This paper analyzes recruitment books, individuals’ military service sheets, and training manuals alongside less standardized official documents, such as governmental correspondence and conscripts’ testimony in military justice proceedings, to reveal slippages in the (non)recording of race and the meanings of racialized terms. It thus explores the difficulties of trying to pin down race through official records generated by a society in which racial categories are seemingly definable and carry immense social import but individual classifications are fluid and situational based on shifting socio-cultural markers. Spanning from the close of the Chaco War to the onset of military dictatorship in 1964, the paper also examines how the recording of race and racialized markers changed after Bolivia’s 1952 Revolution, whose leaders rejected racial identifications in favor a class-based nationalist project. The presence and absence of race in military records reveal the slippery but central role of race in Bolivia’s competing projects of nation-building.
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