Cuelenaere,”The Decolonization of Belief from a Native Perspective”

Laurence Cuelenaere (2016). “The Decolonization of Belief from a Native Perspective: Wak’as and Teología Andina in the Bolivian Highlands,” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. doi:10.1111/jlca.12254

Abstract: This article addresses two aporias in decolonizing discourses in Bolivia. The first is manifest in the irreducible distance between colonial and decolonial perspectives on creencias (beliefs) and the lived experience of the wak’as (deities, sacred objects, or shrines). The second resides in the contradictions Teología Andina (Andean theology) incurs in its claims to decolonize theology inasmuch as it calls for a sanitation of beliefs to make them acceptable to Christianity and as it defines practices for a neutralization of the fury of the wak’a. I explore these aporias on the basis of testimonies and conversations with intellectuals of Aymara extraction. The wide range of decolonizing discourses I touch on in this article convey contradictory positions analogous to the call for sanitation and neutralization by Teología Andina.

Tassi, “Dancing the Image”

Tassi, Nico. 2012. “Dancing the Image”: materiality and spirituality in Andean religious “images.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute  18(2):285-310.


In the Christian tradition, representing the divine has often been considered both an impossible and yet necessary endeavour rooted in the human need in certain moments of weakness to visualize God. In this article, based on research findings from fieldwork carried out with urban indigenous groups in La Paz, Bolivia, I suggest that the articulation of local and Catholic representational traditions and practices has produced an understanding of the religious image not so much as an object of detached contemplation or a reference to a religious symbol but rather as an energized element which physically shapes the relationship and exchange between the material and the spiritual world. I suggest that through a study of Andean religious images we may be able to produce an alternative ontological perspective on the relationship between the spiritual, material, and living worlds.


Dans la tradition chrétienne, la représentation du divin est souvent considérée comme une gageure impossible et pourtant nécessaire, motivée par la nécessité humaine de visualiser Dieu dans les moments de faiblesse. À partir des matériaux de terrain obtenus auprès de groupes autochtones urbains à La Paz, en Bolivie, l’auteur suggère ici que l’articulation des traditions et pratiques de représentation locales et catholiques a conduit à concevoir l’image religieuse moins comme un objet de contemplation détachée ou une référence à un symbole religieux que comme un élément chargé d’énergie, qui donne physiquement forme à la relation et aux échanges entre le monde matériel et le monde spirituel. L’article suggère qu’à travers l’étude des images religieuses andines, on pourrait élaborer un autre point de vue ontologique sur la relation entre les mondes spirituel, matériel et vivant.

Van Fleet, “On Devils and the Dissolution of Sociality”

Van Fleet, Krista E. 2011. On Devils and the Dissolution of Sociality: Andean Catholics Voicing Ambivalence in Neoliberal Bolivia. Anthropological Quarterly 84(4): 835-864.

Abstract: In the Andean highlands of Bolivia, people sometimes express their ambivalence over the religious conversion of family and community members through stories about evangelical Protestants who have been possessed by Santuku or the devil. The article analyzes these narratives as part of a larger genre of devil stories and as a window onto the multiple ways Andean Catholics link migration, religious conversion, and death in the context of broader neoliberal transformations. From the perspective of those “left behind”—Catholic family and community members—conversion empties the future. Nevertheless, the necessary labor of dissolving or reconfiguring social relationships is undertaken by both Catholics and evangelical Protestants and sheds light on the production of sociality in 21st century Bolivia.