My research examines changes in ideologies of class and ethnicity within Indigenous and popular movements in the South American Andes during the twentieth century. Although ethnicity has come to dominate recent Indigenous political discourse, I have discovered that historically the rural masses defended their class interests, especially those related to material concerns such as land, wages, and work, even while embracing their ethnic identities. Through a study of land tenure and political mobilization, I examine the roles of leadership, institutions, economics, and class relations in order to understand the formation of class ideologies and ethnic politics.
Duke University Press published my book Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador's Modern Indigenous Movements that analyzes the convergence of class and ethnic ideologies within Indigenous movements in twentieth-century Ecuador. The University of Pittsburgh Press published Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador that I edited with Kim Clark. This volume examines how Indigenous peoples have claimed control over state formation in order to improve their positions in society.
I am currently working on several new projects, including a study of informal lawyers known as tinterillos who used their literacy skills to mediate between rural communities and the government. Tinterillos have received little scholarly attention, but they are commonly perceived as exploiting their privileged position to their own economic, social, and political benefit. These intermediaries provide a convenient medium through which to examine how power relations are negotiated between fundamentally different cultures and across deep class divides.
I have published a series of essays on Pachakutik, a current Indigenous political movement in Ecuador that activists established to contest electoral power. These formed the basis for Pachakutik: Indigenous Movements and Electoral Politics in Ecuador with Rowman & Littlefield Publishers that traces the recent history of Indigenous politics in Ecuador as they move from social movement tactics into the electoral realm. I am also in conversations with Rowman & Littlefield about writing a synthetic survey of Indigenous peoples in the Americas. I am also an associate editor for a three-volume encyclopedia on Native Peoples of the World (M.E. Sharpe).
I have conducted preliminary research on a 1920s Communist International proposal to create an Indigenous republic in the South American Andes. I seek to understand whether the Comintern acknowledged Indigenous concerns and voices, or whether they dictated a unilateral course of action in defining Indigenous peoples as nationalities. I have published the preliminary results of this research in Revista Andina, Science and Society, and A Contracorriente. The work builds on and challenges several of the assumptions in my first book, Mariátegui and Latin American Marxist Theory. José Carlos Mariátegui defended Indigenous rights but rejected the idea of creating Indigenous nationalities. In contrast, leftists in neighboring Ecuador embraced the discourse of Indigenous nationalities and I believe this led to the formation of the strongest Indigenous rights movement in the Americas. I am also working with Harry Vanden on a translated volume of Mariátegui's writings for classroom use.
I have been very successful gaining awards and fellowships to support my research, including the prestigious two-year Social Science Research Council (SSRC)-MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for Peace and Security in a Changing World that allowed me to spend time as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. A sabbatical leave allowed me to deepen my gender analysis of Indigenous movements in Latin America.