‘Amerindian movements offer new perspective on citizenship in South America’

PARAMARIBO – The name change was telling. Since 2009,  Bolivia is officially no longer a ‘ Republic’  but a ‘Pluri-national State’ . This make-over came after Evo Morales, an Amerindian, took office in 2006. Jack Menke, professor in Sociology at the Anton de Kom University, says that the rise of the Amerindians in South America offers a new vision on citizenship. Menke will lecture this evening at the Institute for Graduate Studies on the relationship between democracy and indigenous movements. ‘Fragmentation of traditional parties in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru propelled Amerindian movements to the seats of power’, Menke explains. ‘These movements now form the vanguard of change, pushing aside the neo-liberal policies that have long had a say on the continent.’

‘The western concept of democracy focuses strongly on the rights of individual citizens, but that could easily create a right to maintain inequality. Amerindians prefer communal use and collectivity, which they portray in their strife for land rights. Indigenous people do not know what individual ownership of land means. In the Western concept the best State is the one that preaches homogeneity’, Menke points out.

Menke does not rule out that developments on the South American continent will affect Suriname. In Suriname, Amerindians are on the background, but it is important to the nation that their rights are included in the new Constitution, because in time ‘we’ll get another view of the global community.’

Menke’s lecture is a public class, the first for the course ‘Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability in Suriname, North and South America.’ The course ends 7 January. The course is a precursor to a master study Sustainability and Indigenous Peoples of the Federal University of Brasilia.

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