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Ethnopolitics in Ecuador: Indigenous Rights and the Strengthening of Democracy

Melina Selverston-Scher, with a foreword by Luis Macas
Ethnopolitics in Ecuador: Indigenous Rights and the Strengthening of Democracy
ISBN: 978-1-57454-090-1
ISBN: 978-1-57454-091-8
2001/152 pages
Distributed for the North-South Center Press
Includes maps and photographs.

"Ethnopolitics in Ecuador makes a significant contribution to an understanding of the relative success of Equador's indigenous movement.... Should stimulate much debate over the potential role of ethnicity in mobilizing social movements around class-based demands."—John Cameron, Labor, Capital, and Society

"A highly readable book that serves as an introduction to contemporary Indian politics in Ecuador.... Selverston-Scher has provided us with a view of Ecuadorian politics from the ground up."—Shannan L. Mattiace, Perspectives on Politics


Ethnopolitics in Ecuador explores the rise of a vigorous contemporary indigenous movement in Ecuador, tracking the political and social transformations it has generated. Funding for bilingual literacy programs, participation in local and national politics after centuries of exclusion, and expanded protection for the rights of a growing number of self-identified members are among the movement's most important successes. By securing a voice in the political system while maintaining cultural distinctiveness, the indigenous mobilization in Ecuador has challenged traditional concepts of the nation-state and democracy. Selverston-Scher concludes that democracy actually is strengthened when a nation recognizes indigenous rights and affirms its diversity, instead of emphasizing cultural homogeneity.

Based on in-depth case studies and field observations, as well as literature in political science, history, and sociology, her work presents Ecuador's positive experience with ethnopolitics as a possible model for other multiethnic political systems.


Melina Selverston-Scher is a consultant in the Washington, D.C. area, specializing in ethnic politics, human rights and the environment, and Latin American politics.


  • Foreword (in the original Spanish and in English)—Luis Macas
  • Introduction.
  • Nationalism and Indigenous Politics in Latin America.
  • Indigenous-State Relations in Ecuador: The Politics of Culture.
  • The 1990 Indigenous Uprising in Ecuador: Politicized Ethnicity as Social Movement.
  • The Politics of Identity Reconstruction.
  • Local Indigenous Politics: Three Cases in Rural Ecuador.
  • Conclusions.