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Bolivian Quechua Politics and Ontology

Dr Margarita Huayhua, RAI Urgent Anthropology Fellow, Goldsmiths

Wednesday 6 November at 5.30 pm

Quechua social and linguistic practices reveal the way they conceptualize the world; that is, what things exist and constitute the world and the interactions among them. For instance, villagers of Mallku-Quta (Bolivia) build and keep relationships not only among humans, but with “things” –especially places—such as lakes and mountains that are part of the territory in which they live. These relationships illustrate that particular places exist as social beings and that they are part of the world that villagers have constituted as such. In this conceptualization, the mountain and lake named Mallku-Quta exists as a single person with whom villagers converse and cooperate sharing food and treats to guarantee the reproduction of their life. These relationships are not abstract, but have the same kind of texture and specificity as any social relationships, evidence for which is in the comportment of the villagers.

Mallku-Quta can be translated as the foremost source of water, or the foremost lake. It is composed of a mountain that has a condor-like shape and five lakes. The mountain is populated by many water springs that run down its slopes toward its base to form the lakes. It gives rise to two river basins that secure the means of living for villagers and all those who depend on the water. For villagers, Mallku-Quta exists as a person with desires, will and power. The villagers offer her a llama and drinks to keep and renew their relationships in a constant effort to have what is needed for the life and growth of plants, animals and humans. In short, places like Mallku-Quta exist and constitute the world for Quechua-speaking people. To illustrate the way Quechua speakers think and see the world around them, I will screen a video-documentary entitled “Our land, our life, then and now,” 20m. (2013).

Biographical Sketch

Margarita Huayhua has a Ph.D. (University of Michigan 2010) in anthropology, and is a former fellow of the Ford Foundation (2004-2007). She is a native speaker of the Quechua language (for whom it is still primary), whose research revolves around the cultures of the Andes, especially on problems of power and social domination in a comparative, Latin America-wide perspective. Her primary interest deals with relations of domination, and the ways in which these play out in everyday life, particularly the ideologies that permeate these interactions and serve to perpetuate social inequality and exclusion across cultures. She is interested in interactions that take place across cultures, in which distinct moralities and social ontologies help to shape relationships of hierarchy. She is also interested in language use in everyday life, racial/ethnic, and gender hierarchies, ethnography, oral history, multilingualism, and indigenous people’s movements. Among her publications are “Racism and Social Interaction in a Southern Peruvian combi” (2013) Ethnic and Racial Studies; “Everyday Discrimination in the Southern Andes” (2013) Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut: Estudios Indiana, Berlin; “Some Issues in Translating Quechua” (2009), STILLA; Public Health Policies and Indigenous Population (2005), Instituto de Estudios Peruanos; and “The Exclusion of the Runa as Subject of Rights in Perú” (1999), Bulletin de I’Institut Français d’Études Andines.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked.  To book tickets please go to https://huayhua.eventbrite.co.uk/