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  • of Anthropology online version of this article can be found at:

    DOI: 10.1177/0308275X9301300104 1993 13: 77Critique of Anthropology

    Silvia Rivera CusicanquiAnthropology and Society in the Andes : Themes and issues

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    by Monica Hidalgo on October 14, 2011coa.sagepub.comDownloaded from

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    Anthropology and Society in the AndesThemes and issues

    Silvia Rivera CusicanquiAndean Oral History Workshop, La Paz

    In 1973, the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) broke awayfrom the Peruvian Communist Party, Patria Roja (Red Nation), andannounced its preparation for a prolonged peoples war. At the time theintellectuals and political leaders of the Peruvian left wing considered theevent to be inconsequential. Seven years later, the Senderistas carried outtheir first armed attack: a symbolic sabotage of the May 1980 presidentialelections in a small, isolated settlement in the Ayacucho highlands.Bewilderment, disbelief and even scorn were the initial reactions to theevent from the majority of the left wing. At the time the main politicalparties were engaged in the electoral contest, following drawn-outFrentista negotiations and more than a decade of discussions with thereformist military governments.During the course of the 1980s, the violence arising from the guerrilla

    presence and the efforts to repress them has increased in a geometriccurve. Violence has extended geographically and demographically toaffect diverse regions. Violence reaches from areas of traditional life-style,such as the Ayacucho highlands (the initial epicentre of guerrilla activity),to areas given over to trading, such as the Mantaro Valley and agriculturalzones bordering the Peruvian Amazon. Paradoxically some of theseregions figure among the most well-known and heavily studied areas inanthropology which, with other related disciplines, has enjoyed a longhistory in Peru, as witnessed by the number of excellent published textsthat are not to be found in any of the other Andean countries.The problem this situation raises for Andean studies could not be more

    acute, as it calls for an examination of the very meaning behind our work.Distanced as we may be from applied anthropology or state policy imposedon the indigenous population, we cannot deny that anthropology has adiagnostic role to play when it comes to the conflicts and problemsexperienced by that community. Even disciplines which appear to be far

    Critique of Anthropology 1993 (SAGE, London, Newbury Park and New

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    removed from the present such as Andean ethnohistory and archaeologyraise valid questions about todays world. We only have to mention JohnV. Murras work to see that this is the case. His work on the highproductivity levels of Andean agriculture with its original solutions to thechallenges thrown up by altitude, climatic instability and the distributionand circulation of produce continues to furnish us with useful insights andcould inspire creative solutions to todays serious problems of ecologicalimbalances, falling productivity levels and rural impoverishment.Up until the appearance of the Senderista phenomenon, few would have

    dared question that anthropology and other related disciplines hadaccumulated sufficient knowledge of Andean reality to fully understandthe motivating forces and tendencies of the historic denouement of theregion. By 1980, the national tradition of research stretched back half acentury and anthropology had been established at university level for atleast 40 years. Peruvian anthropology was the unquestioned doyen amongthe regions disciplines. Bolivian anthropology was the least advanced ofall and it was not until the 1970s that research in the territory came into thehands of nationals. It was as late as the 1980s before the first Department ofAnthropology at university level was opened. At this stage in thedevelopment of Bolivian anthropology, the work of Peruvian colleagueswas a constant source of inspiration and instruction. Nevertheless, todaywe are still asking ourselves: what was the hidden malaise brewing withinPeruvian society during the 1970s which the social sciences failed toidentify? Which aspects of the situation were passed over or misin-terpreted ? What can we learn from the Peruvian case, beyond the brilliantacademic school that has given so much to scholars of the Andean world?

    This paper is an attempt to answer these questions, highlighting some ofthe issues concerned with understanding the relationship between thesociopolitical context and anthropological work in Peru and Bolivia. Fromthis comparative and thematic standpoint I also hope to identify thedeficiencies in research and interpretation which exist in anthropologicalstudies in both countries, and to indicate some key issues for a futureagenda.

    I do not intend to produce a systematic bibliographic essay on theanthropological output of the last two decades, but instead wish toconcentrate on certain significant problematic issues in order to under-stand the interaction between anthropology and society in both countries.Furthermore, I must point out that I will not be limiting myself solely to thefield of anthropology. I intend to take into account studies from histori-ography and other disciplines which I see as important for the illustrationof each theme. This unorthodox point of departure allows me to place the

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    anthropology of our countries within the context of the present crisis ofrural violence which affects Andean agronomy. It also enables me tointerpret anthropology as a science which not only helps us to understandAndean society in the past and in the present but which will also give us themeans to envisage a less catastrophic future for these communities.

    1. Andean achievements and the recovery ofAymaraautonomyOne of the most outstanding elements of Andean ethnohistory is the way inwhich the originality and creativity of precolonial Andean societies isrelated in positive terms. John V. Murra made great advances in his studiesof the multicyclical organization of food production created by the Andeancommunities (ranging across several ecological levels and subject tosui-generis, non-mercantile, circulation mechanisms). His work formedthe basis for the development of a series of studies aimed at investigatingthe technological and agronomic aspects of these systems as well as theirideological and organizational mechanisms. The functioning of the verti-cal control of multiple ecological levels system in the past and present, andthe study of the conditions of its breakdown or continuation formed themain body of Murras work. In particular, his fresh studies brought to lightsomething that neither the state bureaucrats nor the developmentalistanthropologists of the preceding decades had perceived. Namely, that inmany Andean regions, despite the centuries of outside aggression anddestruction, Andean peoples continued to use these systems to confrontthe risks posed by an agriculture weighed down by the limitations of theAndean environment and the negative effects of a fundamentally unequalmarket. These findings implicitly or explicitly questioned the predominantview that mercantilization and specialization of peasant production werethe only ways to overcome rural underdevelopment and misery.The research carried out in Peru and Bolivia during the 1970s on the

    vertical control of multiple ecological levels system and other themesrelated to the organization and internal rationality of Andean societieshas two very distinct patterns of development in the two countries. In Perua much greater volume of work has been produced which has had widergeographical distribution and a stronger academic resonance. In contrast,in Bolivia the impact of ethnohistoric findings is felt more on the sociallevel rather than in the academic sphere. In order to explain this situation Imust digress here and refer to the context in which this research was carriedout.

    In both Peru and Bolivia the early 1970s was a time of fundamental social

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    shifts and transformation. In Peru, the military regime of VelascoAlvarado had just passed one of the most radical, long-awaited andcontroversial agrarian reform acts the continent had ever seen. Thisresulted in a diversified and multifarious left wing finding itself in control ofpractically all the popular and peasant organizations and groups that wereto participate in the process - either in support of the reforms or inopposition to them. In the face of heated controversy over the fate of theagrarian question, ethnohistory was totally marginalized and at timesdirectly accused of serving the enemies of the people. Having beencondemned to the sidelines, the field of ethnohistory went through a periodof exuberant expansion. New research projects grew up which attemptedto refute the verticality system and establish its limitations. A whole newschool of anthropologists and ethnohistorians emerged dedicated to theanalysis of the rich universe of Andean ideology.The paradox here wa

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