Scholarship which critically deconstructs nationalist discourse as an ideology exposes a persistent paradox within this discourse in which the nation-state is frequently represented as both "eternal" and as "that most natural of all human communities." In order for political entities, such as the nation-state, to appear "natural," the process of construction must remain undiscussed as well as concealed from view. This paper addresses these issues by investigating the social construction of national identity in highland Ecuador. It focuses on the role allocated to indigenous peasants in definitions of "the national" at different points in Ecuadorean history. It is argued that earlier representations of native peoples served as a primitive contrast to the national subject. More recently, however, new constructions of "the national" that draw on symbols of Indianness and the rhetoric of ethnicity have emerged. The paper explores the success of these new national discourses in securing the consent of indigenous peoples.
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