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Northern Andes

SARR Conference, May 27-29, 2010, Quito, Equador
"Off Centered States: Political Formation and Deformation in the Andes" - A States at Regional Risk (SARR) Conference

Quito conference photo

Dr. Christopher Krupa, SARR Post-doc and
conference organizer (far right).
The Americas component of Emory’s States at Regional Risk Project focuses on the northern Andean region of South America, particularly the countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. This region has been at the center of hemispheric conflicts concerning oil, coca production, drug trafficking, and paramilitary operations since the end of the Cold War. The competing influences of the United States and neighboring Venezuela fuel an already tense political polarization among the region’s presidencies.  Ecuador and Bolivia champion versions of “21st century socialism,” while Colombia and Peru remain or move increasingly to the political right. Popular social movements of historically minoritized peoples have increasingly ousted conservative heads of state and elected new representatives to key positions in government, including the recent presidential election of Evo Morales in Bolivia. Outside observers have called parts of the Andes the world’s first potentially “post-neoliberal” region and are looking to its countries with either hopes or fears of an influential model of how states may be governing differently in the years ahead.

Regional Conference

The SARR northern Andes regional conference, “Off-Centered States: Political Formation and Deformation in the Andes,” was held at the FLACSO campus in Quito, Ecuador, on May 27 and 28, 2010. The conference brought together 21 participants from seven countries, including our focus countries in the region (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia).  The conference was attended by some 50 observers and audience members.  Importantly, the conference was fully bi-lingual between Spanish and English, with simultaneous translation available via wireless headsets for all audience members as well as for presenters and panelists. Bilingualism enhanced the both the rigor and vigor of discussion as well as making broader participation possible in the selection of conference participants.

Drawing on pilot trips to the Andean region made by Dr. Christopher Krupa, the SARR directorate determined Quito, Ecuador to be the most suitable location for the SARR Andes conference.  The Quito branch of the prestigious Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Facultad Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales—FLACSO) was chosen as the regional co-organizer of the conference.

Importantly, the conference was fully bi-lingual between Spanish and English, with simultaneous translation available via wireless headsets for all audience members as well as for presenters and panelists. Bilingualism enhanced the both the rigor and vigor of discussion as well as making broader participation possible in the selection of conference participants.

Our goal was to explore issues of state risk, instability, and transformation from a critical angle that questioned the foundations of state power and presence in the northern Andes since colonial times. Our previous work led us to propose that ‘states’ in the region had been rather porous, ill-defined, and uncoordinated institutions -- deeply inflected with, and relying heavily upon, ostensibly non-political institutions in the process of governing.  Existing frameworks for understanding current conflicts in the Andes tend to frame these as consequences of macro-processes of state decentralization and recentralization, frameworks which still propose identifiable and functional centers of government and which, we felt, missed much of the more dispersed way that political power works in Andean societies, including at the core of many of its current conflicts.

We requested conference participants to consider state power in relation to extra-official, quotidian, and frequently invisible or partially concealed permutations of rule in the lives of Andean people.  These encompass actors who have sought to carry out projects under the ostensible umbrella of ‘state,’ how these attempts are legitimated (if at all), and what challenges or competitions arise from them.  We were interested to identify how performances of statecraft coordinated or conflicted with national political structures as well as with intra-regional and trans-national influences.

Our intention was to (1) provoke reflection among international and regional experts about the sources of current tensions in the northern Andes; (2) assess the possibilities for new and influential forms of governance in the region; and (3) foster dialogue between scholars and those working in state and civil society institutions concerning the insights of the conference.

 

Participant List

Participants and Abstracts

Conference flyer

Conference Statement (English)

Convocatoria (Spanish)

Conference Executive Summary

Emory Report Article about Quito conference