Dr Mareike Winchell

Dr Mareike Winchell

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology

Room No
English, German, Spanish
Key Expertise

About me

Mareike Winchell (PhD, University of California Berkeley) specializes in political anthropology, with a focus upon racial formations of property that underpin ongoing processes of Indigenous land dispossession. Her new research extends this problem to examine the racial formations that underlay contemporary engagements with climate change related to uncontrolled wildfires in eastern Bolivia. Winchell’s research and teaching bridge debates in the social sciences (anthropology, geography, environmental studies, gender studies, Indigenous and Black studies, studies of memory and affect) and humanities (cultural studies, critical theory, environmental humanities, political philosophy, theories of religion and secularity, post- and de-colonial studies) to draw renewed attention to the relational injuries at play in Indigenous land struggles, ethical engagements with climate change, and tenacious histories of racial violence.Winchell's first book, After Servitude: Elusive Property and the Ethics of Kinship in Bolivia (2022), tracks the competing processes by which Bolivians navigate deep inequalities rooted in the nation’s history of Indigenous labor subjection. Government officials, Indigenous rights activists, and state land reformers view land redistribution as urgent for addressing Indigenous injustice, yet ethnographic archival research showed how this program re-entrenched racial and gender hierarchies. Theorizing after-ness not only as sequential following but also as the active repurposing of history in the present, After Servitude examines how the kin of Quechua servants navigate the region’s history of racial and sexual violence through an insistence that mestizo bosses provide aid across hierarchies, in practices of sacrifice and offering to saints and earth beings, and by way of labor strikes and road blockades. By describing these conflicts, the book reveals a more durative orientation to justice, one that departs notably from utopic projects of property that require disarticulating land and people, and the present from the past.Winchell is currently at work on two new book projects. The first, provisionally titled Ghostly Invasions: Political Theologies of Fire, focuses on the racialization of climate politics in Bolivia. The book examines the racialized figure of the Quechua migrant as ghost in environmental and media discourses in Bolivia and ask how this figure of haunting fits within broader colonial narratives of Indigenous peoples as the walking dead, as subjects of salvage slated for extinction, whose abiding presence appears as deeply uncanny to settler narratives of ecological terra nullius. The ghostly haunts but it does so from a position of purported non-presence, a special problem for Indigenous groups whose land claims hinge on appeals to timeless residence. The research traces the authoritarian tendencies of environmentalisms that preserve nature's purity and reproduce narratives of racialized guilt and responsibility. Conversely, it considers grounded collaborations—feminist horticultural projects, anti-imperialist environmental organizing, and land “restoration” efforts—that seek to move past the divide of standard conservation (with the separation of people and nature) and statist approaches that have often seen land redistribution and ecological protection as antithetical. Considering these intersections of climate and religiosity, the book sheds new light on how environmental transformations and fire agencies converge with popular religiosities, Indigenous revivalisms, and post-liberal politics. A short essay about this project can be found here.  

A third book project, The Servant’s Properties: Materiality, Gender, and Other-than-Human Landscapes in 20th Century Bolivia, examines the legal claims of out-of-wedlock children born to indentured laborers after 1953. Based on visual and documentary readings of archival materials as well as fieldwork and collaborative mapping, this project illuminates the ways that Indigenous Quechua women in haciendas transformed land hierarchies through religious appeal and legal subversion. More specifically, the project asks how incommensurate approaches to land and place came to be cemented within institutional knowledges, and what that process reveals about the remaking of property by non-secular orientations to landscapes and/as kin. While frequently characterized as landless, this book examines how Quechua servants have engaged a surrounding landscape through agricultural practices and in acts of devotion to saints and apus (earth beings) felt to control harvests and broader community well-being. The project thereby illuminates how the land and environmental inequalities Indigenous peoples face are exacerbated by racialized and gendered systems that make intimate formations central to Indigenous efforts to combat injustice. Justice thereby emerges as a relational problem as much, if not more, than a question of securing legal autonomy over land and personhood. An article elaborating such environmental injuries as relational injuries can be accessed here

Winchell’s writing and digital scholarship have appeared or are slated to appear in Journal of the Royal Anthropological InstituteHAU: Journal of Ethnographic TheoryCultural AnthropologyJournal of Peasant StudiesCritical TimesBolivian Studies JournalPostmodern Culture, and Comparative Studies in Society and History. This research has been generously funded by the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust, the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, UChicago’s Franke Institute for the Humanities, UChicago’s Center for International Social Science Research, and UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center for the Humanities. Before joining LSE in 2023, Winchell taught and advised undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students as Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Associated Faculty of the Divinity School at The University of Chicago.
All the following articles and an introduction to the book are available for download at: https://lse.academia.edu/MareikeWinchell.  

Expertise Details

Bolivia; Environmental Politics; Kinship; Race and Property; Critical Indigenous Studies; Inequality and Ethics; Post- and de-Colonialisms; Critical Ontologies; Religion; Climate Change

Selected publications


2022   After Servitude: Elusive Property and the Ethics of Kinship in BoliviaOakland: University of California Press.    


2023  Beyond innocence: Indigeneity and violent deployments of political un/reason in Bolivia. The Bolivian Studies Journal.  (In press)   

2023  Alterable Geographies: In/Humanity, Emancipation, and the Spatial Poetics of Lo Abigarrado in Bolivia.  Critical Times 6(2).

2023  Critical ontologies: Rethinking relations to other-than-humans from the Bolivian AndesJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 29(3).  

2023  Climates of anti-blackness: Religion, race, and environmental politics in BoliviaCanopy Forum: On the Interactions of Law and Religion. June 6th, 2023. 

2023  Racial property: From colonial theft to Indigenous reparation in Bolivia. Terrain: Anthropologie & Sciences Humaines.  

2022 "Fields of Commitment: Research entanglements beyond predation.” Postmodern Culture: Journal of Interdisciplinary Thought on Contemporary Cultures 33 (1).    

2022  Racial violence, land, and Indigenous reparation in Bolivia. UC Press blog.  November 8th, 2022.   

2020  Liberty time in question: Historical duration and indigenous refusal in post-revolutionary BoliviaComparative Studies in Society and History 62(3): 551-587.    
2019  ÉticaDebates do Ner 2(36): 191-199.    2018  After servitude: Bonded histories and the encumbrances of exchange in Indigenizing BoliviaThe Journal of Peasant Studies 45(2): 453-473.   

2017 Economies of obligation: Patronage as relational wealth in Bolivian gold miningHAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7(3): 1-25.   
2017 RemappingCultural Anthropology. August 21, 2017.