Accepted paper:

To have and to hold: the appropriation of women's llama-herding expertise


Maggie Bolton (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

In spite of recognising the value of women’s labour in Andean llama herding, developers fail to acknowledge women as expert herders, since their expertise is based on watching animals rather than handling them. Such misrecognition allows outsiders and men to appropriate female expertise.

Paper long abstract:

An NGO working in Bolivia draws attention in its literature to the potential of women's labour as a resource for the commercialisation of llama-herding. The statement is an effort by the NGO to incorporate gender into its development initiative. This paper looks at the implementation of the livestock husbandry project and at its implications for indigenous Andean women. It notes that, in spite of the NGO's rhetorical attention to the value of women, its expert vets and agronomists direct their efforts largely towards men in the communities concerned.

The discrepancy between promise and practice, regarding gender, is partly due to a failure by scientifically-trained experts to appreciate the nature of animal-human relations in Andean communities and to recognise women's expertise with llamas. Western and scientific expertise with animals relies on tactility - handling animals - and domination. Andeans attribute a higher degree of agency to animals, care for them rather than dominate them and watch over them rather than handle them. Watching over animals is a daily task often performed by women, who thereby acquire a detailed knowledge of individual animals, their habits and states of health.

NGO experts teach Andeans to handle animals. Those receptive to such training are often men who come to profit politically from prestigious involvement with the NGO. The paper considers how attachment to Western ways of knowing and models of expertise leads developers, who initially attempt to mainstream gender, to appropriate women's roles as llama experts, and allows men to dominate new political openings.

panel P35
Gender mainstreaming: the appropriation of feminist discourses in development?