2 1 86-89 2016

An introductory framework for ‘Habilito: Debt for Life’

Chuck Sturtevant

Abstract


The documentary film Habilito: Debt for Life provides a case study of the conflicts and tensions that arise at the point of contact between highland migrants and Mosetenes, members of an indigenous community in the Bolivian Amazon. It focuses particularly on a system of debt peonage known locally as ‘habilito’. This system is used throughout the Bolivian lowlands, and much of the rest of the Amazon basin, to secure labor in remote areas. Timber merchants advance market goods to Mosetenes at inflated prices, in exchange for tropical hardwood timber. When it comes time to settle accounts, the indebted person often finds that the wood he has cut does not meet his debt obligation, and he has to borrow more money to return to the forest to continue logging. This permanent cycle of debt permits actors from outside these indigenous communities to maintain control over the extraction of wood and provides them with a free source of labor in the exploitation of timber resources. This system is practiced especially in remote areas where systems of patronage predominate, and where colonists with a market-based economic logic come into contact with Amazonian indigenous peoples who, historically, have not employed an economic logic of saving or hoarding.

Keywords


Bolivia; debt; debt peonage; habilito; logging; Mosetenes,

Full Text:

PDF HTML

References


Bedoya, E. and Bedoya, A. (2004) Enganche y Servidumbre por Deudas en Bolivia. Geneva: International Labour Organization.

Bedoya, E. and Bedoya, A. (2005) El Trabajo Forzoso en la Extracción de Madera en la Amazonía Peruana. Geneva: International Labour Organization.

Block, D. (1994) Mission Culture on the Upper Amazon: Native Tradition, Jesuit enterprise, and Secular Policy in Moxos, 1660-1880. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Burling, R. (1962) Maximization theories and the study of economic anthropology. American Anthropologist, 64(4): 802-21.

Garcia Jordán, P. (ed.) (1998) Fronteras, Colonización y Mano de Obra Indígena, Amazonia Andina (Siglo XIX-XX): La Construcción del Espacio Socio-Económico Amazónico en Ecuador, Perú y Bolivia (1792-1948). Lima: Fondo Editorial de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Godelier, M. (1974) Economía Fetichismo y Religión en las Sociedades Primitivas. Madrid: Siglo XXI.

Gow, P. (1991) Of Mixed Blood: Kinship and History in Peruvian Amazonia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Graeber, D. (2011) Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House.

Granovetter, M. (1985) Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91(3): 481-510.

Gudeman, S. (1986) Economics as Culture: Models and Metaphors of Livelihood. London: Routledge.

Herrera, E., Cárdena, C. and Terceros, E. (2005) Identidad y Territorios Indígenas. Estrategias Identitarias de los Tacanas y Ayoreo Frente a la Ley INRA. La Paz: PIEB.

Killick, E. (2008) Godparents and trading partners: Social and economic relations in the Peruvian Amazonia. Journal of Latin American Studies, 40(2): 303-28.

Killick, E. (2011) The debts that bind us: A comparison of Amazonian debt-peonage and U.S. mortgage practices. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 53(2): 344-70.

Li, T.M. (2014) Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Polanyi, K. (1944) The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of our Time. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Ricco Quiroga, D. (2010) Los “Dueños” del Monte: Las Relaciones Sociales que se Tejen en la Actualidad en Torno a la Extracción de Madera en la TCO Mosetén [Licenciatura]. La Paz: Universidad Mayor de San Andrés.

Sahlins, M.D. (1972) Stone Age Economics. Chicago, IL: Aldine Atherton.

Santos-Granero, F. and Barclay, F. (1995) Ordenes y Desórdenes en la Selva Central: Historia y Economía de un Espacio Regional. Lima: IEP.

Santos-Granero, F. and Barclay, F. (2000) Tamed Frontiers: Economy, Society, and Civil Rights in Upper Amazonia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Taussig, M.T. (1987) Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Films cited

Habilito: Debt for Life (2016) Dir. Chuck Sturtevant and Daniela Ricco Quiroga. Finance and Society, 2(1). Available at: .




DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/finsoc.v2i1.1665

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.