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Mixing and its challenges: an ethnography of race, kinship and history in a village of Afro-indigenous descent in coastal Peru

Hale, Tamara (2014) Mixing and its challenges: an ethnography of race, kinship and history in a village of Afro-indigenous descent in coastal Peru. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis, based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork, is about ordinary Peruvians of mixed African slave and indigenous descent. It shows that villagers in Yapatera, northern Peru, have responded to contradictory historical forces through everyday practices of ‘mixing’. Villagers live in a society that officially downplays the significance of race while it simultaneously discriminates against non-white ‘others’. The thesis finds that villagers reject the ethnic (‘AfroPeruvian’) and racial (‘black’) labels cast upon them by outsiders, and instead illustrates how villagers are engaged in a variety of social practices and local narratives which stress the cultural, social, religious, political and economic integration of the community into the local region, and which seek to deemphasise its potential ethnic distinctiveness. ‘Mixing’ permeates through villagers’ ideas and practices relating to human physiology, procreation, descent, marriage, personhood, historicity, religion, place-making, local politics, and relations with the state. However, mixing is ultimately a fragile project. ‘Race’, as a social divider, reappears often in the very practices or domains where mixing occurs. Mixing itself can be understood as an attempt to overcome thinly-veiled local racist discourses. It is also an attempt to negotiate oneself out of the very undesirable category of ‘black’, and as such it bears continuities with historical social practices. Mixing is not so much an outright resistance to racism, nor is it a straightforward appropriation of nationalist ideologies. Instead mixing is to be understood as an alternative form of knowledge: an autochthonous attempt to engage with these external forces. By bridging the gap between Andean anthropology and the study of Afro-descendants in a variety of disciplines, the thesis helps fill a gap on mestizaje as a form of lived experience. By highlighting the central role of kinship in ideas and practices of mixing, it also indicates the wider implications of mixing for anthropological theory.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Tamara Hale
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Astuti, Rita

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