging from `tribal self-defence' of isolated Amazon populations through the `tribal administrations' of the Ecuadoran Shuar and Nicaraguan Miskito, `ethnicized peasant movements' of Mexico and Guatemala, `cultural revival movements' such as Bolivia's Kataristas, and indigenous civil rights movements of Colombia and Chile. As interactions with state interests, transnational corporations, churches, aid programmes, humanitarian groups, anthropologists, environmentalists and others multiplied, the principles of `self-determination' and `ethno-development' emerged to unite Latin America's Indians. The movement came of age in 1992 with the `500 Years of Resistance' campaign.

Such international norms as the ILO's Conventions of 1957 and 1989 on indigenous populations have provided leverage, and states have internalized international standards, albeit unevenly. Latin America's indigenous peoples have `mounted surprising challenges to the international logic of profit' (p.145), with Mexico's Zapatista uprising against NAFTA a case in point. Of the three major global domains considered, civil society has been the most responsive to the struggle.

Assessing impacts, the book concludes with guarded optimism that `Powerless people can change their lives and their world by projecting new identities into the global arena' (p. 53). Among the principal recommendations are that indigenous and minority peoples now require the practical implementation of existing international human rights standards; that Latin America's deficiency of democracy demands thoroughgoing reform; and that self-determination - meaningful autonomy without secession - requires `a generous interpretation of the cultural, social, and political rights of peoples within a unified but plurinational state ? a special path to equal representation and dignity' (p.294).

Miles Litvinoff: Head of Programmes, Minority Rights Group International

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page