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‘Todo en la vida se paga’: Negotiating life in Cusco, Peru

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportBogForskningfagfællebedømt

  • Astrid Bredholt Stensrud
This thesis is an ethnographic study of entrepreneurial activities and animistic practices in a working class neighbourhood in Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes. Drawing on more than two years of fieldwork, the thesis argues that the neoliberal economy of Cusco, at the beginning of the 21st century, is embedded, not only in sociality, morality and forms of relatedness, but also in an Andean ontology which implies a particular way of seeing relations among persons, places and things.
After three decades of neoliberal restructuring of the economy, economic crisis, and a devastating civil war, today’s Peru is actually witnessing overall economic growth on the national level. However, this is an economy of deep inequalities, where as much as 70 per cent of the labour force works outside the tax system, depriving workers of benefits and protection. Cusco’s economy is characterized by a high degree of underemployment, self-employment, and informality. The thesis examines the activities of people who create their own micro-enterprises in this unstable urban economy. These micro-enterprises are utterly vulnerable in a world where profit margins are extremely low. In this context the thesis explores the cultural conceptualizations of money and profitability, as well as the ambiguous moralities in webs of credit and debt.
The central argument is that a particular Andean “animistic-analogic” ontology, in which mimetic practices constitute a significant part of being-in-the-world, shapes the ways people engage the contemporary neoliberal landscape of economic opportunity and constraint. Mobilising a local idiom ‘everything has to be paid for’, the thesis seeks to explain how the flows of energy and resources are enmeshed in circuits of reciprocal exchange and how the relations between people and other-than-human beings are central to local understandings of wealth generation and social responsibility. By not seeing “nature” and “culture” as separate, the author argues that other-than-human beings, such as the earthmother, mountain spirits, saints and crosses, are relevant and take part in Cusco’s urban economy.
In a world where personhood is accumulative rather than fixed, engaging in social and ritual relations is utterly important. In this light, the thesis explores the tensions between “independence”, social mobility, opportunity and risk on the one hand, and the security of being part of webs of relatedness, that entail more conservative values, on the other. Moreover, the thesis describes how relations of gender, class and kinship are created and negotiated in everyday acts of exchange, stressing the combination of entrepreneurial determination and community values.
The thesis analyses the urban entrepreneurial practices in light of current debates in economic anthropology as well as the work of Andeanist scholars linked to contemporary debates on analogism, perspectivism and the mimetic. This thesis contributes to the ethnographic knowledge of economic life in the Andes in a neoliberal context, and more broadly to the anthropological understanding of the interrelations between economy, sociality and cosmology.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
Udgivelses stedOslo
ForlagUniversity of Oslo
Antal sider348
StatusUdgivet - 2011
NavnSeries of dissertations submitted to the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo
Vol/bind297
ISSN1504-3991

ID: 37771256