Domesticating Democracy: The Politics of Conflict Resolution in Bolivia.

Author:Sierra, Luis M.
 
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Ellison, Susan Helen. Domesticating Democracy: The Politics of Conflict Resolution in Bolivia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

The American public might presume that American- and European-funded NGOs in the global South are simply engaged in good works but scholars of the global South know better. Domesticating Democracy: The Politics of Conflict Resolution in Bolivia contributes to the conversation about the political role of NGOs by demonstrating how neoliberal reforms have affected the daily lives of average Bolivians. Anthropologist Susan Helen Ellison examines the purpose, function, and effect of alternative dispute resolution organizations on the development of democracy in this context. Ellison demonstrates, for example, how NGOs create a "discursive assemblage" by providing funding for alternative dispute resolution organizations, legal aid, and conflict resolution for the residents of El Alto. The author builds a complex analytic framework for understanding how and why Bolivians use alternative dispute resolution. She tracks how donor organizations have shifted away from reforming institutions and toward reforming citizens, arguing that this shift was part of a new wave of neoliberal reforms. Ellison builds her argument by highlighting the importance of historical linkages to the contemporary moment. She elucidates the process of urbanization in El Alto, where miners resettled after the state privatized its mines and rural Bolivians fled to escape drought, as the social history of neoliberal reforms. El Alto is often portrayed as conflictive and Ellisons ethnography exposes how the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 1990s led to the rise of these "conflictive" citizens. Citizens who choose conflict over conciliation challenge the concepts of good citizenship US and European NGOs promulgate. NGOs believes that if alternative dispute resolution can be used to resolve interpersonal conflicts, then it can surely be scaled up to help resolve conflicts before they become full-scale protests and blockades.

The failure to fully reform institutions in the service of neoliberal capitalism led NGOs to focus on the individual. Thus, alternative dispute resolution programs aim to reform Bolivian citizens' interactions with state bureaucracies and global capitalism. Using Michel Foucault's analysis of the concept of governmentality as a set of technologies designed to create self-disciplining citizens, Ellison shows how microfinancing...

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