Genetic defects or generative prototypes? Competing models for livestock improvement in southern Bolivia


Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, Richmond Road, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK.


Following neo-liberal ‘structural adjustments’ in Bolivia, peasant llama-herders are expected to become entrepreneurs and their animal products to compete in global markets. To facilitate the entry of llama produce into global trade, scientifically trained experts working for NGOs give herders ‘capacity-building’ courses in livestock management and organize livestock shows to teach them about animal conformation. This article examines negotiations and accommodations between indigenous knowledge and science, and in particular focuses upon competing claims to knowledge about herd management and animal improvement. While experts look to improve animals from without – through hybridization with animals from other areas, which also constitutes exchanges in genetic capital – herders expect improvement to come from within – placing emphasis on the unity of their herds as reproductive groups and regarding animals condemned as ‘defective’ by experts as generative prototypes that indicate the herds' fertility.