Journal of Social History
Ethnicity, Markets, and Migration in the Andes: At the Crossroads of History and Anthropologyby Brooke Larson
Until now, Andean peasants have primarily been thought of by scholars as isolated subsistence farmers, "resistant" to money and to different markets in the region. Ethnicity, Markets, and Migration in the Andes overturns this widely held assumption and puts in its place a new perspective as it explores the dynamic between Andean cultural, social, and economic practices and the market forces of a colonial and postcolonial mercantile economy.
Bringing together the work of outstanding scholars in Andean history, anthropology, and ethnohistory, these pioneering essays show how, from the very earliest period of Spanish rule, Andean peasants and their rulers embraced the new economic opportunities and challenged or subverted the new structures introduced by the colonial administration. They also convincingly explain why in the twentieth century the mistaken idea developed that Andean peasants were conservative and unable to participate effectively in different markets, and reveal how closely ethnic inequalities were tied to evolving market relations. Inviting a critical reconsideration of ethnic, class, and gender issues in the context of rural Andean markets, this book will revise the prevailing view of Andean history and provide a more fully informed picture of the complex mercantile activities of Andean peasants.
Journal of Social History
Journal of Social History
"This is an impressive collection of essays [and] a fundamental reference book in Andean studies."—Walter Mignolo, Duke University
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Ethnicity, Markets, and Migration in the Andes
At the Crossroads of History and Anthropology
By Brooke Larson, Olivia Harris, Enrique Tandeter
Duke University PressCopyright © 1995 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
Andean Communities, Political Cultures, and Markets: The Changing Contours of a Field
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This book comes at the end of a long and gratifying intellectual journey. It is the final piece of a larger collaborative research project that began several years ago. If collective memory can be trusted, we trace its origins to a series of conversations in a favorite London pub around the turn of the 1980s. The exciting prospect of Manchester hosting the Congress of Americanists in 1982 promised to provide a forum for new and forthcoming research on the history of market expansion in the Andean highland regions, where Indian peasant production and labor sustained the evolving market economy over the course of five centuries of European rule. The goal was to provide fresh perspectives on the dynamics of economic and cultural change in the Andes, at both the local and global levels, by bringing together anthropologists and historians engaged in new research on the topic.
On the other side of the Atlantic, about the same time, several Andeanists were invited by the Joint Committee on Latin American Studies (of the Social Science Research Council and American Council of Learned Societies) to consider how the councils might sponsor a collaborative research planning project to boost this field on the cusp of development. Our original intention was to create three nested research projects in Andean studies that embraced major overlapping themes and harnessed some of the new scholarship.
We have largely accomplished that endeavor. The two companion Andeanist projects (one on Andean resistance and rebellion, the other on the local social and cultural processes within Andean kin groups and communities) have yielded important volumes over the past several years. In the meantime, this project on Andean peasant engagement in market relations began to take shape as the first of the three council-sponsored Andean research projects, designed to stimulate interdisciplinary conversations and to nurture the promising, though still extremely young, field of Andean studies. Our interest in developing a conference on the theme of "Andean peasant responses to the penetration and expansion of the market" coincided with plans for the Manchester panel on "Indian market participation in the Andes." It made sense to merge the transatlantic efforts. What we thought then would be a conference carried out with an admirable economy of effort, thanks to the forum and funding offered by both the council and the Americanist Congress, turned out to be a rather inauspicious beginning of a long-term project. The war over the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands destroyed all prospects of a strong Latin American presence at the congress and forced us to organize a new conference in "neutral" territory. It was decided then to transport the project to Bolivia, open it as much as possible to Bolivian and other Andean scholars, and commit the conference volume to a Bolivian research institute for publication in Spanish. Logistical nightmares, local political tensions, and last-minute, long-distance negotiations added texture and color to the otherwise dull task of conference organizing. But at last the conference took place, in July 1983. It was held at the National Archive in Sucre, to honor the life's work of its director, the late Gunnar Mendoza. Thanks to the ongoing collaboration of our Bolivian colleagues, the conference volume was published there in 1987.
This book meets our long-standing commitment to bring out a substantially revised, updated English-language edition. The theme of indigenous communities and markets in Andean history is more timely now than perhaps ever before. The climate of neoliberalism and current political efforts to reify the free market, amidst the human pain of "structural adjustments" among the rural and urban poor, has brought issues of markets, rural poverty, migration, and petty commerce (the so-called "informal sector") back into sharp focus. In spite of the passing of variant developmentalist paradigms from the current intellectual scene, the enduring problems of peasant poverty, proletarianization, and capitalist development in agrarian-based and export economies are still salient—indeed, high-stake—issues among politicians, international agents of the proliferating nongovernmental organizations (NGOS), and grassroots activists alike. And never more so than after the January 1994 uprising of Chiapas peasants in southern Mexico, exquisitely timed to coincide with the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Among scholars of the Andes, those more likely to pick up this book, there is continuing interest in the problems and prospects of commercial expansion and endemic rural poverty. Yet recent scholarship in anthropology, rural sociology, and history has tended to turn away from earlier efforts at building models and from structural approaches to agrarian change in order to pose a new set of questions to indigenous history and society.
This book is part of that effort to experiment with poststructuralist, ethnohistorical approaches to global historical processes—in this case, the integration and subordination of Indian peasantries to market forces since the sixteenth century. It draws on the ongoing work of historians and anthropologists who have helped revitalize and reshape the field of Andean social and ethnohistory over the past decade and a half. The project's original formulation in 1981 came out of the perceived need to bridge the conceptual gap between cultural anthropology and political economy, which seemed to be working at cross-purposes. The theoretical and disciplinary tensions between these two research traditions posed a central paradox in Andean history, which focused our collective attention: namely, the long-term historical resilience and adaptation of indigenous peasant economies, organized around reciprocal norms, in the midst of powerful and evolving commodity markets that swirled around the mining export economy of the southern Andes. As late as the 1970s, much research on the theme of Indians and markets seemed fragmented, even insular: anthropologists focused on Indians, political economists on markets. This book encompasses both perspectives in an effort to open insights into the social, cultural, and political ramifications of this apparent historical paradox of the southern Andes.
The scope and aims of this book are deeply informed by the cross-disciplinary conversations in Andean history and anthropology that have been ongoing over the past decade or so. So we begin this essay by setting the book in its broader intellectual context. With broad strokes, I want to trace parallel research trends in Andean anthropology and history/political economy that set the parameters of scholarship and debate about indigenous economies and the formation of markets during the 1960s and 1970s. Then I will turn briefly to highlight several important field advances during the 1980s, which have framed some of the overarching issues and perspectives developed in this book.
Traditions in Andean Anthropology and History
The southern Andes, particularly the high plains stretching to the north, west, and south of Lake Titicaca, were the spectacular setting of highly developed societies. Hundreds of years before the Europeans set foot on the altiplano in the mid-sixteenth century, Andean civilizations harnessed the resources of geographically dispersed ecological tiers to support highly dense settlements. To sustain dense populations in fragile, high-altitude alpine environments, they extended their reach across the vast, broken landscape down to the irrigated valleys of the western desert coast and into the eastern tropical valleys and basins of the Amazon (see Map 1). They settled colonists in these widely dispersed and contrasting ecological zones to gain simultaneous and direct access to the whole register of agricultural and livestock products offered by this spectacular vertical land. From small ethnic groups to powerful, confederated ethnic chiefdoms, Andean social organizations developed around the cultural ideals and practices of ecological complementarity. The great marketplaces of Mesoamerica had no Andean counterpart before the Spanish Conquest (see Chapters 2 and 5 in this volume).
This uniquely Andean solution to the problem of subsistence in a territory broken up by altitude, aridity, and extreme diurnal temperature contrast represents a major "human achievement" that permitted the florescence of high civilizations—including the empire of Tawantinsuyu—in the last centuries before the European invasion. On the eve of that invasion, ethnic authorities and the Inca state raised revenues sufficient to support imperial elites, bureaucracies, and armies in the process of pushing the frontiers of empire along a 5,000-mile stretch of the Andes. The capacity of the Inca state to accumulate surpluses, sustain its empire, and redistribute surpluses through symbolic gestures of reciprocity to its subject population has challenged the Western imagination ever since—from sixteenth-century European observers to twentieth-century anthropologists and archaeologists. Through the centuries, scholarship on the pre-Hispanic Andes has sought to discover the distinctive characteristics of Andean civilization, given the striking absence of market and tribute institutions, money and merchants, property relations and impoverishment familiar to precapitalist Western societies.
Yet within a half century of the Spanish Conquest, the southern Andes was the site of the world's richest and most legendary silver mine. Potosí sprang up in the mountainous interior of Alto Perú and by the 1580s became the principal source of silver for Europe and America. Its treasures, forged into specie, lubricated the economies of Western Europe and hastened the dissolution of feudalism, fanned the flames of inflation across Iberia, and quickened the tempo of commercial capitalism on a global scale. It became a mecca for treasure seekers and an industrial pit for Andean miners struggling to stay alive. Potosí mushroomed into a town of some 100,000 people by the turn of the seventeenth century. The concentration of human capital, inflationary price history, and dependence on imported goods from both Europe and surrounding Andean regions forged an enormous marketplace in the southern Andes. Out of the imperatives of the silver economy, and the preexisting capacity of Andean ethnic groups to produce surplus goods and services, markets took root and spread throughout the Andes, where money and mercantilism had never before existed.
This dramatic historical contrast—between the culminating achievements of Andean civilization before the European arrival and the rapid, post-Conquest organization of a mercantile colonial economy in the same geocultural space—gradually came to light in parallel research currents of anthropology and history during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. As we shall see shortly, an emerging literature in history and historical sociology on the political economy of commercial capitalism and European expansion looked at the power of the conquest state and mercantile capital to suck the Andes, and other parts of America, into the whirlpools of the global economy. Andean historians thus tended to approach their region of study from the outside: as part of a larger field of force that interconnected events and cultures of local origin with the global forces of European expansion. In contrast, anthropologists paid scant attention to the impact of markets or other exogenous forces of change on the Andes; instead, they searched for cultural specificity and continuity of Andean economic strategies and social organization. In the postwar decades, the dominant research tradition on the Andes, indeed the very font of Andean area studies, was the emerging body of ethnohistorical and archaeological research on Tawantinsuyu and the transition to colonial rule, as well as the contemporary ethnographic literature. Whereas historical studies of the Andes remained fragmented and disparate until the late 1970s, Andean anthropology flourished in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s in Peru, North America, and Europe. The pioneers—such as, Hermann Trimborn, John Murra, John Rowe, and later R. Tom Zuidema—combined the methods and insights of archaeology and ethnohistory to shatter Eurocentric categories and polemics about the nature of the Inca empire and to gain fresh insights into Inca statecraft and local cultural forms before and after the European invasion in the sixteenth century. They set the research agenda for Andean ethnology, which matured rapidly in the 1970s. By the end of that decade, the ethnographic literature on the Andes had a density and unity that made it comparable to that on Mesoamerica.
Among these pioneers, John Murra has had the most far-reaching impact on the overlapping fìelds of Andean ethnography and ethnohistory during the last thirty years. This synoptic overview can hardly do justice to the manifold ways that Murra's work and teaching have shaped the contours of these fields, but it is worth mentioning here several of Murra's more important contributions. To begin, Murra's seminal 1955 doctoral thesis on the economic organization of the Inca state was almost immediately appreciated for its penetrating insights into the internal economic and ideological workings of the Inca empire. Shattering the old polemical stereotypes of the Incas, Murra's study revealed the processes of cultural hegemony at work. He showed how the rulers of Tawantinsuyu grafted labor demands onto local institutions and cultural practices, which left a considerable margin of cultural and economic autonomy to recently colonized ethnic groups and yet allowed the Inca lords to accumulate vast amounts of stored energy and wealth. The Incas balanced state demands against material and symbolic forms of "generosity" that respected and reinforced many of the rights and traditions of ethnic groups subject to Inca rule.
Murra's later work explored other aspects of economy, statecraft, colonization, and warfare under the Incas. It also moved in a new direction, toward the study of native Andean peoples under early colonial rule. This was a natural outcome of his early research, as well as his pursuit of ethnohistorical sources. For while he used colonial documents to glean insights into Inca society and local social formations before the Spanish arrival, he also scrutinized those documents for information about the adaptive vitality of local Andean society under early colonial rule. A crucial contribution to Andean ethnohistory, however, was Murra's effort to find and edit the writings of literate Andeans, other than the famous Garcilaso de la Vega. This pursuit of Andean voices and visions of the Inca past and of Spanish colonial rule culminated in 1980 with the publication of a new, critical edition of the vast and stunning work of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala , coedited by Murra and Rolena Adorno. Murra's emphasis on colonial texts as potential ethnohistorical sources bridged the conventional disciplinary divide between "prehistory"—once the presumed precinct of anthropologists and archaeologists—and "history" where mainly historians attended to the problems of European colonization. From early on, Murra's own research crossed the divide, as he made plain that Andean peoples possessed a rich, complex history and a highly developed civilization, uniquely adapted to its mountainous environment, long before literate Europeans came to observe it and alter the course of its history. Yet his ethnohistorical work also revealed Andean cultural tradition as an adaptive, creative force that endured the cataclysms associated with European conquest and colonization.
Excerpted from Ethnicity, Markets, and Migration in the Andes by Brooke Larson, Olivia Harris, Enrique Tandeter. Copyright © 1995 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Meet the Author
Brooke Larson is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Olivia Harris is Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Anthropology Department at Goldsmith’s College, London.
Enrique Tandeter is Chair of the Department of History at the University of Buenos Aires and an Associate at the Center for the Study of State and Society in Buenos Aires.
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