[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Volume 57 / Social Sciences


South America: Highlands

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

SEVERAL SIGNIFICANT and broad themes emerge from this biennium’s review of Andean book-length publications. Particularly prominent are various studies of Andean modernity ranging from theoretical approaches to Latin American popular culture using reception of the media as the conceptual pivot (item bi 97017049) to studies of the development of child protective institutions in Bogotá (item bi 97017050), and from the radicalization of poor urban dwellers in Peru (item bi 98000552) to the impact of violence at all levels of society (items bi 97016915 and bi 96002577). Several broad-ranging anthologies reexamine traditional research themes, such as ethnicity, mestizaje, and fiestas within the overarching contexts of administrative and political modernization, modernist ideologies, and the transnational flow of people, goods, and ideas (items bi 97016532 and bi 96016133). Writings on Andean indigenous issues have also recast native studies within a modern context, concentrating on indigenous movements, nationalism, participation in the State apparatus (items bi 96002580, bi 96002602, bi 95020491 and bi 97015469), development of agrarian communities within larger political and economic contexts (item bi 97015509), and adaptation of local belief systems to modernization and secularizing social forces (item bi 96002615). Volumes dedicated to reevaluating Andean gender roles also address the inclusion of various peoples into the modern project, particularly women’s participation in modern civil society and their experience with the violence that characterizes Andean modernity (item bi 96002576)

Integral to Latin American modernity is a focus on rural-urban and international migration. In just over half a century, a predominantly agrarian continent has been transformed into an urban one, and numerous citizens of Andean countries have sought new lives and livelihoods in the US and Europe, so it is surprising to note the scarcity of book-length publications on the ethnography of migration, including studies of population movements within national (items bi 96002632 and bi 96002612) and international (item bi 96002621) spheres. This paucity may reflect the still nascent stage of urban and transnational anthropology among Latin Americanist ethnographers.

Another significant feature of Andean modernity and of new trends in Andeanist anthropology is the growing scholarly voice of native Andean peoples. Some of these contributions emanate from the institutions that originally fostered the development of an indigenous intelligentsia, such as the Taller de Historia Oral Andina (THOA) in Bolivia. The latter continues to produce provocative and innovative historical analyses of Aymara society allowing scholars to rethink our conceptual categories and our publications programs in regard to this ethnic group (item bi 97015731). Other entries spring from indigenous groups that have only recently produced published works on history (item bi 96002614), traditional medicine (items bi 96016131 and bi 96002632), popular religion (item bi 96002628), and technical themes (item bi 96002603). The expansion of indigenous scholarship has even spurred unschooled and unaffiliated would-be scholars to begin to investigate their own reality (item bi 96002574). Members of other minority groups, such as Afrolatins, have also participated in this trend (item bi 98000553). The testimonial genre in Andean anthropology, in which subordinated minorities and members of popular sectors make themselves heard through the literary mediation of an editor, has maintained its vitality alongside these recent developments (items bi 97017726, bi 97017744, bi 96002570 and bi 96002582). Among the most innovative examples of a recent testimonio, is a work by the Taller de Historia Oral Andina. The fact that both narrator and editor are Aymara raises important questions regarding the changing role of editor as arbitrator who prepares an unheard or unheeded testimonial voice for popular consideration (item bi 95020490).

A number of studies regarding curing practices illustrate that the historical perspective, which has become popular within Andean ethnography, is now becoming central to the research of medical anthropologists. Joralemon and Sharon’s study of Peruvian coastal curers (item bi 96002588), and other research from the same region concerning curing practices over time (item bi 96002575), combine history and anthropology through a focus on individual life histories. Also represented are historical studies of the combination of Mapuche and Western health systems in the Southern Cone (items bi 96002578 and bi 96101483). Many studies of Andean medicine have concentrated on health practices that help alleviate animal, as well as human, illnesses; the best example of this current is Genin’s excellent interdisciplinary anthology of articles concerning camelid herding (item bi 96016113).

Various volumes that have appeared in this biennium must be singled out for their outstanding value. Two notable books that examine representation in the Andes are among the most suggestive and innovative. Deborah Poole’s exceptional study of Andean photography allows us to see photographs that represent ethnographies, historical monographs, and museum exhibits in a different light (item bi 95000123). These images may serve as windows to the history of the racial categorization constructed by foreign and national travelers, anthropologists, photographers, and the subjects themselves. Raúl Romero’s stunning collection of essays by renowned scholars of Andean music and dance focuses on the representations of inter-ethnic relations by both indigenous and mestizo artists within a modernist world (item bi 96002579).

Ethnicity is also the central theme of another pivotal publication originating in Colombia, a country not generally perceived as belonging to the Andean ethnic sphere. Myriam Amparo Espinosa’s (item bi 97016656) study of metaphors in the historical narrative of the Quintín Lame Armed Movement, a Páez guerrilla group, marks a new form of research which struggles to reproduce subaltern forms of narrative within Western academic genres. From the other end of the Andes comes Tristan Platt’s fascinating excursion into liturgical narratives as interpreted in historical documents and by contemporary peoples (item bi 97016039), indicating that there are numerous novel approaches to the intersection of documentary historical research and ethnographic observation and description.

Two exemplary works attempt to view ethnicity through multiple lenses - gender and kinship, on the one hand, and economic articulation with the market, on the other. Both edited volumes contain articles by some of the most highly regarded researchers of the second generation of Andean anthropology. Denise Arnold’s in-depth analysis of Andean ethnography and family relations offers new approaches to the study of gender roles (item bi 97015470). Brooke Larson and Olivia Harris’ exemplary collection of Andean markets studies shows us that Andean forms of reciprocity and exchange must be analyzed within their respective historical contexts, studied at the interstices of ethnic groups and of gender relations, examined against the backdrop of ethnic and racial ideologies, and questioned in terms of their development within regional and national spheres of market exchange (item bi 96016107).

Finally, a new kind of Andean study is beginning to replace the “peoples and cultures” anthologies of the past. I refer specifically to Starn, DeGregori and Kirk’s Peru reader: history, culture, and politics, which combines anthropology with history, political science, and literary studies, and merges analytical academic writing with fictional, poetic, and journalistic genres, to provide a multidisciplinary, multigenre, and temporally-diverse kind of work (item bi 98000551). In this reader, Andean ethnology is considered through the perspective of various disciplines, and Andean culture is viewed as a result of the interaction between lo andino and European- and African-derived cultures, within historically-derived structures of power.

This is the last of my contributions to HLAS. I fondly thank the HLAS staff for its collaboration during my six years on board, and wish Linda Seligmann, the new contributing editor, the best in her future contributions to the Handbook.

Go to the:

Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (09/01/03)