Claiming Belonging, Constructing Social Spaces: Citizenship Practices in an Afro-Bolivian town

Chuck Sturtevant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recent literature on citizenship practices and discourses highlights processes of ‘subjectification’ or ‘self-making’ in relation to a local community rather than the rights and responsibilities associated with the legal status bestowed on full members of a national community. In this paper, set in the town of Chicaloma in the Yungas region of Bolivia, I argue that this self-making is not simply a response to hegemonic national norms, nor to a communally defined image of its ideal member, but rather is bound up in simultaneous processes of ‘community-making’. Further, I argue that community-making is itself a hotly contested process. Access to specific social and economic resources is differentially available to those members of the community who are able to make more convincing claims to belonging. In this context, community members are engaged in an on-going process of making claims to belonging which work by constructing the social space in the image of the claimant as much as by producing the subject. They constitute an important citizenship practice through which subjects assert their rights in various instances of local governance, but they work by constructing the community as well as the citizen-subjects who populate it. Rather than yield clear categories of included and excluded, though, these practices and discourses result in fluid and unstable differentiations among actors, and, in fact, a fluid and unstable constitution of the community as a social space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
JournalCritique of Anthropology
Issue number1
Early online date22 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • citizenship
  • race
  • ethnicity
  • Bolivia
  • Afro-Bolivian
  • citizenship practices
  • belonging


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