ethnographic articulations
in an age of pachakuti
There are two modes of language use in the schools: (1) Monolin-
gual: in Spanish with the secondary study of a national indigenous
language [lengua nacional originaria]; (2) Bilingual: in a national
indigenous language as the first language and Spanish as the second
—Bolivian Education Reform Law #1565, July 7, 1994
1994, amid rising indigenous mobilization and a government turn
toward free-market policies, the Bolivian congress signed a national edu-
cation reform into law. The reform proposed to restructure Bolivian school-
ing in tandem with a wider process of neoliberal structural adjustment.∞
plan included a controversial component called bilingual intercultural edu-
cation (eib, from the Spanish educación intercultural bilingüe) that promoted
the introduction of indigenous languages alongside Spanish in public ele-
mentary schools in indigenous regions. That children should study in their
own language—pedagogical common sense and a human right enshrined in
global charters—does not make for a radical idea. Yet in Bolivia eib con-
stituted a radical departure from the longer history of forced castellanización,
the Spanishization of indigenous peoples that characterized Bolivian public
schooling as it expanded following the 1952 revolution. eib echoed the
government’s turn toward so-called interculturalism, a new buzzword that
found some support among neoliberal reformers who saw the recognition of
cultural pluralism as a way to talk about citizen di√erence while dismantling
structures of politics that arose from the class-centered paradigms of cen-
tralized corporatist rule. Also a demand of indigenous movements who were
pursuing distinctly non-neoliberal visions of collective rights, eib came into
being as a paradoxical—and conflictive—convergence between free-market
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