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The Macalester Review

Abstract

Indigenous groups around the world have faced countless hardships—the Kolla of northwestern Argentina are no exception. While there is no doubt that the Kolla are a minority group both oppressed and marginalized, they have only recently begun to reconceptualize themselves as indigenous. Kolla identity struggles coupled with larger Latin American trends explained below make the Kolla an excellent case study to conceptualize the larger struggle between neoliberal governments and indigenous employment of international legal norms. Processes of legal globalization have led to the increasing codification of the collective rights of indigenous peoples in Latin America. This can be seen in states’ constitutional revisions, ratifications of ILO 169 and signings of the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I argue that these codifications are not always about recognizing rights as such, but rather indicate the states’ limited acceptance of cultural diversity, which maintains the state as a rational actor operating between needs and interests of multiple actors. Furthermore, I interpret this limited acceptance to be evidence for a neoliberal trend in governmental functions. In the case of the Kolla and arguably Latin America more broadly, the neoliberal framework re-conceptualizes the state to be a property distributor that solely protects property rights rather than engages in broader social provision or support. In other words, the government may codify certain rights that appear to benefit indigenous peoples, but in reality fails to take seriously these rights in any practical sense. I argue that the government’s neoliberal stance can explain this implementation gap. The intentional lack of processes and structures for seeking redress as well as the absence of enforcement methods attest to the government’s apathy. Moreover, the government may “rationally” side with corporate interests in its larger function weighing needs and interests of many actors.