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Servitude Afterlives and the Demands of History in the Present

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This talk, co-sponsored by the Stanford Department of Anthropology and the Center for Latin American Studies, builds on Professor Winchell's recently published book, After Servitude: Elusive Property and the Ethics of Kinship in Bolivia, to track the varied ways Bolivians navigate deep inequalities rooted in the nation’s history of Indigenous labor subjection. Government officials, Indigenous rights activists, and state land reformers view land redistribution as urgent for addressing Indigenous injustice, yet Professor Winchell's research showed how this program also re-entrenched racial and gender hierarchies. Theorizing after-ness not only as sequential following but also as the active repurposing of history in the present, Professor Winchell examines how the kin of Quechua servants navigate the region’s history of racial and sexual violence through practices of sacrifice and offering to saints and earth beings, an insistence that Mestizo bosses provide aid across hierarchies, and where that fails, by way of labor strikes and road blockades. Contesting the re-entrenchments of inequality in land reform, these practices activate a more durative understanding of justice as a matter of upholding relational attachments across violent pasts. This case offers key insights into how rights-based development programs can reproduce racialized and gendered land hierarchies, and how Quechua Bolivians have sought to refuse the formations of racialized blameworthiness at work in such reforms by pursuing other pathways of historical repair and redress.

Mareike Winchell is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the racialization of property in light of ongoing histories of Indigenous land dispossession, and how such formations find new expression in contemporary engagements with climate change. Her first book, After Servitude: Elusive Property and the Ethics of Kinship in Bolivia (University of California Press, 2022), traces the ways Quechua people in central Bolivia call upon and actively repurpose the past in their efforts to navigate legacies of labor subjection and sexual violence. Winchell’s writing and digital scholarship have appeared in numerous journals, including the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Cultural Anthropology, Journal of Peasant Studies, Critical Times, Bolivian Studies Journal, and Comparative Studies in Society and History.

*This lecture is co-sponsored by the Stanford Department of Anthropology

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