Cockburn to Indians: get over it!

Thomas Kruse tkruse at
Mon Oct 26 11:32:10 PST 1998

Rakesh wrote:

>While we debate about whether to see "Indians" as holocaust victims or
>savvy casino survivors, may I mention a book reviewed in the latest
>issue of International Labor and Working Class History--Native Americans
>and Wage Labor (ed. and publisher escape me). The review noted that the
>contributors examined both how Indians have historically used wage labor
>strategically as a source of income to maintain cultural integrity and how
>they have been done in by wage labor as, once dependent on it, the mining
>industry in which many were heavily involved was automated. The question
>of how indian conceptions of work were turned upside down by entry into
>wage labor--mining and agriculture in particular--also seems to be a very
>important and profound one.

Though this is not what Louis is adressing just now, for interested parties on wages, labor, and indigenous people, I'd like to plug a book: June Nash's _We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat US_. Hailed as the first (and for me best) in a very fruitful series of ethnographies that break oout of the anthropologists "timeless present", and show the historical workings of capitalism in the making of culture in specific places and times. She studied miners in Bolivia, immersed in the web of global capitalism (labor in an enclave export sector of a then-strategic mineral, tin), wage labor, and the cultures of the Andes. She shows how the culture being defended is Andean, though not a simple replication of that found in rural communities of origin (how could it be?); certainly not a simple bulldozing of "tradition" by "modernity"; and the basis for a very powerful class identification (what's more "modern" than that?). In sum, very good, readable and sophisticated analysis, alives with peoples voices, and with gobs of relevenat insights for today (like: what might be the basis of a new, culturally specific solidarity among working peoples in certain times and places?).


Tom Kruse / Casilla 5812 / Cochabamba, Bolivia Tel/Fax: (591-4) 248242 Email: tkruse at

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