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MSc International Political Communication, Advocacy and Campaigning

Political Ritualised Practices:

The Coca Leaf as a Discursive Artefact
By Pablo Andres Rivero Morales

This study deals first and foremost with the dialectic relationship between language and

objects. It addresses the process of reinvention/re-construction of the coca leaf as a discursive

artefact and focuses its attention on its employment as a device in political ritualised practices

that challenges power relations. The aim of the project is to conceptually and empirically

explore the process of re-construction or reinvention of the coca leaf as a culturo-political

artefact. The analysis includes its cultural and ‘traditional’ uses and meanings, its economic

and socio-political relationship within social groups in Bolivia, and focuses its attention on

how it is employed as a material object of discourse in an international scope.

Thus, this research focuses on two separate but complementary realms. On the one hand, it

attempts to contribute to the theoretical discussion and knowledge around the construction of

‘artefacts’ employed in political rituals, or more precisely politically ritualised practices, and

the relationship between discourse and (‘constructed’) non-verbal objects, utilised all to

communicate politically and to challenge power relations. This task is also hoped to be part

of this study’s contribution to the wider body of knowledge on the use of artefacts as political

instruments in protests and power struggles.

On the other hand, it applies empirically this multidisciplinary theoretical, conceptual and

methodological construction into a case study in which the coca leaf, it is argued, operates as

a discursive ‘artefact’, constructed and reinvented, but essentially employed as a device in

political ritualised practices. Cultural, socio-economic and political representations are

located mainly in Bolivia constituting the ‘context’, whereas the ‘text’ mainly observes the

speech delivered by Bolivian president Evo Morales at 52nd Session of the United Nations

Commission on Narcotic Drugs.