Mi Llajta (My Town): Identity, Belonging and Contested Space in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Jorgensen, Kay (2014). Mi Llajta (My Town): Identity, Belonging and Contested Space in Cochabamba, Bolivia PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2014.187

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Author Jorgensen, Kay
Thesis Title Mi Llajta (My Town): Identity, Belonging and Contested Space in Cochabamba, Bolivia
Formatted title
Mi Llajta (My Town): Identity, Belonging and Contested Space in Cochabamba, Bolivia
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2014.187
Publication date 2014-01-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor David Trigger
Sally Babidge
Total pages 255
Language eng
Subjects 1601 Anthropology
Formatted abstract
This dissertation provides an ethnographic examination of identity and belonging in the city of Cochabamba, located in the central valley region of Bolivia, between the physically and ideologically dissimilar lowland and highland territories. The study focuses upon migration and emerging urban dynamics observed through aspects of embodied space. Overlapping claims and diverse ways of occupying space in and around the city create varying degrees of uncertainty made palpable through violent contests and underlying concerns of dispossession. I approach this study from the perspective of contested and negotiated space through a nuanced analysis of the quotidian practices of people living in the urban and peri-urban areas of Cochabamba. It is in this interplay that new ways of belonging become forged and reveal the contemporary character of the city.

A constitutive feature of the ongoing contestation of space in Cochabamba rests upon the ongoing migration of people predominantly from the rural highlands of Bolivia towards urban centres. Bolivia’s rural population outnumbered the urban population until the mid 1990s, when neoliberal structural adjustment policies precipitated the fastest urban growth in Bolivia's history. The sheer numbers of rural migrants has led to a burgeoning of peri-urban communities in Bolivia’s urban centres as many migrants continue to maintain their connections with the rural life of their Andean villages. Growth of peri-urban settlements, along with political changes within the country, have led to an increasing presence of Andean rural practices in middle-class neighbourhoods that contrast with long-held urban notions of rational use of space. Competing claims to the city highlight processes of exclusion and inclusion linked to particular views of progress and fear of hostile rural surrounds that have historically expressed and shaped urban identity formation and urban space. While equating hostility with the rural sphere may seem strange to someone unfamiliar with Bolivia, a long history of rural uprisings against urban centres and precarious rights to property have left their mark on the urban psyche.

Based on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork, this study attends to the diverse voices that make up the social and cultural context of the city of Cochabamba and traces identity formations over time to better understand the changes occurring within the country. I examine the current government’s efforts in creating an indigenous state and argue that they are in practice obscuring complex negotiations of layered identities. The thesis contributes to anthropological discussions and understandings of the complex and multiple subjectivities negotiating urban space in Cochabamba, Bolivia with wider ramifications for analysing rural to urban movement occurring within the broader region of South America.
Keyword Peri-urban
Middle class

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Created: Mon, 30 Jun 2014, 21:30:13 EST by Kay Jorgensen on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service