The discursive dimensions of the coca leaf


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Coca is a native plant to the Andean region in Latin America. It has been cultivated,
traded and consumed for centuries,
however in the last decades these dynamics have been changing in various aspects. It is discussed a theoretical and empirical research on how the coca leaf operates as a discursive 'artefact' in contemporary Bolivian socio-political events. It will be put forward how coca is constructed and reinvented, but essentially employed as a device in political ritualised practices.

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The discursive dimensions of the coca leaf

  1. 1. The discursive dimensions of the Coca Leaf: Political Ritualised Practices in Bolivia<br />Pablo Andrés Rivero<br />Hamburg, 13th January 2011<br />
  2. 2. Coca leaves have been cultivated in the South American Andean valleys for centuries<br />
  3. 3. Coca: ‘traditionally’ consumed in the Southern Andes by people from indigenous backgrounds as in a custom and for miners, peasants, construction workers, and other labourers in both rural and urban areas alike.<br />
  4. 4. Coca: a political and symbolic ‘deliverer’<br />
  5. 5. Objects become ‘artefacts’ that acquire meanings, and then are employed as material forms of discourse and political ritualised practices<br />
  6. 6. The articulation of standardised practices, repetition and symbolism is mediated by ambiguity and dramatisation, producing a ritualised action in which a particular ‘performance’ or ‘performer’ make sense of a certain reality; the world is re/constructed by linking the past to the present and the present to the future, and by employing powerful emotions to reaffirm, contest or disguise relationships in a social and political environment given<br />
  7. 7. The consumption of coca leaf increased after the fall of the Inca Empire and the subsequent Spanish colony, an event directly related to the increase of mining (Mamani, 1986)<br />
  8. 8. The coca leaf is essential element for indigenous and workers daily life, enjoys a complexly constructed ‘sacred’ quality bestowed by a number of rituals and beliefs among Andean cultures <br />
  9. 9. Is in the environment of resistance to the eradication policies that the coca-growers’ organisations emerged, mobilised and constructed in twenty years one of the most important social movements in Bolivia<br />
  10. 10. the coca leaf operates as an artefact embodying cultural, socio-economic and political representations, is presented as a symbol that gathers peoples’ identities and aspirations. <br />
  11. 11. The economic dimensions of the coca leaf, within which cocaine is a very important factor, are critical for understanding its meanings in relation to social and power relations. <br />
  12. 12. Both collective memory and imaginary are recently being articulated around indigenous, peasants, and miners, among others, social movements that has challenged the internal power relations and attempted to portray its discourse beyond Bolivian borders<br />Photo: Reuters pictures<br />