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Keywords:

  • accumulation by dispossession;
  • primitive accumulation;
  • Bolivia;
  • mining;
  • water;
  • livelihoods

Abstract: This paper examines processes of primitive accumulation and livelihood dispossession on the Bolivian Altiplano. Through empirical examination of the social and environmental effects of mining waste, the paper demonstrates that indigenous campesino community members are experiencing livelihood dispossession by way of three interrelated forms of accumulation: accumulation of toxic sediments on agricultural fields; accumulation of water and water rights by mining firms; and accumulation of territory by mining operations. In the case under examination, full proletarianization is not taking place, and processes of dispossession are not a “fix” for an overaccumulation crisis. The paper argues for greater attention to the contingent role of nature's materiality in processes of dispossession and accumulation.