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Review: "Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador" by Kim Clark and Marc Becker

Larry Slawson received his master's degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.

"Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador."

"Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador."


Throughout the collection of works presented in, Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador, each of the authors explore the fundamental relationship that existed between Ecuadorian Indians and the state across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Taken together, each of “these studies build an argument about how Indians in highland Ecuador gained political and organizational experience” in relation to the government institutions, and how these gains “manifested [themselves] in contemporary relations between Indians and the Ecuadorian state” (Clark and Becker, 21).

Historian Marc Becker, for example, examines the social and political climate that followed the May 1944 revolution, and stresses that the Indians’ failure to gain constitutional reforms helped them (in subsequent decades) to organize “as a [cohesive] social movement” against the state (Clark and Becker, 17). Likewise, Amalia Pallares provides an analysis of the indigenous movement that characterized Ecuadorian society in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as their struggle for cultural inclusion in lieu of conflicting notions regarding pluriculturalism and plurinationalism. Through disputes with the Ecuadorian government, however, Pallares argues that the “Indian movement…gained in [its] organizational capacity…as state discourse and indigenous projects…evolved…and influenced each other” significantly (Clark and Becker, 18).

Finally, Jose Antonio Lucero and Maria Elena Garcia provide a cross-comparison of the indigenous movements that characterized both Peruvian and Ecuadorian society, and describe the similar (yet distinct) manner in which both movements evolved over time. Although historical studies often equate Ecuador’s indigenous movement with success (and Peru’s as a failure), the authors stress that an examination of Peru and Ecuador reveals that “relations between the state and society must be examined both as [a] ‘system’ and ‘idea'" (Clark and Becker, 235). Doing so reveals the diverse nature of indigenous movements in Peru and Ecuador (especially Peru) and stresses how “contentious politics” characterized their movements “on many [different] levels” (Clark and Becker, 247).

Modern-Day Ecuador

Personal Thoughts

Each of the articles presented in this work rely on a wide array of primary sources that include: court records, census data, government documents, letters, and diaries. A major positive of this book lies with the fact that each of its chapters provide substantial insight into Ecuadorian politics (and social issues) across the twentieth century. The inclusion of a bibliographical essay is also instrumental in introducing the reader to the diverse set of literature and historiography that surrounds the indigenous movements of Ecuador. A clear negative to this book, however, is the lack of background information included by both the editors and contributors. Although the introduction and opening segments of each chapter provide brief insight into Ecuador’s social and political history, additional information would have been beneficial to this work.

All in all, I give this work 5/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Ecuadorian history during the twentieth century. Both scholars and non-academics, alike, can appreciate the contents of this historical compilation. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity. This work offers an analysis of Ecuador that should not be missed or ignored.


Questions to Facilitate Group Discussion:

1.) How did the indigenous movements of Ecuador compare to subaltern movements that occurred in other parts of Latin America?

2.) In what ways was Ecuador’s indigenous movement similar to the Afro-Cubans in Cuba? How did they differ?

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3.) What role does race play in the formation of nation-states, such as Ecuador? Does it play a significant or minor role? Why?

4.) Did you agree with the arguments presented by each of the historians presented in this work? Why or why not?

5.) Was the contents of this book organized in a logical manner?

6.) What were some of the strengths and weaknesses of this compilation? In what ways could the authors (and editors) have improved upon this work? Explain.

7.) What type of primary and secondary source materials does the authors rely upon? Does this help or hinder their overall arguments? Why or why not?

8.) Were you surprised by any of the facts and figures that were presented by the authors?

9.) Would you be willing to recommend this book to a friend or family member?

10.) Do the findings presented in this compilation contribute significantly to modern scholarship on Ecuador? In what ways do these arguments add to modern historiographical studies and debates?

Works Cited:

Clark, Kim and Marc Becker et. al., Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador, edited by: A. Kim Clark and Marc Becker. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007.

© 2018 Larry Slawson

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