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Im/mobile Others in Chile. (Re)defining Race and the Nation-State from Indigenous and Migrants’ Perspectives

English title Im/mobile Others in Chile. (Re)defining Race and the Nation-State from Indigenous and Migrants’ Perspectives
Applicant Lavanchy Anne
Number 182287
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution HES-SO Haute école de travail social
Institution of higher education University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland - HES-SO
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.05.2019 - 30.04.2023
Approved amount 442'302.00
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Keywords (11)

Otherness; Indigenism; Mapuche; Exclusion; Political and juridical anthropology; Whiteness; Chile; Race and racism; Im/Mobility; Migration; Nation-State

Lay Summary (French)

En croisant de manière inédite les champs de l’autochtonie et de la mobilité spatiale, le projet Im-Mobile Others propose une analyse originale des processus de racialisation et de construction de l’état-nation chilien. Il éclaire ainsi les relations entre autochtonie, blanchité et métissage, et entre im/mobilité et imaginaire national.
Lay summary
À ce jour, la recherche sur les rapports sociaux racisés est souvent restreinte à la relation entre « les blanc-he-s » et « les noir-e-s ». Ses formes en dehors de cette opposition restent peu connues. En considérant une situation marquée par la présence de Mapuche, le principal peuple autochtone du Chili, de migrant-e-s et de Chilien-ne-s, le projet vise à produire une analyse originale des processus de racialisation en explorant ces deux formes d’altérité que sont les Mapuche – pensés comme « immobiles » car autochtones – et les migrant-e-s – trop « mobiles » au regard de l’état. Le projet vise donc à décloisonner des champs de savoir qui ne dialoguent que peu mais peuvent s’enrichir mutuellement.
Le travail de terrain, ethnographique, se déroulera dans la zone rurale et semi-rurale dans la Région du Bíobío. Elle impliquera des Chilien-ne-s non autochtones, des Mapuche et des migrant-e-s, dont elle documentera les réseaux et interactions, ainsi que les accès respectifs et traitements par des services administratifs. En éclairant les relations entre blanchité et métissage, et entre im/mobilité et imaginaire national et les processus d'exclusion et d'inclusion qui en découlent, la recherche contribue à décloisonner les savoirs sur autochtonie et migration, mais aussi à comprendre en profondeur des processus qui affectent diverses sociétés, en ayant un impact important sur les opportunités et les conditions de vie de millions d’êtres humains.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 04.03.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
124045 Uncovering Gender 01.11.2008 NRP 58 Religions, the State and Society
68524 Femmes mapuche et revendications autochtones: Les aléas du genre ou comment la politique vient aux femmes. 01.10.2002 Fellowships for prospective researchers
131471 Love at registry offices. An anthropological view on intimacy institutions 01.03.2011 Fellowships for advanced researchers
147287 Immigrant’s trajectories of integration, between indeterminate (legislative) criteria and uncertain lifecourses: Analysis of legal cases 01.12.2013 Interdisciplinary projects


The proposed project sheds light on a blank spot in the interconnections between race and the nation-state, addressed from the compelling vantage point of mobility, and its counterpart, immobility. Challenging any nation-state, the management of internal heterogeneity is characterized in Chile by a national ideology that exalts both the white superiority and the national mestizaje (the mythology of the nation as resulting from the mixing between indigenous Mapuche and European settlers). This ideology is currently challenged by new configurations of racialized insiders and outsiders through the recomposition of immigration patterns in the country. Thus, the project draws upon two interconnected assumptions that are global in scope, though regionally differentiated in their effects. The first is that jointly considering the othering processes aimed at, on the one hand, the Mapuche - defined as intra-national, permanent, and a-historical others - and, on the other hand, the migrants - as too mobile, extra-national others - allows for better understanding of global mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. The second assumption argues that othering processes organized around im/mobility, as the two poles of one single continuum, constitute silent forms of racialization that shape the current (re)definitions of the nations-states.The Chilean social and political history has led to the formation of two distinct sets of narratives and practices clearly distinguishing the “old” problem of the indigenous presence from the “new” issues of immigration from poorer Latin American countries. These common-sense narratives oversimplify the social reality by ignoring the many complicated overlaps between these categories: for instance, numerous migrants are themselves indigenous from neighboring countries; and Chilean indigenous people are highly mobile. Focused on this largely under-explored reality, the project addresses two research questions related to, respectively, the state and the nation: 1. How do state-based administrative categorizations form and inform ordinary interactions between Mapuche, migrants and white Chileans? 2. How do the poles of im/mobility overlap, redefine and challenge the racialized imaginaries of a nation both white and mestiza? To answer these questions, the analysis will draw upon qualitative empirical data produced during an ethnographic fieldwork that will take place in four neighboring municipalities (Cañete, Contulmo, Tirúa and Purén), a zone offering a unique association of national emblematic historical sites, one of the country’s highest proportion of indigenous people, and a rapidly changing social landscape due to immigration. Combining observation, interviewing and the gathering of documentation, the fieldwork will consider three categories of social actors: the Mapuche, the migrants and the white Chileans.This pioneer study in political and legal anthropology promises to offer innovative insights at empirical as well as heuristic levels. First, it will provide with much-needed qualitative data of still unexplored socio-political configurations. Second, it will allow for a thorough reevaluation of state mechanisms of categorizations. Third, it will question the arbitrary compartmentalization between three fields of scholar knowledge: indigenism, mobility, and critical race studies, the juxtaposition of which will lead to inspiring analytical findings.