Between Pachamama and Mother Earth: Gender, Political Ontology and the Rights of Nature in Contemporary Bolivia

Citation:

Tola, Miriam. 2018. "Between Pachamama and Mother Earth: Gender, Political Ontology and the Rights of Nature in Contemporary Bolivia." Feminist Review 118 (1): 25-40.

Author: Miriam Tola

Abstract:

Focusing on contemporary Bolivia, this article examines promises and pitfalls of political and legal initiatives that have turned Pachamama into a subject of rights. The conferral of rights on the indigenous earth being had the potential to unsettle the Western ontological distinction between active human subjects who engage in politics and passive natural resources. This essay, however, highlights some paradoxical effects of the rights of nature in Bolivia, where Evo Morales’ model of development relies on the intensification of the export-oriented extractive economy. Through the analysis of a range of texts, including paintings, legal documents, political speeches and activist interventions, I consider the equivocation between the normatively gendered Mother Earth that the state recognises as the subject of rights, and the figure of Pachamama evoked by feminist and indigenous activists. Pachamama, I suggest, has been incorporated into the Bolivian state as a being whose generative capacities have been translated into a rigid gender binary. As a gendered subject of rights, Pachamama/Mother Earth is exposed to governmental strategies that ultimately increase its subordination to state power. The concluding remarks foreground the import of feminist perspectives in yielding insights concerning political ontological conflicts.

Keywords: rights of nature, Pachamama, extractivism, decolonial feminism, indigenous political ontology, Bolivia

Topics: Environment, Extractive Industries, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Rights Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Bolivia

Year: 2018

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