Chuck Sturtevant


a)      Biography:

I majored in anthropology as an undergraduate, but swore I would never return to academia and particularly not to such an esoteric and impenetrable field. However, in 2005 I moved to La Paz, Bolivia and shortly thereafter began making documentary films. This work forced me into daily encounters with different ways of experiencing and conceiving of the world, and suddenly my undergraduate training snapped into focus. My films took an increasingly ethnographic turn, best represented by the film, Habilito: Debt for Life, which I co-directed between 2008 and 2010. I decided to explore the possibilities of anthropology and film further, and was accepted to the MPhil in Ethnographic Documentary programme at the University of Manchester’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. At Manchester, I continued to make ethnographic films and expanded my research to include an ethnographic approach to the state. My MPhil research focused on individual experiences of black identity and the formation of nested collective affiliations in a rural town in Bolivia. Since I moved to Bolivia in 2005, I have been fascinated by my encounters with different ways of being and thinking. The anthropological theory that I had access to at that time informed these encounters, but the exposure to a much broader set of theoretical tools during my postgraduate studies has unlocked a range of possibilities for exploring difference in a more complete and complex way. In all of this work, I am committed to an anthropology that draws its theoretical rigour from its engagement with what people do and say in the world.

b)     Publications and Credits:


Forthcoming Not Just Indians and Whites: Rethinking perceptions of social evolution in an area of interethnic contact in lowland Bolivia. (In Press, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies).

2014 Paper: “Priests, Consultants and Nuns: The role of third parties in a lowland Bolivian indigenous organization,” proposed for the 32nd International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Chicago, IL, May 21-24, 2014.

2014 Conference Panel Organizer: Visual research, creative methodologies and the position of the subject: possibilities and limitations of creative experiences. 50th Anniversary Conference of the Society for Latin American Studies, London, April 3-4, 2014.

2013 Paper: “Lo que llamamos sindicato: La formación de una organización indígena en tierras bajas,” 7th International Congress of the Association of Bolivian Studies, Sucre, Bolivia, July 30-August 1, 2013.

2013 Paper: “Contested Ideas of Belonging in an Afro-Bolivian Town,” 31st Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Washington DC, May 30 – June 1, 2013.

2012 Paper: “Self-representations of identity in an Afro-Bolivian town,” Postgraduates in Latin American Studies Annual Conference, Oxford, June 25 – 27, 2012.

Ethnographic Film Credits:

2011 El Mundo de los Afro-Bolivianos. Santa Cruz de la Sierra, APCOB. (Director)

o   Eduardo Abaroa Prize, 3rd Place, Best Documentary 2012.

2010 Habilito: Debt for Life. (Co-Director),

o   Official Selection, LASA2013 Film Festival, Washington, DC, 2013.

o   Official Selection, 11th International Festival of Indigenous Cinema, Bogota, 2012.

o   Official Selection, 12th European Association of Social Anthropologists Biennial Conference Film Programme, Nanterre, 2012.

o   Official Selection, Society for Visual Anthropology Film & Media Festival, Montreal, 2011.

2010 La Clara Muestra. Santa Cruz de la Sierra, APCOB. (Director).

2009 La Feria Jampi: Un Acercamiento Antropológico. La Paz, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas y Arqueológicas, La Paz. (Director).

2009 Un Día Cualquiera en Siglo XX. La Paz, Independent. (Director).

2006 Sebastiana de los Chipaya. La Paz, Guillermo Ruiz Cinema. (Editor).

Presentations and Film Screenings:

2013 Screening and Discussion: Habilito: Debt for Life, and discussion with Sian Lazar and Evan Killick. Institute for the Study of the Americas, London, March 26, 2013.

2012 Screening and Discussion: Habilito: Debt for Life, with comments and discussion by Patricia Costas Monje, former General Director of Indigenous Autonomies of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. Centre for Latin American and Cribbean Studies, Manchester, November 27, 2012.

2012 Invited Presentation: Auto/representaciones visuales: El posicionamiento de la mirada, metodologías, desencuentros, diálogos,” Association of Anthropologists of the Department of La Paz, Noches de Antropología Lecture Series, La Paz, June 18, 2012.

2012 Screening and Discussion: Habilito: Debt for Life, International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, March 18, 2012.

2011 Screening and Discussion: Habilito: Debt for Life, Museum of Ethnography and Folklore, La Paz, June 8, 2011. ¡

c)      PhD Research:

My PhD thesis, “Millenarianism, Political Organisation and Practices that Manifest (non-) State Power in the Bolivian Amazon”, will explore local perceptions and constructions of state power in the Mojos grasslands of Bolivia. Traditional understandings of modern political power hinge on the idea that there exists a moment in which individuals reject magical or spiritual authority and enter into a social contract that establishes the state as the ultimate source of power. This research challenges that construction by exploring the continuities and relationships between existing spiritual practices and state power. I will focus on two movements through which Mojeño indigenous people have claimed territorial autonomy and self-governance. The first, the Search for the Sacred Hill, is an indigenous millenarian movement that seeks to re-found Mojeño society as a spiritual utopia, isolated from the corrosive effects of local state authorities. Various iterations of this movement have spurred mass migrations throughout Mojeño territory beginning in the middle of the 19th century. More recent indigenous political movements petition the state for legal recognition and territorial autonomy, often drawing on histories of the Search for the Sacred Hill as a legitimating discourse. These two distinct practices – one focused on receiving recognition and territorial autonomy from the state, and the other on discovering a magical paradise on earth beyond the reach of state effects – are often dealt with as belonging to different realms: real, rational and secular on one hand, fictional, irrational and sacred on the other. Nevertheless, both practices claim to negotiate with sources of power that do not yield themselves to easy analysis as concrete entities, but become manifest only through their effects. I will explore the contradictions inherent in these two movements – one of which negates the state and the other which recognises the state’s ultimate authority – as well as ways they might be related or interdependent. This research will ask how these sets of practices interact with each other, what we can learn about each by looking closely at the other, and what we can learn about power by looking at the apparent boundary between the two. This research draws on the rich tradition political anthropology that examines the state through an ethnographic approach to the practices and effects that produce it, and considers the construction of state subjects and state power as mutual processes. It will also contribute to local debates in Bolivia about the important roles that indigenous actors – and indigeneity broadly – play in national politics.

d)     Teaching:

Tutor, “What Gives us Rights”, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK.

Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, Manchester, UK, Classroom Tutor for “Ethnographic Documentary,” core course for the Granada Centre’s Masters in Visual Anthropology.

University of Manchester, Manchester, UK, Graduate Teaching Assistant for “Regional Studies of Culture, Brazil,” core course for undergraduate students.

Apoyo Para el Campesino del Oriente Boliviano (APCOB), Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Video Production workshop leader for Chiquitano and Ayoreo youth.

e)      Awards and Other:

2013 Comparative Statecraft and Constitutional Thought Research Scholarship.

2012 Eduardo Abaroa Prize, 3rd Place, Best Documentary.

2012 LASA2013 Travel scholarship.

2011 One World Media Student Bursary.

2005 Hellgate 100k, off-road ultra-marathon.

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