Reimagining the Countryside: Settler Colonialism, National Culture, and Indigeneity in Contemporary El Salvador


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Ethnic Studies


This project investigates what the paradox of Indigeneity in contemporary El Salvador reveals about the regional particularities of settler state sovereignty in Latin America. In recent decades, Latin American studies of Indigenous identities and politics have centered on the question of Indigenous political standpoint and “voice.” Since at least the 1990s, Salvadoran government agencies, international institutions, and domestic Indigenous organizations have developed the state’s new neoliberal multicultural vision of the nation centered on autochthonous originario heritage as “Indigenous peoples.” However, most originarios themselves have neither contested nor adopted this official Indigenous identity, much less mobilized around state multiculturalism. Public cultural texts related to Salvadoran Indigenous policymaking since the 1970s (e.g. legislation, policy statements, tourism performances) demonstrate how state, international, and Indigenous actors have advocated “for” the originarios with little if any originario input. This ongoing, multi-scalar, and transnational process has legitimized settler state authority over the national population and territory.