Processes of Change in Bolivia:
The Legacies of La Comuna and Future Pathways for Bolivian Left Currents
A Report for the University Council of Modern Languages by Peter Baker, University of Stirling
The international symposium “Processes of Change in Bolivia: The Legacies of La Comuna and Future Pathways for Bolivian Left Currents” took place on April 15, 2021. It was designed to spark a much-needed critical debate over the current political conjuncture in Bolivia, where the process to “refound” the state as a Plurinational state was brought into question following a political crisis from October 2019. The symposium brought together reputed intellectuals and activists from Bolivia to discuss their perspectives on the current political situation, representing a wide variety of political and academic perspectives on the issue. It also sought to put younger activists and intellectuals in conversation with a previous generation who were crucial in articulating and making sense of the former political crisis of 2000-2005 which had led in the first place to demands to “refound” the state. Remote simultaneous interpreting was offered in English to provide more international attention to the important work of the participants, and in Aymara for reasons of inclusivity and diversity coherent with the symposium’s aims. The event was generously supported by the University Council of Modern Languages, who provided support for the interpreting and the future translation of conference proceeds, and by the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England, who provided additional support with the interpreting and for costs associated with the speakers’ participation.
The event was attended by approximately 150 participants from across the world, including prominent experts in the field of Bolivian Studies. It was chaired by Dr Rubén Hilari from the Universidad Pública de El Alto, who opened and closed the event with words in Spanish, English and Aymara, thus representing the diversity that the event aimed to foster. It was also Co-Chaired by one of the organisers, Dr Enrique Castañón, who mediated the questions and supported the Chair, alongside the organisers, with any technical issues. The event featured talks by:
- Violeta Tamayo: political scientist and activist forming part of the feminist collective Pan y Rosas;
- Luis Tapia: philosopher and academic, Director of the Multidisciplinary Doctorate in Sciences of Development (CIDES) in the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in Bolivia and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México;
- Carlos Macusaya: Indianist writer and member of the collective Jiccha;
- Magali Vianca Copa: Aymara lawyer, teacher and activist, part of the collective “Las Caras de Llama”;
- Huáscar Salazar Lohman: Bolivian economist and lecturer in social sciences;
- Claudia Cuellar: Postgraduate student from the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla and part of a feminist collective based in Santa Cruz;
- Marxa Chávez: Sociologist and activist.
The panellists were then given a chance to respond to a round of questions in any of the three languages from the audience. The event finally came to a close three hours later (the organisers had budgeted for three although the event was announced for two). We received very positive feedback from both panellists and others involved in the event, as well as from participants. Many commented on how surprised they were to see an event with such a critical political vision organised from outside of Bolivia. The organisers are looking to publish proceedings in the journal Alternautas to give continuity to the event, and are discussing the possibility of doing something similar annually. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of UCML and its mission to facilitate knowledge exchange beyond language barriers, and for this we as organisers are very grateful for the support we have received.