In Managing Multiculturalism: Indigeneity and the Struggle for Rights in Colombia (Stanford University Press) Jean Jackson narrates her remarkable journey as an anthropologist in Colombia for over 50 years.
This is an extraordinary book because it shows us Jackson’s trajectory, the challenges she faced, the changes she underwent as a researcher and scholar, and even the mistakes she unknowingly made. The hope is to provide future ethnographers a road map that can be of use when conducting research and tackling the dilemmas that arise from such endeavor—be they ethical, circumstantial, or even personal.
Yet this book is not only about methodology, it is also about Colombia’s remarkable indigenous movement, one that represents around 4% of the population and that has been able to gain collective ownership of more than 30% of Colombia’s territory. Listeners should not be deceived by this remarkable figure for as Jackson tells us indigenous peoples face tremendous inequalities in Colombia today.
Multiculturalism and the “right to culture,” as advanced by the state, has brought positive changes to Colombia, Latin America, and the world, still, its problematic entanglement with neoliberalism leaves many problems unanswered. In this interview, Jackson discusses some of the foundational concepts of her work (identity, indigeneity, multiculturalism, neoliberalism) while at the same time she gives listeners a peek of her remarkable trajectory, and provides advice to those interested in conducting ethnographic research.
Jean E. Jackson is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.