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Volume 61 / Social Sciences


South America: Highlands

ANDREW ORTA, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

THE WORKS SELECTED for this issue reflect a vibrant field of regional scholarship, with studies pursuing classical regionalist issues, wrestling with emerging social phenomena in the Andes, and demonstrating in multiple ways both the increasingly evident voices of indigenous Andean scholars and the renewed salience of ethnographic scholarship to contemporary political processes within the Andean nations.

Most notable in the publications reviewed here is the wealth of works engaging directly with national-level processes of sociopolitical reform, which across the region reflect a bent towards decentralized political administration and official recognition of once-marginalized ethnic or cultural minority (or majority) groups. A compilation of local reflections on development experiences, funded by the World Bank, well embodies this intensifying official concern with the local and the intersection of this localizing trend with auto-ethnographic scholarship (item #bi2002003456#). Particularly evident in the material from Bolivia, indigenous scholars such as those affiliated with the Taller de Historia Oral Andina (Andean Oral History Workshop) have long been involved in efforts to examine the impact of national-level reforms at the local level (item #bi2004000853#). A complex consequence of the globalization of which some of these scholars now write (and of the coordinate proliferation of NGOs) is that their scholarship is more widely disseminated through a range of channels, and reflects a strong engagement with scholarly literatures produced and once consumed primarily in other parts of the world. Alongside the works addressing the histories of indigenous political movements (e.g., items #bi2002003454# and #bi2002003458#), this intersection of indigenous scholarship and neoliberal political contexts is evident in publications examining the challenges and opportunities posed by decentralizing political reforms for indigenous communities. These reforms seem to threaten indigenous forms of communal organization, while at the same time creating space for the potential assertion of intracommunity sociopolitical processes as modes of local political power (e.g., items #bi2002003463# and #bi2002003467#). Other examples include discussions of Mapuche scholarship in Chile (item #bi 99009905#), presentations of "indigenous political thought" in Colombia (item #bi 00005301#), and a series of essays by Roma and non-Roma scholars on the Romanie in Colombia, aimed explicitly at officially recognizing this ethnic group (item #bi2002003461#).

Other notable studies reviewed here take the unfolding sociopolitical reforms in the region as an object of ethnographic focus: examining developments at the local-rural (items #bi2004000852# and #bi2004000859#) and regional-urban (items #bi2004000851# and #bi2004000855#) levels, and focusing on key sites of planned intercultural practice (items #bi 99008274# and #bi 99009352#). Still others present more reflective commentaries on indigenous political mobilization in the region (items #bi2004000856#, #bi 00003982#, #bi 00005341#, #bi 00002835#, and #bi 00006864#). All of these developments take place against the backdrop of (and intersect with) the phenomena of globalization, and are treated in a number of book-length monographs (see Colloredo, HLAS 59:1131; Huber, item #bi2002003470#; and Meisch, item #bi2004000857#). The works by Colloredo and Huber are also notable for their application to Andean case studies of analytic approaches focused on consumption.

Additional significant book-length works include Millones' careful treatment of popular festival practices (item #bi2001007210#) and Cadena's important discussion of mestizaje (item #bi2004000854#). Gade's collection of essays on the interaction of culture, ecology, and history in the Andes (item #bi2001005022#) is complemented nicely by Gelles' monograph on the politics of irrigation practices (item #bi2001007222#; see also Little, item #bi 00001046#). Other remarkable thematic resonances among this chapter's selections include clusters of studies taking up classic themes of Andean-Catholic syncretism, and ethnic identity and inter-ethnic relations in the highlands. In another convergence that may further reflect the policy implications of local ethnographic knowledge, a number of works treat the phenomena of festival violence. Still others share a focus on local musical practices as well as on local conceptions of personhood and identity.

Finally, this chapter includes what will surely be an indispensable reference source for many scholars of the ethnohistory and ethnography of the Andean highlands (item #bi 00000645#).

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