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Plurinationalism, Indigenous rights, Bolivia, Politics
Plurinationalism promises to reconcile the complicated colonial histories of Andean states with their modern political realities. However, the disparity between official Bolivian policy and national infrastructure projects exposes the tensions between sovereignties within the plurinational framework. These tensions stem from the underlying relationship between Indigenous autonomy and modern state sovereignty, manifested in both practical and symbolic terms. To make sense of the interplay between these sovereignties, this article analyses how Bolivian policy and politics separate Indigenous groups from the majority population through recognition of Indigenous autonomy. In particular, I examine how the concept of ‘the Border’ informed Bolivian identity discourse in a dispute over a proposed highway construction through Indigenous lands in 2011. I conclude that while plurinationalism offers a political vision of diffused power, it functions to subjugate Indigenous communities within the state structure. In doing so, it propagates the very issues proponents of plurinationalism had hoped to solve.