Accepted paper:

Wheeling and dealing across linguistic boundaries in the Peruvian altiplano street markets


Sandhya Narayanan (University of Michigan)

Paper short abstract:

This paper highlights the linguistic and social practices of indigenous street market women in the Peruvian altiplano, who through their multilingual proficiencies build affective bonds and reinforce ethnolinguistic boundaries between clients, vendors, and fellow colleagues.

Paper long abstract:

Like most of the Andes, market life in the Peruvian altiplano has largely been the domain of urban-based indigenous women known as cholitas. Cholitas traditionally work as vendors of different types of goods, ranging from food items to clothes to contraband electronics. The market spaces that they occupy are open air street markets, where the presence of cholitas add to the visible and aural landscape of towns and small cities within the altiplano. This paper will focus specifically on the aural landscape that cholitas have created and occupy within Puno, the regional capital located at the heart of the Peruvian altiplano. In addition to presenting ethnographic data on the geographic distributions of cholita market activity throughout Puno and throughout the region as a whole, this paper will specifically focus on the multilingual proficiencies of the cholitas of the region, a characteristic unique to indigenous market region from Puno and the altiplano that differentiates them from other market women elsewhere in the Andes. Through an ethnographic analysis of the types of multilingual practices and interactions that these market women engage in, I will show how the strategic deployment of linguistic boundary crossing practices builds affective bonds between cholitas of different ethnolinguistic backgrounds and, simultaneously, reinforces the bonds of solidarity between market women of the same ethnolinguistic heritage.

panel D01
Streetscapes: affective encounters between People and Things