Indigenous patrimonialization as an operation of the liberal state

Patricio Espinosa, Gonzalo Bustamante-Kuschel

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2 Scopus citations


Indigenous conservation through patrimonialization is the product of political and legal decisions made by a non-indigenous agent: the liberal state, using the law to retain a form of bios. We propose that patrimonialization is the device by which liberal states have processed and integrated indigenous claims into a form of bios ultimately designed to safeguard state legal structures. We argue that, to uphold the rule of law in contexts of struggle and resistance that challenge the very understanding of the law, states respond by wielding the law in the form of the rule by law, that is, pushing the law to the limit to give normative content to the criteria by which the state conducts its affairs, without straying from the individual rights framework. We hold that the rule by law is an operation that defines the patrimonialization of indigenous peoples. It increases their visibility while imposing limits on political action to keep them from becoming sui juris subjects capable of breaching the distinction between zoe and bios. In this article, we try to understand the political–ideological intent of these decisions, the intentions beyond the letter of the law of patrimonialized peoples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)882-903
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Agamben
  • indigenous people
  • liberal state
  • patrimonialization


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