Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Indigenous rights and constitutional change in Ecuador
by Scofield, Katherine Bowen, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2017, 311; 10260893
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation, Indigenous Rights and Constitutional Change in Ecuador, is motivated by a question that has inspired a rich discussion in the political theory literature: how should democracies accommodate indigenous groups? I focus on this question in the context of indigenous participation in the 2008 Ecuadorian constitutional convention. Ecuador is an interesting case in that the constitutional convention represented an opportunity for indigenous and non-indigenous groups to discuss the very topics that concern political theorists: the ideal relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous communities, the formal recognition of indigenous groups, indigenous rights, the fair economic distribution of resources, and the nature of citizenship. However, despite the fact that indigenous groups focused on constitutional change as a vehicle for indigenous empowerment, the political theory literature is largely silent on how constitutional change can affect minority groups. This silence is indicative of a larger failure on the part of political theorists to fully consider how institutions shape the normative goals of a society. Similarly, the literature on constitutional design does not examine indigenous groups as a separate case study and, therefore, provides little guidance as to how institutions can be used to empower indigenous groups.

During the constitutional convention, indigenous people in Ecuador presented their own plan for constitutional change: plurinationalism. This paradigm combined the idea of indigenous group rights with a call for alternative means of economic development, radical environmentalism, and recognition of an intercultural Ecuadorian identity. In so doing, plurinationalism moved beyond the general parameters of group rights and/or power-sharing arrangements discussed by political theorists and constitutional design scholars. In this dissertation, therefore, I examine the underlying tenets of plurinationalism, how plurinationalism was interpreted by non-indigenous people and incorporated into the 2008 constitution, and the future constitutional implications of plurinationalism. I argue that the Ecuadorian case has implications for both the political theory and constitutional design literatures: it allows political theorists to move beyond the language of indigenous rights to consider other institutional avenues for indigenous empowerment and points to value for design scholars in considering indigenous people as a separate case study, reframing assumptions about constitution-making in divided societies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: MacLean, Lauren M., Scheuerman, William E.
Commitee: Hanson, Russell L., Isaac, Jeffrey, Williams, Susan
School: Indiana University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 78/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Latin American Studies, Political science
Keywords: Constitutional design, Indigenous politics, Latin america, Political theory
Publication Number: 10260893
ISBN: 9781369669039
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