Body, nation, and consubstantiation in Bolivian ritual meals



During a remarkable period of official ethnic recognition and indigenous political mobilization in Bolivia, farmers in the rural Municipality of Mizque have invested increasing energy in ritual meals widely characterized as indigenous, expanding the number of meals celebrated and increasing their spatial distribution. Multisited ethnographic study of how people connect to body, place, and identity shows that the intense corporal experiences and tangible materiality of these ritual meals contrast with tendencies of official multiculturalism to privilege symbols and products of indigenous culture while disregarding the substance of indigenous bodies and the material bases of their survival. Consubstantiation in ritual meals resonates with other collective bodily practices that are gaining prominence in Bolivia, including mass manifestations and constituent assemblies, to point toward possibilities for a new kind of civil society grounded in concern for the ethnic identities and for the bodily and material subsistence of its diverse members.