Limits to Decolonization

9781501714351: Hardback
Release Date: 15th March 2018

9781501714368: Paperback
Release Date: 15th March 2018

16 b&w halftones, 7 maps

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 312

Series Cornell Series on Land: New Perspectives on Territory, Development, and Environment

Cornell University Press

Limits to Decolonization

Indigeneity, Territory, and Hydrocarbon Politics in the Bolivian Chaco

Hardback / £82.00
Paperback / £23.99

Penelope Anthias’s Limits to Decolonization addresses one of the most important issues in contemporary indigenous politics: struggles for territory. Based on the experience of thirty-six Guaraní communities in the Bolivian Chaco, Anthias reveals how two decades of indigenous mapping and land titling have failed to reverse a historical trajectory of indigenous dispossession in the Bolivian lowlands. Through an ethnographic account of the "limits" the Guaraní have encountered over the course of their territorial claim—from state boundaries to landowner opposition to hydrocarbon development—Anthias raises critical questions about the role of maps and land titles in indigenous struggles for self-determination.

Anthias argues that these unresolved territorial claims are shaping the contours of an era of "post-neoliberal" politics in Bolivia. Limits to Decolonization reveals the surprising ways in which indigenous peoples are reframing their territorial projects in the context of this hydrocarbon state and drawing on their experiences of the limits of state recognition. The tensions of Bolivia’s "process of change" are revealed, as Limits to Decolonization rethinks current debates on cultural rights, resource politics, and Latin American leftist states. In sum, Anthias reveals the creative and pragmatic ways in which indigenous peoples contest and work within the limits of postcolonial rule in pursuit of their own visions of territorial autonomy.

Penelope Anthias holds a postdoctoral position in the Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Copenhagen.

"Anthias offers an entirely new and compelling account of the relations between hydrocarbons, identity, and space. Ethnographically rich, historically framed, and theoretically sophisticated, Limits to Decolonization is a provocative and powerful account of contemporary extractivism, movements from below and the operations of power in indigenous struggles."

Michael J. Watts, Class of 63 Professor, University of California, Berkeley

"Limits to Decolonization is a sensitive account of a peoples' struggle for land and livelihood against the weight of centuries of colonialism and the power of the new extractivism. It is a great piece of work."

Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Sociological Anthropology, Washington University

"With this book Penelope Anthias has the potential to shape scholarly debates around indigenous struggles, neoliberalism, and postcolonial rule in important ways. Limits to Decolonization is a thoughtful challenge to the prevailing scholarship."

Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Associate Professor of Politics, Whitman College

"Her critical reflections on decolonization will be of interest to anthropologists and geographers seeking a ground-up perspective on how extractive economies transform marginalized communities."


"Limits to Decolonization demonstrates the limitations of indigenous mapping as a liberatory project, and the emergence of a form of hydrocarbon citizenship, the cultural implications of which are as yet unclear. It is a most welcome addition to the growing literature on contemporary Bolivia."

The AAG Review of Books

Best Book in Race, Ethnicity, and Comparative Politics (Section on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, American Political Science Association) - 2019