Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice across Andean Worlds

Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice across Andean Worlds

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Earth Beings is the fruit of Marisol de la Cadena's decade-long conversations with Mariano and Nazario Turpo, father and son, runakuna or Quechua people. Concerned with the mutual entanglements of indigenous and nonindigenous worlds, and the partial connections between them, de la Cadena presents how the Turpos' indigenous ways of knowing and being include and exceed modern and nonmodern practices. Her discussion of indigenous political strategies—a realm that need not abide by binary logics—reconfigures how to think about and question modern politics, while pushing her readers to think beyond "hybridity" and toward translation, communication that accepts incommensurability, and mutual difference as conditions for ethnography to work. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822375265
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 09/17/2015
Series: The Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures , #2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
File size: 14 MB
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About the Author

Marisol de la Cadena is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, and the author of Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919–1991, also published by Duke University Press.

Read an Excerpt

Earth Beings

Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds

By Marisol De La Cadena

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2015 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-7526-5



There are things to remember, these friends, these sisters have come here, we are getting together, we are conversing, we are remembering. Yuyaykunapaq kanman, huq amigunchiskuna, panachiskuna chayamun, chaywan tupashayku, chaywan parlarisayku, yuyarisayku.


At the National Museum of the American Indian, and most specifically within the walls that circumscribe the Quechua Community exhibit, there are pictures of most of its curators: Nazario Turpo; a councilwoman from Pisac; and two anthropology professors from the University of Cuzco, Aurelio Carmona and Jorge Flores Ochoa. Nazario's picture includes his family — his wife, children, and grandchildren — and his dearest friend, Octavio Crispn. The caption explains he is "a paqu — a spiritual leader or shaman." Carmona is described as an ethno-archaeologist and professor of anthropology who "is also a shaman who studies and practices traditional medicine." And Flores Ochoa says of Carmona and himself: "We are anthropologists of our people. We feel and practice those things — we are not a group that just observes." All of these curators attended the inauguration of the museum, where I took the picture that I offer here.

Anthropology is part of these pictures — those at the exhibit and the one I took — and behind anthropology, as we all know, there is translation (Asad 1986; Chakrabarty 2000; Liu 1999; Rafael 2003; Viveiros de Castro 2004b). Importantly, there are differences in the relationship between translation and my practice of anthropology in Cuzco, and that of Carmona and Flores Ochoa in the same region. I was born in Lima. Quechua is not my native language, and my proficiency is weak. In contrast, Carmona and Flores Ochoa were born in the southern Andes of Peru and are native speakers of both Quechua and Spanish. When they interacted with Nazario — whether as anthropologists or as friends — they did not need translation. However, the Turpos and I could not avoid it. Articulated at the intersection of disciplinary practice and regional belonging, this difference — and not only my theoretical views — made translation a very tangible feature in my relationship with Mariano and Nazario. Through our conversations we worked together to understand each other, colaboring through linguistic and conceptual hurdles, assisted by many intermediaries, particularly Elizabeth Mamani. Our joint labor created the conversations that we could consider "the original" for this book. Thus it was not Nazario's or Mariano's cultural text that I translated. Instead, the original — which, I repeat, consisted of our conversations — was composed in translation by many of us. Inevitably, as Walter Benjamin warned, in crafting our conversations we selected "what could also be written [or talked among us] in the translator's own language" — in this case, Quechua and Spanish, and their conceptual practices (Benjamin 2002, 251). Countering the usual feeling that regrets what is lost in translation, my sense is that in co-laboring with Mariano and Nazario I gained an awareness of the limits of our mutual understanding and, as important, of that which exceeded translation and even stopped it.

This first story in the book is about how Mariano, Nazario, and I got to know each other. It recounts the initial conversations and the agreements that led to the book, and the last dialogues that Nazario and I had. The first discussions set the terms of our working together; they describe the pact the Turpo family and I made. When Mariano died two years into our conversations, I began working with Nazario — who as I mentioned in the preface, became a very dear friend. Although I start this narrative foregrounding translation, it was only during our last visits that I became aware of the intricate manner in which it had mediated our conversations and created a shared space of sensations, practices, and words, the valence of which neither of us could fully grasp. After Nazario's death, and as I wrote and thought through this book, the feeling of those last conversations made it palpable that no translation would be capacious enough to allow me to know certain practices. I could translate them, but that did not mean I knew them. And frequently not knowing was not a question of leaving meaning behind, because for many practices or words there was no such thing as meaning. The practices were what my friends did, and the words were what they said; but what those practices did or what those words said escaped my knowing. Of course I described them in forms that I could understand; but when I turned those practices or words into what I could grasp, that — what I was describing — was not what those practices did, or what those words said. Our communication (as with any conversation) did not depend on sharing single, cleanly overlapping notions; yet very particularly, it did not depend on making our different notions equivalent. Were I to have created equivalences, they would have erased the difference between us, and this — the difference — was too palpable (and its conceptual challenge important) to allow inadvertent erasures. Our conversation was "partially connected," in Marilyn Strathern's sense (2004; see also Green 2005; Haraway 1991; Wagner 1991). Intriguingly, in our case, this partial connection was composed of, among other elements, our shared and dissimilar condition as Peruvians. Our ways of knowing, practicing, and making our distinct worlds — our worldings, or ways of making worlds — had been "circuited" together and shared practices for centuries; however, they had not become one. In the circuit, some practices have become subordinate, of course, but they have not disappeared into those that became dominant, nor did they merge into a single and simple hybrid. Rather, they have remained distinct, if connected — almost symbiotically so, if I may borrow from biology. Inhabiting this historical condition that enabled us to constantly know and not know what the other one was talking about, my friends' explanations conversed with mine, and mine with theirs, and inflected the dialogue with our heterogeneity. I translated what they said into what I could understand, and this understanding was full of the gaps of what I did not get. It worked the same way for Nazario and Mariano, but their awareness of this process was not new. They were used to partial connections in their complex dealings with the worlds beyond Pacchanta, which also emerged in Pacchanta without consuming its difference. On things that are partially connected, John Law writes: "The argument is that 'this' (whatever 'this' may be) is included in 'that,' but 'this' cannot be reduced to 'that'" (2004, 64). To paraphrase: my world was included in the world that my friends inhabited and vice versa, but their world could not be reduced to mine, or mine to theirs. Aware of this condition in a manner that does not need to be expressed in words, we knew that our being together joined worlds that were distinct and also the same. And rather than maintaining the separation that the difference caused, we chose to explore the difference together. Using the tools from each of our worlds, we worked to understand what we could about the other's world and created a shared space that was also made by something that was uncommon to each of us.

Like the conversations I had with my two friends, this book is composed in translation and through partial connections. It is through partially connected translations — and also partially translated connections — that I reflect on the complexities across worlds that formed Mariano's and Nazario's lives. Those worlds extended from Ausangate to Washington, D.C., and emerged through the institutions of the nation-state called Peru (which in turn identify my friends as peasants or Indians) and within it the region of Cuzco geopolitically demarcated as a "department." Across worlds Mariano partnered with leftist politicians who considered him a smart political organizer and an Indian (and therefore not quite a politician), and Nazario worked as an "Andean shaman" for a tourist agency that catered to relatively wealthy foreigners interested in New Age experiences or simply in the exotic. And whether in their relations with the state or the regional tourist economy, tirakuna — which, to remind the reader, I translate as earth-beings — had a presence that blurred the known distinction between humans and nature, for they shared some features of being with runakuna. Significantly, earth-beings (or what I would call a mountain, a river, a lagoon) are also an important presence for non-runakuna: for example, urbanites, like the two anthropologists that accompanied Nazario to the National Musem of the American Indian (NMAI), or rural folks like the landowner Mariano fought against. Emerging from these relations is a socionatural region that participates of more than one mode of being. Cuzco — the place that my friends and the aforementioned anthropologists inhabit — is a socionatural territory composed by relations among the people and earth-beings, and demarcated by a modern regional state government. Within it, practices that can be called indigenous and nonindigenous infiltrate and emerge in each other, shaping lives in ways that, it should be clear, do not correspond to the division between nonmodern and modern. Instead, they confuse that division and reveal the complex historicity that makes the region "never modern" (see Latour 1993b). What I mean, as will gradually become clear throughout this first story, is that Cuzco has never been singular or plural, never one world and therefore never many either, but a composition (perhaps a constant translation) in which the languages and practices of its worlds constantly overlap and exceed each other.

The Agreements That Made This Book

Importantly, I was the last in a long line of anthropologists that the Turpos had met throughout their lives. Carmona was the first one. Under the guidance of Mariano, Carmona became what the NMAI translated as a shaman in the caption I quoted at the beginning of this chapter. Nazario and Mariano referred to him as "someone who could." Their relationship began in the 1970s, during the initial years of agrarian reform, the process through which the state had expropriated the land from the hacendado in 1969. A social scientist working for the state, Carmona arrived in what had until recently been the hacienda Lauramarca, which the state had already intervened and transformed into a cooperativa agraria. To supplement his income, the Turpos said, Carmona loaned people money in exchange for local weavings — ponchos; women's shawls known as llicllas; and chullos, or men's wool caps. He then sold the weavings in Cuzco, which in those days was a good two days' journey from Pacchanta. In his position as a state official, Carmona met Mariano Turpo, then an important political leader; they probably also engaged in commercial exchanges, trading wool for money. But their interactions went beyond official politics and economic business. According to Nazario, Carmona sought out his father because he wanted to know about the local earth-beings — and Mariano taught him everything he knew. They also learned together, exchanging information about cures, herbs, and the different earth-beings that each of them were familiar with. When I met Carmona, he was earning his living as a faculty member at the Universidad San Antonio Abad del Cusco. His courses, like those of many of his colleagues, were classified under the label of "Andean culture." Nazario would say that Carmona teaches what Mariano taught him: That was how Dr. Carmona learned. Later, he learned more, little by little and looking at books [reading], he learned more. Now he teaches anthropology and teaches what my father taught him. That is how he makes his money; he does not sell ponchos anymore.

After Carmona, many outsiders followed. Conversations between local indigenous knowers (politicians, chamanes, dancers, and weavers) and travelers of all sorts (anthropologists, filmmakers, tourists, New Age healers, and entrepreneurs) are frequent in the area. Hence, when I met them, Mariano and Nazario were veterans in interacting with people like me, and not only in Pacchanta, their village. They were also a familiar presence at Universidad San Antonio Abad del Cusco, where they addressed students' questions about Ausangate and other earth-beings of equal or lesser rank. Their circle of intellectual acquaintances was not limited to Cuzqueños, and while "Andean culture" was the topic of conversation in the 2000s, this had not been the case before. Well known as a local "peasant leader" between the 1950s and 1970s, Mariano had met social scientists, journalists, and photographers to whom he relayed stories about the struggle against the hacienda, the agrarian reform, the expansion of the market place in Ocongate, and the ups and downs of the wool market. He had met good and bad important people, both runakuna and mistikuna. He had seen his name published in history books and newspapers. "They published my speech in the newspaper," he told Rosalind Gow, remembering how he had addressed a national leftist meeting in the 1960s (1981, 189). After earning political visibility, Mariano had commanded huge respect among runakuna. Rosalind Gow wrote: "At assemblies he always took the seat of honor and people jumped to obey his commands" (1981, 191). Times had definitely changed when I arrived in Pacchanta. People walk past me, and there is no good morning or good afternoon for me, after all I did for them, Mariano complained. He also explained that younger people in his surroundings seemed to take their "freedom" (Mariano's word) for granted. Almost everybody had forgotten Lauramarca, the huge hacienda (81,746 hectares) (Reátegui 1977, 2) that had enslaved the local people since the turn of the twentieth century and that Mariano, along with other leaders like him, had fought against politically and legally (in the courts) for nearly twenty years beginning in the 1950s, when they inherited the struggle from their predecessors. When I arrived in Pacchanta, Mariano was the only one of those leaders left; the rest were dead, except for one who had left the region some years ago and never returned. Oblivion was dangerous, Mariano thought. He had heard that times were changing again, that the agrarian reform was being dismantled in many places, and that hacendados could return. I am not certain that runakuna would ever forget the "time of the hacienda," but the idea that they were indeed forgetting was generalized, even beyond the Turpo family. This made our conversation possible.

So, agreeing on the need to remember Mariano's deeds against the hacienda, and with the "more or less" tone of a tentative accord, we set the terms of our relationship. A very explicit accord, almost a condition, was that Mariano would be the central actor in the book. It would be written "in his name." With respect to themes, we thought that we would all decide on them, with Nazario and Benito frequently helping their father to remember, given his old age. When and how often we would meet to work on the book was also a point to be negotiated. Given his age, Mariano did not work in the fields or graze sheep and alpacas; he was generally at home and, if his ailments permitted, he would be able to talk with me almost any time I wished. Given my own work schedule in the United States, I usually arrived during the high tourist season, between June and September, when both of Mariano's sons were busy — Nazario commuting weekly to work with the travel agency in Cuzco, and Benito buying and selling sheep meat at regional marketplaces. I had to understand that my visits more often than not were "a waste of time" for them, as Nazario politely but clearly told me. Remembering "properly" was another condition. Although the younger were forgetting, older people of Benito's age and up — he was five during the peak period of the confrontation, Nazario was around ten or twelve — remembered, but I could not go to them directly; the brothers would have to ask if they wanted to talk to me, or if they wanted to talk about Mariano at all, even with his sons. Memories were controversial, and some might want to contradict Mariano's recollections and represent him in a bad light to their own benefit. But Nazario and Benito would definitely ask people to help them remember; if everything went well and the opportunity arose, they would talk to others and ask them to remember, even when I was not there. Another important agreement was to have witnesses to our conversations; there were rumors that the Turpos were working with me, earning money individually by relaying information about Pacchanta, a topic and place concerning all families there. People would want to either stop the Turpos' business or participate in it. To dampen the rumors, Octavio Crispn would be present at as many of our conversations as his schedule allowed. But I also had to ask permission in a communal assembly (this I expected, for it is almost routine when foreigners spend time in comunidades campesinas, the name the state uses for some rural villages) and clearly explain the nature of my work. They wanted me to state very explicitly who was paying me (I also expected to clarify this), and that I in turn was not paying Mariano, Benito, or Nazario. So I did: I attended an asamblea comunal, explained the purpose of my visits to Pacchanta, and responded to questions. Then we started working.


Excerpted from Earth Beings by Marisol De La Cadena. Copyright © 2015 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents

Foreword  xi

Preface. Ending This Book without Nazario Turpo  xv

Story 1. Agreeing to Remember, Translating, and Carefully Co-laboring  1

Interlude 1. Mariano Turpo: A Leader In-Ayllu 35

Story 2. Mariano Engages "the Land Struggle": An Unthinkable Indian Leader  59

Story 3. Mariano's Cosmopolitics: Between Lawyers and Ausangate  91

Story 4. Mariano's Archive: The Eventfulness of the Ahistorical  117

Interlude 2. Nazario Turpo: "The Altomisayuq Who Went to Heaven"  153

Story 5. Chamanismo Andino in the Third Millennium: Multiculturalism Meets Earth-Beings  179

Story 6. A Comedy of Equivocations: Nazario Turpo's Collaboration with the National Musuem of the American Indian  209

Story 7. Munayniyuq: The Owner of the Will (and How to Control That Will)  243

Epilogue. Ethnographic Cosmopolitics  273

Acknowledgments  287

Notes  291

References  303

Index  317

What People are Saying About This

When Species Meet - Donna J. Haraway

"It matters which stories tell stories. A leader in rethinking the partial connections and excessive entanglements of state and indigenous worlds in the Andes and beyond, Marisol de la Cadena writes stories that make this simple aphorism lively indeed. It matters which stories normalize other stories and which build the power in recursive retellings and reworkings to gnaw at the established order of things in vexed worlds. Especially when material stories are also told by earth others, exacting their reciprocal consequences on both state and indigenous human actors, what is at stake is not cultural diversity or epistemological relativism, but something much closer to worlding, to composing and decomposing some worlds and not others with unexpected partners. Earth Beings helps me rethink these matters through the churning of a mountain."

Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes - Arturo Escobar

"Earth Beings is one of those books that emerge into the scholarly domain once in a decade that crystallizes that decade's debates and rearticulates them in ways that open paths into new worlds."

Marilyn Strathern

"In response to its own subject, this is an extraordinary intervention in ethnography. Marisol de la Cadena writes not across genres—different perspectives on one entity—but in a way that allows different entities to emerge, and they're not 'genres' at all. Diverse narratives, conversations, and recollections can be read simultaneously as scholarly tools and as making present realities they can hardly contain. A highly courageous and, in personal terms, deeply moving book."

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