Incorporation and the Morality of Profit in the Business of Cultural Activism


  • Marshall B. Knudson Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania



Typical scholarly analyses of ethnic incorporation draw on cases where older, preexisting political entities and their forms of citizenship become the basis for new entrepreneurial corporate identities structured around a set of legal profit-making practices. But what about the cases of ethnic incorporation where ethnicity articulates with legal incorporation without any such prior collective political entity to graft onto? This article draws on ethnographic research with indigenous Mapuche cultural activists to describe and analyze the place of private for-profit and not-for-profit associations in the State-sponsored market for indigenous cultural development work in Chile. Examining the dilemmas that Mapuche activists in Chile face as they pursue legal incorporation in order to access public funds and provide a firmer economic footing to their organizations, it explores the ways that activists negotiate the moral controversies surrounding the place of money, and private-law organizations, in the pursuit of Mapuche collective interests.

Author Biography

Marshall B. Knudson, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

Marshall B. Knudson is a doctoral candidate in the department of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies cultural and linguistic anthropology. His dissertation, based on 24 months of ethnographic research with Mapuche language activists in southern and central Chile, examines indigenous language revitalization projects as a prism on ethnic group identity and cultural politics in a time of diasporic "ethnic resurgence.” His research and teaching interests include social theory and the history of social thought; language and culture; social categorization and boundary-making—race, ethnicity, caste, class, gender, nation; coloniality and indigeneity; social and political movements; speech, conversation, and discourse analysis; language structure and pedagogy; language shift and revitalization; organizations; Chile, Brazil, Latin America.



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