Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Genetic Defects or Generative Prototypes? Competing Models for Livestock Improvement in Southern Bolivia./Defauts Genetiques Ou Prototypes Generatifs? Modeles Concurrents D'amelioration Du Cheptel Dans le Sud De la Bolivie

Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Genetic Defects or Generative Prototypes? Competing Models for Livestock Improvement in Southern Bolivia./Defauts Genetiques Ou Prototypes Generatifs? Modeles Concurrents D'amelioration Du Cheptel Dans le Sud De la Bolivie

Article excerpt

Prologue

One of the less remembered effects of Bolivia's political and constitutional crisis of October 2003, the so-called 'Gas Wars', was the postponement of the Third Worldwide Camelid Congress. (1) The event was due to have taken place the very week that saw the fall of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, when violent clashes between the military and demonstrators in La Paz left over sixty people dead in various incidents involving gunfire (Ledebur 2003: 2). It was also a week in which indigenous and urban working-class muscle was flexed against an elite, 'white', businessman president, having been galvanized into action by the proposed sale of Bolivia's natural gas to the United States through a Chilean port (see Ledebur 2003).

Potosi, where the Congress was due to take place, had had its share of protests and road-blocks that week, but its departmental government avoided the sort of violent clashes that shook La Paz. The organizers from the Office of Productive Development were faced with a situation in which travel within the city, let alone the country, was next to impossible and, despite months of careful preparation, they took the difficult decision to postpone the showcase event. There followed several anxious days in which private planes were sought to fly prestigious foreign delegates to the relative safety of Santa Cruz. Below the city, in the Parque los Pinos, scores of llamas, alpacas, and vicunas fretted in their pens. They were due to compete in the judging ring of a livestock show that formed part of the event, and had already been in Potosi for some weeks undergoing training to persuade them to behave well in public. They were in confined spaces, far from their communities of origin. A herder from Sud Lipez, the remotest province of Potosi department, was charged with their care. Like the animals, he had already been in Potosi for some time and was starting to feel disgruntled; he had other duties with the regional camelid producers' organization, and was far from his own family and llama herds. Faced with his possible defection, the organizers provided a financial incentive for him to remain, and, as Carlos Mesa took up the presidential sash, the animals waited in their enclosures.

Introduction

This article concerns recent initiatives by NGOs and branches of the Bolivian government aimed at 'improving' llama management and productivity in rural areas of the country. It explores interactions between herders and NGO personnel and between different ways of knowing about animals. A particular focus is on competing claims to knowledge about animal improvement, and one way in which I explore this is through camelid shows, particularly the Third Worldwide Camelid Congress of 2003. I have begun here with the postponement of this event due to the 'Gas Wars' because, in part, these wider political happenings in the country formed the context in which it unfolded. Furthermore, both the proposed sale of Bolivia's natural gas and the proposed opening up of global markets for camelid fibre and meat derivatives (the ultimate aim of livestock improvement programmes) are linked by the implementation of neo-liberal policies within the country and by external pressures on the Bolivian government to reduce the country's fiscal deficit. Finally, the 'Gas Wars', in which predominantly indigenous protesters confronted a white president, highlights the continued racialization of Bolivian society. Race enters into questions of herding and animal improvement since there are strong associations between the animals and the indigenous highland population: from the point of view of herders, the relationship between animals and humans is one of parallelism, interdependence, and mutual sustenance (Dransart 2002: 100), while at the hands of urbanites the proximity of indigenous people to their animals can become a vehicle for the expression of contempt for rural Indians.

My focus on llama shows has come about because these are promoted by the NGOs involved in livestock improvement programmes with the specific aim of teaching herders about good animal conformation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.