Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Kristina Wirtz, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Patricia Montilla, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Pablo Pastrana-Pérez, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Karl Swinehart, Ph.D.


Bolivia, humor, identity, media studies, popular culture, social difference


This dissertation explores the construction of social identity and social difference in and through Neo/Los Mismos, a Bolivian comedy series produced during the presidency of Evo Morales (2006-2019), the country’s first president to claim an Indigenous identity. These years were characterized by profound divisions between the Bolivian highlands, home to Morales’s base of support, and the opposition based in the lowlands department of Santa Cruz. This qualitative study takes an interdisciplinary approach to social identity and social difference during the Morales era, drawing on concepts from linguistic anthropology, literary criticism, and humor studies, and tracing connections between Neo/Los Mismos and Bolivian literature, films, jokes, popular sayings, political rhetoric, and other forms of public discourse.

The primary social types featured in this series are Cambas, or Bolivian lowlanders, and Collas from the Andean highlands—the most salient contrasting models for Bolivian social identity in the early 2000s, which I identify as opposite poles of an axis of differentiation (Gal & Irvine, 2019). I explore the ways in which these comedy sketches play with the conventional Camba-Colla contrast, sometimes reinforcing stereotypical views of lowlanders and highlanders and at other times suggesting new ways to envision social identity in Bolivia. At the same time, the sketches scale the period’s larger social and political conflicts to the level of interactions between individual highlanders and lowlanders while presenting a lowlands perspective on current events. Also central to this research is attention to the ways in which regional identities intersect with three dimensions of social identity involved in the stratification of South American societies since colonial times: race, gender, and social class.

Analysis of sketches posted to YouTube over a twelve-year period indicates that this comedy series presents several models for Camba-Colla relations, including competition, cooperation, and a desire for intimacy. By performing varied configurations of the Camba-Colla axis, Neo/Los Mismos engages in the humorous performance of contact between groups who continue to reencounter the “other” and the self. This research also examines the ways in which viewers incorporated interactions between Camba and Colla characters in Neo/Los Mismos into their own processes of identification and differentiation, and how they connected these humorous portrayals to the social and political processes unfolding at the time. Viewer comments show that these online media texts not only reflected contemporary debates about identity and difference but were themselves sites of significant identity work, as viewers drew on the sketches to discursively construct their own sense of regional and national identity. In addition, comments on possible leakage between the series’ comedians and the characters they play suggest that the act of performing, or putting on, other social identities can open up avenues of questioning that lead to a blurring of the lines between the “other” and the self. In these ways, this dissertation shows how comedy productions like Neo/Los Mismos can bring matters of serious debate into the arena of humorous performance, inviting audiences to notice, reimagine, and respond to the polarized social and political climate of their times.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access