Counting llamas and accounting for people: livestock, land and citizens in southern Bolivia



This paper uses historical and ethnographic data to examine the struggles that surround livestock enumeration in highland Bolivia. Colonial officials counted llamas for purposes of taxation, while present-day government agencies and NGOs enumerate animals to attract money from aid agencies and promote entrepreneurial activity. In both instances, livestock enumeration serves not just to count animals but to render accountable their owners. The paper argues, drawing upon the work of Timothy Mitchell (2002) that such enumerative procedures carried out by experts do not simply record a reality, but by rendering herders accountable, seek to produce particular kinds of people within particular economic realities. Far from being a culturally neutral practice, the enumeration of llamas can constitute an act of symbolic violence that seeks to erase specific relationships between herders and animals and to prioritise the individual over the communal. In both colonial and contemporary cases, Andean people seek to produce themselves in ways that contest those in which others would produce them.