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Volume 55 / Social Sciences


South America: Highlands

JOANNE RAPPAPORT, Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, Georgetown University

DOES THE SOCIAL, ETHNIC, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN of the observer impact significantly upon what she or he has to tell us about Andean society? This is a question that anthropologists, both foreign and national, confront today as we enter indigenous communities, peasant villages, and urban shantytowns to conduct ethnographic research among populations that are increasingly aware of the benefits and shortcomings of being studied and are alert to how international events impact upon everyday life. The people we study are participants in (and frequently the architects of) new social movements nurtured by development projects, legislative innovations, and political activism, which link the village or the barrio to the wider world. Such transformations represent a challenge to ethnographic investigation. While authors in the north are increasingly answering the summons to innovate through the adoption of new themes, multi-site ethnographies, and historically-oriented analysis, Andean investigators are defining distinctive national and ethnic anthropologies, demonstrating that the questions we ask and the sorts of answers we provide may well depend upon who is the one asking.

A number of important ethnographic monographs have appeared in English in this biennium, all of which examine how a variety of ethnic groups in the Andes have accommodated to or resisted State institutions and other social arrangements of the dominant society. How do Quechuas and Aymaras navigate and negotiate the city? The issue of migration is addressed in novel ways by Lesley Gill, Sarah Skar, and Thomas Turino. Gill examines how ethnicity and class are represented through such symbolic means as clothing by female domestic workers and employers in the urban setting (item bi 94004181). Skar suggests that Quechua urban life must be understood as part of a continuous movement from city to various rural settings, and that in each of these sites Andean people make sense of the surrounding reality by investing it with a unique metaphoric content (item bi 95012278). For Turino, music is a means to establishing a new identity in urban community centers, as well as a form of maintaining roots in the rural village, where urbanites participate in and sponsor festivals (item bi 94015122).

Hegemony and resistance are the themes of monographs by María Lagos, June Nash, Joanne Rappaport, Roberto Santana, and Harry Sanabria. Lagos investigates merchant-peasant relations in terms of class ideologies, hegemonic practices and ideologies, and peasant struggle (item bi 94015030). Nash's life history of a tin miner explores proletarian resistance in the eyes of a single participant (item bi 94015031). The creation of an anti-hegemonic ideology by native Colombians is scrutinized in Rappaport in her study of Cumbal history-making (item bi 94015044). Santana suggests that the Indian movement in Ecuador can only be appreciated if we trace the development of an indigenous ideology in conjunction with similar developments in the broader mestizo society (item bi 94000292). A more hazardous response to inequality is the theme of Sanabria's inquiry into Bolivian peasant participation in the cocaine trade (item bi 94015033).

The growing importance of Afro-Latin communities in national dialogues in the Andean countries is mirrored by several new book-length publications. Fernando Romero's monumental dictionary of Afro-Peruvianisms attests to the careful attention scholars are paying to the distinctiveness of African culture in the Andes (item bi 94000287). Among the Andean nations, of greatest significance is the Afro-Colombians' entrance into politics with their historic participation in the creation and implementation of a new multi-ethnic Constitution. Peter Wade's examination of racial attitudes, stereotypes, and metaphors in Colombia (item bi 93008842) mirrors similar excursions into ethnicity and power by students of indigenous Andean societies.

While foreign scholars' emphases tend to run toward historically-oriented investigations of the economic, political, and symbolic manifestations of inter-ethnic relations in local settings, native Andean investigators are intent upon defining a distinctive brand of ethnographic discourse that concentrates, for the most part, upon the elaboration of new forms of cultural and historical description by providing a bird's-eye view of what it means to be Andean. The reedition of Manuel Quintín Lame's 1939 treatise on the place of Indians in Colombian society (item bi 94000306) marks one of the earliest contributions to this growing movement. The most sophisticated studies by native Andeans have been conducted, for the most part, in Bolivia, where university-educated investigators have returned to their communities to produce in-depth diagnostics of local problems and to search out voices unheard before. Most significant is the work of the Taller de Historia Oral Andina and affiliated investigators, although other institutions have also contributed to this body of indigenous-authored literature. Indigenous organizations and individual authors in Colombia and in Ecuador, dissatisfied with the interpretations of outside observers, have also joined this dialogue. As a corollary to the rise of the indigenous ethnographers' movement, a number of significant collaborative studies between national or foreign investigators and their native colleagues have resulted in unique and novel transformations of the traditional ethnographer-informant relationship.

While native ethnographers find their voice, anthropologists belonging to the national cultures of Andean countries have also been engaged in the creation of distinct Latin American anthropologies. The most significant contributions to this new body of literature dwell upon pressing issues of social concern to the national societies. Teófilo Altamirano's continuing investigation into urban marginality in Lima, as well as other Peruvian cities (item bi 94000299), marks one direction in which Latin American anthropologists have moved in much greater numbers than their North American counterparts. A second avenue of research is exemplified by Ecuadorian Jorge León (item bi 94015048) and by the Colombian contributors to collections edited by François Correa (item bi 94015041) and by Esther Sánchez (item bi 94015037), all of which inquire into the relationship of indigenous populations to the State. León's emphasis centers upon the diversity of indigenous political players in the recent Indian Uprising, while Correa and Sánchez's volumes both focus on the writing of ethnicity into Colombian legislation.

This biennium marks the loss of one of the fathers of Colombian anthropology, Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff,(b. 1912-d. 1991) whose classic monographs on the Desana and the Kogi have travelled well beyond the borders of Colombia and have survived the ravages of time. He will also be remembered as the founder of the Dept. of Anthropology at the Universidad de los Andes, a training ground for many of Colombia's most creative anthropological minds.

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