Accepted paper:

Becoming indigenous by feeling indigenous: the contemporary production of indigeneity in Bogota, Colombia.


Maria Fernanda Esteban Palma (British Museum)

Paper short abstract:

Indigenous revitalization is frequently framed as instrumentalist in Latin America because groups are assessed against a universal model of indigeneity. By undertaking a more experiential and sensorial ethnography of indigenous production, their cultural pluriverses can be better understood.

Paper long abstract:

Many Latin American countries adopted a politics of multiculturalism in the 1990s, providing special rights to what they framed as "culturally diverse" groups, including indigenous groups. Soon after, several groups began to request recognition on the basis of cultural alterity. Most anthropological studies on the contemporary production of indigenous alterity in Latin America have focused on authenticity, and many have framed this phenomenon as instrumentalist. Such an approach is based on western epistemological trajectories that rely on universalisms and detached observations of social life that are assessed against fixed models. But as indigeneity has proven to be fluid and pluriversal, a more engaged fieldwork experience is needed to understand its nuances. In this paper, I argue that a sensorial and affective anthropology of indigeneity can liberate scholarship from falling into the trap of assessing authenticity against generalizing models. I explore how the members of an indigenous group framed as instrumentalist -the Muisca group of Bogota, Colombia-, are constructing and appropriating their indigenous alterity by means of daily collective experience, even after centuries of cultural assimilation as mestizos. By fully participating in daily activities, ceremonies and administrative meetings, as well as interviewing members about their own experiences during those activities, I explore the impact that life histories, living conditions and hopes for the future have on how indigeneity is sensed (physically) and felt (affectively) by indigenous people-in-the-making.

panel P08
Sensational knowledge: emotional and sensory encounters as ways of knowing