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How a State Becomes a Nation-State

Published: February 20, 2015, Author: dinagw

In Fourth Word Theory we make distinctions between nations, states, and nation-states, in contradistinction to mainstream international relations theory. IRT takes as a given that all three terms are interchangeable and mean the same thing. FWT, on the other hand, recognizes the historical existence of nations indigenous to place whose political existence through colonial processes was either physically dislocated or otherwise disrupted. In this way FWT bypasses colonialism as a starting place in contextualizing the histories of indigenous peoples, i.e. fourth world nations. By doing so we recuperate the salience of fourth world nations’ pre-state existence.

In FWT, in other words, nations-states are states that formed on the basis of fourth world peoples’ historical continuity. Based on this definition, only a handful of modern states are actually nation-states, including Iceland, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and the Federated States of Micronesia. FSM represents an example of how a fourth world nation(s) recuperated its governing functions from the hands of the colonial institution, in this case most recently the United States.

Bolivia is perhaps the most recent example of the re-indigenizing  of a modern state, thanks to the shift of power that occurred with the election of Aymara Indian Evo Morales to president. Reelected to a third term in October, 2014, the Bolivian government has made decolonization a policy objective. A recent interview with Bolivia’s Vice Minister of Decolonization Elisa Vega Sillo highlighted Bolivia’s decolonization process as one that doesn’t simply transfer power from an empire to a colony, as was the case in the decolonization movements in Africa and Asia. For Bolivia, the process involves breaking down systems based on machismo and patriarchy (paradigms that came with the Spanish), and recuperating prehistorical indigenous histories. This includes incorporating indigenous knowledge systems into the country’s social organizations.

According to Sillo, “Decolonization…means recuperating… our own path, something which we’ve been forced to lose, this [indigenous] path, this wisdom, this knowledge has been devalued, minimized as though it weren’t knowledge at all. And so now we [have] recuperated this, and we’re doing so in our own way. This for us is decolonization, a process which is done via the state but also via the social organizations, because this is an issue of how to organize, how to speak of our ancestral technologies. Yes, many things have been modernized, but in many cases we have a necessity to recuperate our own principles and values as indigenous peoples.”



Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

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