Accepted paper:

Revisiting Andean dualism and asymmetry in light of the semantic field of yana-


Isabel Yaya (School of Advanced Study, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

The paper reviews some of the uses of yana- in colonial and present-day ethnographic contexts. It discusses evidence of asymmetrical relationships in the models under consideration and enquires about the historical transformations that would have affected Andean dual systems.

Paper long abstract:

In his seminal article "Mirrors and maize: the concept of yanantin among the Macha of Bolivia" ([1978] 1986) Tristan Platt offered a comprehensive analysis of dualistic principles and its derivative, the quadripartite model, interwoven in the social organization, subsistence activities and ritual productions of the Macha (dept. of Potosí). This work gathers ample evidence that gender opposition underlies the Macha communal fabric and induces a system of representations that conditions socio-economic reproduction. In his concluding remarks, Platt also invited further enquiry into the extended acceptations of the term yanantin, which might apply to a symmetrical pair, as much as to an unequal relationship between two interdependent components. My paper follows up on this consideration and begins by reviewing some of the uses of yana- in colonial and present-day ethnographic contexts. This survey suggests that hierarchy is inherent to the dualistic models under consideration. The paper then moves on to discuss the implications of this evidence for the study of dual organizations in the Andes. As a means to initiate the discussion, it asks whether reciprocity can be reconciled with asymmetrical relationship and, if so, how? Finally, how can we bring a historical perspective to this analysis and assess the transformations that affected Andean dual systems across time?

panel P18
The anthropology of connections: ethnography, archive and language in the work of Professor Tristan Platt