The Other Side of Cooperation: Cooperative Mines in Bolivia


Prior to receiving this award, I had spent a total of 18 months over the course of several years living and studying in Latin America – in Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The purpose of the current trip to Bolivia was to conduct exploratory research in preparation for writing my PhD dissertation proposal. My research examines the role of Bolivian mining cooperatives at the nexus of contemporary and historical interactions between the state, international capital flows, and land in the altiplano (highlands). I used my time in Bolivia to familiarize myself with the various academic centers, think tanks, and NGOs that study or work with mining cooperatives. I spent four weeks in La Paz, interviewing a variety of “experts,” looking for potential collaborators, and conducting an initial survey of available archives. I then spent four weeks traveling between four other Bolivian cities: Cochabamba, Oruro, Sucre, and Potosí. In Cochabamba I continued meeting with academics and NGOs; in Sucre I attended an Association of Bolivian Studies Conference to network with researchers who are working on similar issues; and in Oruro and Potosí I visited mines and talked to miners in casual (not interview) settings. Overall, it was an extremely productive trip for me, and I now have a much better sense of the complicated relationship that the Bolivian mining cooperatives maintain with the state and with private capital. More specifically, I spoke to nearly everyone on the long list of people I wanted to meet, I developed a short list of potential collaborators, and I identified the sites that would make the most interesting case studies for my dissertation research. This fall I will be writing proposals for dissertation funding, and I don’t think that I would have been very well equipped to write those proposals if not for the Tinker Summer Travel Grant. Moreover, I hope to return to Bolivia next summer to begin developing the community relationships that necessarily precede ethnographic research, and I would not even know which communities to approach if I didn’t already have this summer of exploratory work under my belt. In both these ways, the Tinker Travel Grant has already proven itself indispensable to my dissertation research.

Andrea Marston
Publication date: 
September 25, 2013
Publication type: 
Student Research