(P051)
The indigenous city: ecologies, imaginations and the urban space in Latin America
Location SOAS Senate House - S314
Date and Start Time 02 Jun, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Olivia Casagrande (University of Manchester) email
  • Valentina Bonifacio (Ca' Foscari University of Venice) email

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Short abstract

Urban indigenous ecologies and imaginations are addressed as meaningful frames for new forms of collective actions and selves, providing important insights about processes of decolonization of environmental knowledge, and exploring current transformations and future shapes of Latin American cities.

Long abstract

Indigenous ecological thinking not only belongs to rural indigenous communities, but also to urban contexts, often implying conceptual shifts and new practices. Within the city, emergent indigenous socio-ecologies trigger new political practices and experimental knowledge, provoking different ways of relating with (urban) space, negotiating collective belonging and identity as well as personal life-project, and shaping at the same time the city-scape.

The reading of these peculiar narratives allows to address important issues at the intersection between urban space, indigenous epistemologies and new socio-ecological assemblages: how are different life-projects and life-words enacted within the urban context? How are the spaces of Latin American cities manipulated and contested through indigenous performances, subversive aesthetics and other means speaking to the public arena? What images (and imaginations) of 'nature' are put into play? And, finally, are urban indigenous perspectives and ecological discourses part of the emerging new ecologies of urbanism?

The proposed panel aims at reflecting on the lived experiences of indigenous people in Latin American cities. Their political, artistic and socio-cultural practices and narratives are addressed as meaningful frames for new forms of collective actions and selves, shaping the experience of belonging and the negotiation of identity within everyday life in the urban context. Providing important insights about processes of decolonization of environmental knowledge, new epistemologies and indigenous cosmo-politics are taken into account for exploring current transformations as well as the future shapes of the city of the global south.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Urban Mestizajes of the Oppressed: Emergent Youth Political Cultures in an Indigenous Guatemalan City

Author: Amir Mohamed (Cornell University) email

Short abstract

Novel youth political cultures emerging in Guatemala foreground local Mayan and United States African American legacies of political resistance and artistic expression, shaping how indigenous youth intervene in urban landscapes as they claim rights to the city and a role in transforming society.

Long abstract

In urban Guatemala, muralist collectives historicize and spatialize local indigenous resistance to genocide and ecocide while breakdancing graffiti artists celebrate the legacies of African American cultural and political icons from the United States. These practices and the urban landscapes they create offer a privileged vista into emergent political cultures currently shaping how indigenous youth claim for themselves rights to the city and a role in transforming society. Through their public performances of hip hop and other cultural practices, these youth transform urban Guatemala while reprising the roles of anti-colonial community organizers and public educators. Based on over two years of ethnographic research in a majority indigenous Guatemalan city-that residents refer to by its pre-colonial place name and where gang members incorporate Mayan numerals into their territorial markers-this paper contemplates the social and political significance of emergent cultural practices that situate local experiences of indigenous urbanism and resistance within broader histories and geographies of ingenuity and struggle. This paper argues that the youth political cultures transforming Guatemalan cities can be usefully apprehended as "urban mestizajes of the oppressed" that, unlike entrenched colonial projects of mestizaje, foreground as they articulate the political and cultural practices of different embattled communities located across the Americas. In conversation with anthropological studies of subversive aesthetics, subaltern publics, and social non-movements, the analysis unpacks how a mosaic of loosely coordinated efforts by amorphous groups of indigenous youth challenge entrenched colonial power dynamics and knowledge practices while prefiguring and advancing emancipatory public pedagogies.

"Cultural Work," Urban Indigenous Territorialities and Digital Technologies in Buenos Aires city.

Author: Ana Vivaldi (Simon Fraser University) email

Short abstract

I explore how digital communication coordination of "cultural work" produced by urban indigenous living in the city of Buenos Aires reshapes indigenous territorialities, by overflowing the limits of urban indigeneity, contesting marginality and reshaping the city space.

Long abstract

Following the call to consider the way the indigenous city triggers new practices and reconfigures urban spaces, in this paper, I trace how Toba Indigenous People living in a marginal neighbourhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires incorporate mobile technologies to organize "cultural work" (selling of handicrafts, and conducting workshops in schools and markets). In a context of urban poverty and marginality, this activity is not only significant in economic and cultural terms. I argue that cultural work extends indigenous territorialities, challenges marginality and transforms Buenos Aires' city space. While cultural work is a needed income-generating practice, which commodifies Tobas' knowledges; and recreates identity in an urban diaspora, cultural work also creates a new space for a life in the city. First, Cultural work coordinated through mobile technologies constitutes assemblages of people, knowledges, and resources that link rural villages, in the Chaco region with Buenos Aires city, and overflows the rural/urban divides of indigenous experience. Second, Tobas visits to schools and markets in the city centre create new forms of everyday circulation through the city centre that counteracts the marginality of the indigenous neighbourhood in Buenos Aires' periphery. Finally, Cultural work challenges the imagination of Buenos Aires as a white and European city while it subtly indigenizes the urban space. Mobile phone coordination of this activity, in sum, creates assemblages that extend indigenous territorialities and reshapes an indigenous city.

PANARIFE (bread maker): History and Theater, thinking the city from the Mapuche perspective.

Authors: Roberto Cayuqueo email
Claudio Alvarado Lincopi email

Short abstract

Panarife is an interdisciplinary project seeking to make visible Mapuche migration to Santiago and the history of the indigenous syndicalism of Mapuche bakers within the capital city. A video clip of this site-specific theatre piece will be shown and Olivia Casagrande will share reflections on it.

Long abstract

Panarife is an interdisciplinary project in which historical analysis and site specific theatre have worked together in order to make visible the memories and processes of Mapuche migration in Santiago, specifically the history of the indigenous syndicalism of the Mapuche bakers within the capital city.

Mapuche migration has been produced by territorial dispossession (with the creation of the 'reducciones') taken forward by the Chilean State, a process that explains the contemporary reality and diasporic condition of the Mapuche people. The host city, Santiago de Chile, as the metropolis of the colonial State from where the dispossession of the Mapuche lands was planned, has a cultural physiognomy that extols the history of the national elite, erasing the transits of other sectors of urban population.

During the 20th century, in Santiago de Chile the Mapuche baker trade unionism sought to resist the challenges and violence that Mapuche migrants had to face in the city, such as extremely difficult labour conditions and racism. Pan-unionism is thus part of the Mapuche political and organizational history that fought against the multiple effects of Chilean colonialism, among them, migratory uprooting, racialized jobs and discrimination.

In articulating historical analysis with site-specific theatre, Panarife seeks to unveil the tensions between different urban imaginaries of the city, desacralizing national monuments and allowing underground memories of the city to emerge. A video clip of this site-specific theatre piece will be shown and Olivia Casagrande will share reflections on it.

Between the Urbe and the Mapu: emergent MapUrbe subjectivities in Santiago de Chile

Author: Olivia Casagrande (University of Manchester) email

Short abstract

In Santiago the Mapuche are present and absent at the same time, caught between forms of intercultural appropriation and invisibilization. In this context, young urban Mapuche often represent themselves as 'MapUrbe', conveying multiple belongings and the emergence of new political subjectivities.

Long abstract

Within many cities in Latin America, indigenous groups are compelled to find ways of relating with urban space, negotiating collective belonging and identity as well as personal life-projects, triggering new practices at the political, artistic and social level.

In Santiago (Chile) the Mapuche are present and absent at the same time, often caught between forms of intercultural appropriation and invisibilization. Symbols, discourses and visual representations either exclude them as a minority or memorialize them as a 'heroic' past that is nevertheless pacified and assimilated, while their current presence is often overlooked. In this context, young urban Mapuche often represent themselves as 'MapUrbe', a term recently coined by the poet David Aniñir. These youngsters - second or third generation after migration from rural communities - propose interesting and changing processes of hybridization, conveying multiple belongings and the emergence of new political subjectivities. Underlying their in-betweenness the urbe and the mapu (land), they re-position themselves in a tension that had led both to political claims and artistic and cultural production. Moving from intensive fieldwork in 2017 and 2018, the proposed paper presents the partial results of an ongoing collaborative project, exploring the intertwined dimensions of the materiality of the urban space of Santiago and the lived experiences of young indigenous MapUrbe.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.