Reorganizing Indigenous-State Relations in Chile: Programa Orígenes and Participatory Governance

Published date30 June 2011
Date30 June 2011
AuthorKathleen M. Sullivan
Kathleen M. Sullivan
Indigenous-state relations in Chile are being reconfigured around a
political rationality and productive logic of ‘‘calculative choice,’’ through
the government-run participatory development program Programa Orı´-
genes. Financed by the Chilean state and the Inter-American Development
Bank, Orı´genes is broadly designed to address productive development,
bilingual education, health care, and public services in rural indigenous
communities. The technologies of Orı´genesinclude participatory planning,
planning tables, and audit. I argue that bureaucrats and indigenous peoples
who participate are subjected to subject-making technologies that are
integral to a rationalizing and transformative neoliberal assemblage of
legal and policy instruments and practices.
In December of 2007, I was sitting in a friend’s family room in Santiago
watching TV with him, when an intriguing short piece about a Lafkenche
Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Volume 55, 101–129
Copyright r2011 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 1059-4337/doi:10.1108/S1059-4337(2011)0000055008
cultural ecotourism scheme in the south of Chile came on the evening news.
Several groups of Lafkenche-Mapuche Peoples have organized and imple-
mented economic development projects in which cultural and environmental
preservation and small-scale tourism play significant roles. Part advertise-
ment, part public service announcement, and part news, we learned that
one could go hiking, observe quotidian indigenous practices, and learn about
the Lafkenche People and their culture by visiting their tourist center. Cultural
ecotourism is a key form of economic development that the Chilean
government has been working to foster in indigenous communities since
Watching the Lafkenche man describe the cross-cultural learning
experiences that a visitor could expect, I reflected upon how entrenched the
neoliberalization of indigenous-state relations had become in the eight years
since I first began conducting ethnographic field research on environmental
issues in southern Chile. One site of entrenchment has been the complicated,
much criticized, forward marching, government-run Programa Orı
During the tenures of the post-dictatorship governments in Chile, relations
between indigenous peoples and the state have flared contentious, as for
example in the relations between the state and the Mapuche over ancestral
land claims and agriforestry development (Klubock, 2004;Haughney, 2006)
and hydroelectric development (Namuncura, 1999). These relations have also
become increasingly bureaucratized and rationalized. Current rationalizing
processes are rooted in the 1993 Ley Indı
´gena N119.253. Indigenous political
leaders negotiated the passage of such a law along with other claims and
demands as a part of their alliance with the Concertacio
´n de Partidos por la
Democracia political party against Pinochet, but have had to continuously
struggle to accomplish the various components of that pact with the successive
elected Concertacio
´n governments since the return to democracy (Rupailaf,
2002). Launched in 2001, Programa Orı
´genes represents a major plank in
´n’s attempt to meet its obligation to indigenous peoples in Chile.
´genes is organized through government-run community participatory
exercises that address a wide array of topical issues ranging from productive
development projects, community infrastructure projects, improved public
services, heath care, and bilingual education in indigenous communities.
´genes also aims to coordinate the many layers of federal, regional and
municipal ministries, agencies, and offices in order to provide more efficient
and effective government services to indigenous communities and indigenous
In this paper, I first explore the ways in which Orı
´genes is rationalizing
relations between indigenous peoples and the state in Chile by unpacking
the lexicon of participatory governance, and then by examining the technical

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