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‘To work is to transform the land’: agricultural labour, personhood and landscape in an Andean ayllu

Sheild Johansson, Clara Miranda (2013) ‘To work is to transform the land’: agricultural labour, personhood and landscape in an Andean ayllu. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis analyses the central role of agricultural labour in the construction of personhood, landscape and work in an Andean ayllu. It is an ethnographic study based on fieldwork in a small subsistence farming village in the highlands of Bolivia. In employing a practice‐led approach and emphasising everyday labour, ambiguity and the realities of history and political power play, rather than the ayllu’s ‘core characteristics’ of complementarity and communality, the thesis moves away from the structuralist approaches which have dominated this field of study. In this setting, agricultural activity, llank’ay, (to transform the land), fills and shapes the days and seasons throughout the year. Llank’ay goes beyond economistic definitions of ‘work’ to include leisure, politics and everyday practice: it is bound up with myths of cosmogony, notions of value, the power of the land and a basic belief in what it is to be a human. The thesis examines the importance of llank’ay through several prisms: the tasks of the agricultural year and how these are crucial to the development of personhood; the mediating role of llank’ay in claims to land and inter‐village relationships of reciprocity; the effects of Protestant conversion and the role of llank’ay in sustaining an animate landscape; the intersection of llank’ay with other forms of work; migration and the outcomes of discontinuing llank’ay. I conclude that in this ayllu the practice of agricultural activity transforms people and land, creates belonging and communality and shapes the local concept of what labour is. It in turn creates the structures and limits within which people and land can be transformed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Clara Miranda Sheild Johansson
Library of Congress subject classification: E History America > E11 America (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: James, Deborah

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