Lorenza Fontana

Recognition Politics in the Andes

This is a long-term project that started with my PhD and went through multiple steps and phases. The general goal has been to study the impact of recognition politics (particularly indigenous rights) on social communities across the Andean region, the debates that led to the implementation of new right frameworks and, more specifically, the consequences of the implementation of those rights on people’s lives. The focus has been on the contentious politics happening in the ‘post-recognition’ phase.

This project received funding from a Royal Geographical Society Small Grant and was supported by the Sheffield Institute for International Development at the University of Sheffield, and the European Commission MCSA Fellowship n. 655710.

The most important output of this line of research is a book entitled ‘Recognition Politics. Indigenous Rights and Ethnic Conflicts in the Andes’ forthcoming with Cambridge University Press (2022).

The book provides an empirically grounded analysis and original theoretical framework to understand a new wave of widely overlooked ethnic conflicts that have emerged across the Andean region commensurate with the implementation of internationally acclaimed indigenous rights. Challenging some of the mainstream progressive interpretations of the politics of recognition as offering more fair and inclusive arrangements for ethnically diverse societies, this book argues that these politics contain seeds of conflict. While they aim to improve social inclusion, under certain conditions they increase social differentiation between communities of rural poor, reduce incentives to cooperate and generate new social tensions. Why are groups that have peacefully cohabited for decades suddenly engaging in hostile and violent behaviours? What is the link between these conflicts and changes in collective self-identification, claims-making and rent-seeking dynamics? And how, in turn, are these changes driven by broader institutional, legal and policy reforms?


FONTANA L.B. (forthcoming 2022) ‘Identity in Latin American Social Movements’. In F.M. Rossi (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Latin American Social Movements. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

FONTANA L.B. (2019) ‘Identity Policies of Education: Struggles for Inclusion and Exclusion in Colombia and Peru’, Journal of Education Policy 34(3): 351-373

FONTANA L.B. and J. Grugel (2016) ‘Inclusive Participation or Exclusive Right? The Politics of Participation through Free Prior and Informed Consultation to Indigenous Peoples’. World Development, 77: 249-261.

FONTANA L.B. (2015) ‘Fratricide Identities: The Land Conflict between Indigenous Leco and Peasant Unions in Apolo, Bolivia’, Social Identities, 21 (3): 273-293

FONTANA L.B. (2014) ‘The ‘Indigenous Native Peasant’ Trinity: Imagining a Plurinational Community in Evo Morales’s Bolivia’, Environment and Planning D – Society and Space, 32 (3): 518-534.

FONTANA L.B. (2014) ‘Indigenous Peoples vs. Peasant Unions: Land Conflicts and Rural Movements in Plurinational Bolivia’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 41 (3): 297-319.

FONTANA L.B. (2014) ‘Indigenous Peasant ‘Otherness’: Rural Identities and Political Processes in Bolivia’, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 33 (4): 436-451.

FONTANA L.B. (2014) ‘In the Shadow of Recognition: Identity Politics and Social Conflict’. Critique Internationale, 64 (7): 101-120 (French)

FONTANA L.B. and D. Sparti (2012) ‘Induced Identities: The Political Use of Recognition’. Studi Culturali, 9 (2): 175-200 (Italian)

FONTANA L.B. (2014) ‘Peasant Unions vs. Native Indigenous: Social Movements and Land Conflict in Bolivia’. In R. Gutiérrez and F. Escárzaga (eds.) The Indigenous Movements in Latin America: Resistance and Alternative Project Vol 3. México DF: UAM-CIESAS (Spanish): 191-211

FONTANA L.B. (2012)Collective Narratives and Political Processes in Bolivia: From the Neoliberal Era to the MAS’ “Cultural Revolution”’. In F. Mayorga (ed.) State, Democratic Widening and Political Dispute. Bolivia 2000-2011. Cochabamba: Asdi/DICyT/UMSS/CESU: 223-257 (Spanish)

I am currently leading two spin-off projects linked to this research agenda:

Lhaka Honhat vs Argentina: Exploring the role of the Interamerican Human Rights Court in Finding Solutions for Inter-communal Ethic Conflicts’, funded by a Faculty Covid Mitigation Fund, Newcastle University, with Angel Cabrera Silva (Harvard University, USA), Veronica Musa (Universidad de Salta, Argentina) and Rodrigo Saravia.

The Determinants of Inter-communal Conflicts in Rural Bolivia: New Evidence with Quantitative Data’, funded by a Pioneer Award, Newcastle University, with Paul Haslam and Nasser Tanimoune, Huascar Pacheco (UNIR Bolivia) and Cecilie Dyngeland (Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway)