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Fighting Like a Community

Andean Civil Society in an Era of Indian Uprisings

The indigenous population of the Ecuadorian Andes made substantial political gains during the 1990s in the wake of a dynamic wave of local activism. The movement renegotiated land development laws, elected indigenous candidates to national office, and successfully fought for the constitutional redefinition of Ecuador as a nation of many cultures. Fighting Like a Community argues that these remarkable achievements paradoxically grew out of the deep differences—in language, class, education, and location—that began to divide native society in the 1960s.

            Drawing on fifteen years of fieldwork, Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld explores these differences and the conflicts they engendered in a variety of communities. From protestors confronting the military during a national strike to a migrant family fighting to get a relative released from prison, Colloredo-Mansfeld recounts dramatic events and private struggles alike to demonstrate how indigenous power in Ecuador is energized by disagreements over values and priorities, eloquently contending that the plurality of Andean communities, not their unity, has been the key to their political success.

256 pages | 20 halftones, 5 maps, 4 figures, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Latin American Studies


“This is an exceptionally well-written book with a narrative pull that captures the reader’s imagination and makes it a joy to read. Colloredo-Mansfeld presents a provocative take on indigenous activism, the moral complexity of communities and civil society, and the ways neoliberal reforms are experienced and challenged by Andean peoples. He is not afraid to tackle theoretically and politically thorny issues, and he does so in a way that imparts their full complexity.”

Edward Fischer, Vanderbilt University

“This important book will stand as a significant addition to the ethnography of contemporary Ecuador, but its contributions go well beyond the Andean region. It will interest anyone seeking a grounded empirical understanding of contemporary indigenous social movements in Latin America. More broadly, Fighting Like a Community should be read by any scholar who grapples with the complex salience of ‘community’ as a focus of analysis and a resource for and reference of political and economic action.”­—Andrew Orta, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Andrew Orta

“Colloredo-Mansfeld provides an illuminating account that breaks new ground theoretically through an approachable writing style. . . . This book makes a key contribution to the anthropology of indigenous movements in Latin America while speaking to timely debates in anthropology, sociology, and related disciplines about the constitution of civil society, the way liberalism and democracy sometimes coexist only uneasily with strong communitarian ideals, and the role of class and culture in indigenous movements.”

American Anthropologist

“Vivid vignettes make this book a delight to read, while Colloredo-Manfeld’s longitudinal scope convincingly portrays multidimensional (mostly) men and women. The author’s descriptions and analyses are diverse, nuanced, and not romanticized. We witness the subjects coming to terms with broad political and economic changes as they reshape their lives to meet new challenges….Probably the greatest contribution of the book is the ethnographic detail and attention given to the moral importance of language as an ethnic strategy: the reader is able to grasp ways that discourse is a social practice used to express disunity, to resolved disagreements, and to ultimately bring people together as united fronts. Fighting Like a Community opens doors to some of the nitty-gritty in Kichwa communities with regard to ways intracommunity differences contribute to both intra- and intercommunity pluralism and mutual respect.” 

Linda D'Amico | The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations  


Introduction: Communities and Movements 

Part 1: Careers

1. The Artist (Don’t Forsake) 

2. The Capitalist (Don’t be Backward) 

3. The Activist (Don’t Suffer)

4. Uprising, 1990 

Part 2: Communities

5. Projects and Lists (Don’t Shirk)

6. Justice, Jurisdiction, and Race (Don’t Steal)

7. Class and Councils (Don’t Be Lazy)  

Part 3: Statecraft

8. Markets and Parks (Don’t Sell Out) 

9. Cities and Kin (Don’t Lie) 

10. Uprising, 26   

Conclusion: Fighting Like a Community


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