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In Search of Politics : Mapuche Organizations, State and Legitimacy in Santiago de Chile





This thesis explores the reconfiguration of political space in post-dictatorial Chile, and the place that might be occupied by those self-identified as Mapuche. It questions modalities, conditions and limits of political participation in the name of indigeneity, from a particular variant of contemporary Mapuche identification: that of urban setting and from within organizations. In post-dictatorial Chile, democratic governments have promised a renewal of relations with indigenous populations, among which the Mapuche people, which represents over 80% of them. A large proportion of Mapuche people today have settled in Santiago’s periphery, where they have developed a complex network of organizations. The launching of policies aiming at the acknowledgement of ethnic diversity in the 1990s is considered a turning point in Chile’s redefinition of indigenousness. These changes are inscribed in ongoing dynamics at different scales: the re-democratization of institutions and society after a 17-years period of military dictatorship; the growing influence of multi-lateral agencies exert on national policies to adjust them to development targets; the demands of indigenous organizations in the wake of the “return to democracy”.This thesis intersects two main concerns: the transformation of state discourse and public policies related to indigenous populations, and the change of the role and strategies of Mapuche organizations under these new conditions of recognition. In order to better understand how new figures of alterity are made and legitimized in contemporary Chile, a retrospective path should be taken, so as to understand the “transplantation” of the multicultural model into previous legal provisions and public policies, as well as into local political contexts and individual trajectories.The ethnography carried out within Mapuche organizations based in a municipality of Santiago serves as the basis for an analysis of the political in times of interculturality in Chile. Such an approach allows for an exploration of the place Mapuche organizations might occupy at different scales of political life, and the way in which organizations mobilize Mapuche references to entertain this political game on an everyday basis.

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