Friday, July 05, 2013

Patricia Richards' Race and the Chilean Miracle

I read Patricia Richards' Race and the Chilean Miracle: Neoliberalism, Democracy, and Indigenous Rights (2013) to review for Journal of Interdisciplinary History. It focuses on the Mapuche, and I summed it up as follows:

Patricia Richards’ core argument is that although the Chilean government has promoted multiculturalism, in the context of a neoliberal economic system this entails no structural changes that would actually alter the severe power imbalance between Mapuche and non-Mapuche. Instead, the state’s commitment to the indigenous population became a matter of making it more economically productive rather than providing any substantive rights. Further, the economic model is based largely on the export of raw materials, which includes timber found in Mapuche communities. Thus, the “Chilean Miracle” meant “massive outmigration, dispossession, lands depleted of water and nutrients, lack of control over natural resources, inability to contribute to decisions that affect them, criminalization of demands” (215).

There are tons of books and articles on the side effects of the Chilean economic model, but not so many that focus squarely on race. Yet when you consider how even the Concertación governments used anti-terrorism laws against the Mapuche--but not against anyone else--it definitely merits more attention.

You will understand the complexities of the interactions between Mapuche and non-Mapuche, especially at the local level, much better if you read this book. The Chilean government has a particular vision for embracing multiculturalism, and if you do not fall within its parameters, policy makers become very unhappy.


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