Identity-Based Appeals: Explaining Changing Strategies of the Indigenous Movement in Bolivia


  • Katie Kuhn George Washington University


Current social movement literature does not adequately analyze how a movement’s strategies may change once a
member or even leader of that movement assumes the country’s highest office. Movements, especially those in
which identity plays a key role, gain the tool of identity-based appeals once their leader takes office, that is,
claiming that the new leader should act favorably to the movement because of their common characteristics.
Analysis of the Bolivian indigenous movement shows that since indigenous leader Evo Morales has assumed the
presidency, the movement has used this tactic toward various audiences in response to Morales’ incomplete
meeting of their policy demands. The movement first appealed directly to Morales, but has since shifted its focus
to the public, attempting to increase agitation by emphasizing the contrast between Morales’ discourse and
actions. This case shows that contrary to assumptions made in the ethnic parties literature, an ethnic leader will
not necessarily favor his base uniformly once he takes office. Rather, the movement continues, but now with a
different type of “target” - one which had previously been an ally.


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