Accepted Papers:

Material abundance as a spiritual principle: insights on a cholo cosmology  


Nico Tassi (UCL)

Paper Short Abstract:

In this paper I explore the religious/economic cosmology of urbanised indigenous highlanders (cholo) in Bolivia’s capital city La Paz. I focus on cholo’s principle of material abundance in economic and religious practices and its capacity to activate an intersection of and exchange between spiritual power and material means.

Paper long abstract:

Cholos (urbanised indigenous highlanders) are a group of affluent traders in Bolivia's capital city La Paz who despite their rather prominent economic position maintain a strong bond with the indigenous world, its practices and beliefs. In fact, cholo economic practices remain imbued with profound religious connotations.

The Andean cosmology has been described as animated by an interconnective network and flow of energy linking beings, objects and spiritual forces and making them interdependent. This determined both a continuous interchange of forces among these different domains and a concomitance of different features in a same entity. The relation between these domains has been described as based on reciprocal exchanges of a physiological quality. Cholos often refer to as 'attraction' the situations when this interchange and concomitance of forces is instantiated. In this paper I will analyse the case of material plenty in cholo economic and religious practices as constituting an element of attraction.

Cholos place material abundance at the core of both their economic and spiritual activities as simultaneously constituting a means to God and to prosperity. The material abundance of the cholo practices is supposed to determine material and sensorial amplifications where material things and spiritual power intersect. The Christian ascetic and individual renunciation of the material as a pathway to God, is here paralleled by an exaggerated, collective participation in the production of abundance. It is not cholo's incapacity to abstract from the material that is at stake here but rather the understanding of the material and the transcendent as an encompassment of each other.

panel P01
Thinking, acting and knowing through religious 'things': artefacts in the making of cosmology