Accepted Paper:

The doing of identity through economic and ritual activities in Cusco, Peru  


Astrid Stensrud (University of Agder)

Paper short abstract:

I will discuss the negotiation of life and emerging identity formations through economic and ritual activities among bilingual rural urban migrants in the city of Cusco, where indigenous animistic beliefs and rituals are constantly being recreated.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will use ethnographic material from my fieldwork in the city of Cusco, Peru, among first and second generation of bilingual rural urban migrants, to discuss how life is negotiated through economic and ritual activities. By focusing on the cultural and ritual practices that take place in a precarious urban economy, in households and in the pilgrimage of Qoyllur Rit'i, I will explore how they interplay with economic and power relations. Through the case study of a beauty salon, I intend to pin down the ways in which everyday practices in the margins of the state and the neoliberal economy, can show us how people negotiate with powers of different spheres - economic competition, state demands, the banks, social obligations, moral values and a powerful animated landscape - in order to make a living. By focusing on how life is lived, I will try to overcome the dichotomizing classifications and the essentializing identity discourses which exist in Peruvian society. Economy, religion (rituals) and language (Quechua - Spanish) are three aspects of the negotiation of emerging identity formations in Cusco. The Catholic Church and the Spanish language still have hegemonic power in the Peruvian society. In the Andean popular Catholicism, however, indigenous animistic beliefs and rituals are blended in or are practiced in addition to catholic rituals. This is not just remnants from an ancient past, it is an active process of constant recreation, and the meanings are constantly changing according to gender, class, cultural background and generation.

Panel W046
The power of identities and differences in Latin America