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Race and the Diplomatic Bureaucracy: State-Building in Nineteenth-Century Bolivia as a Response to Transnational Racialization Threats

Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism

ISBN: 978-1-80117-219-6, eISBN: 978-1-80117-218-9

Publication date: 30 September 2021


Race has played a central role in state-building in Latin America. This chapter foregrounds the role of transnational racialization politics in bureaucratic development in the region in the late nineteenth century. Analyzing the transformation of the Bolivian diplomatic bureaucracy following the War of the Pacific (1879–1884), I argue that the circulation in Europe and the Americas of racial discourses on Bolivia that cast doubt on its place among the concert of civilized nations motivated its reform and expansion. This study suggests that, given the potential costs of transnational racialization threats, states across the region developed agencies and practices that expanded their capacity to manage their racialized national images among international audiences. Against the threat of racialized imperialism and colonialism, Bolivian liberal reformers envisioned a diplomatic bureaucracy capable of negotiating Bolivia's place in the global racial imaginary abroad. This study emphasizes the central role of the diplomatic bureaucracy as a condition of possibility in these projects and directs attention to the role of race in the development of state agencies less commonly associated with race, such as diplomacy.




I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their thoughtful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. I would also like to thank David Banks, Martha Bohrt, Diana Graizbord, Ricarda Hammer, José Itzigsohn, Heidi Nicholls, Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz, Elizabeth Thompson, and Yang Zhang for their helpful feedback and suggestions. Earlier versions of this manuscript also benefited from participant feedback at the Historical International Studies research cluster at the School of International Service at American University, the annual meeting of the Social Science History Association, and the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. I am also grateful to the archivists and staff of the Biblioteca y Archivo Histórico de la Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional de Bolivia and the Archivo Central Histórico Y Biblioteca del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Bolivia for their generous help. Thanks to Abigail Klima, Christina Harris, and Sarah Wentz for their research assistance.


Bohrt, M.A. (2021), "Race and the Diplomatic Bureaucracy: State-Building in Nineteenth-Century Bolivia as a Response to Transnational Racialization Threats", White, A.I.R. and Quisumbing King, K. (Ed.) Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 55-76.



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