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Indigenous modernity and its malcontents: family, religion and tradition in highland Ecuador

Haisell, Simon (2017) Indigenous modernity and its malcontents: family, religion and tradition in highland Ecuador. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

A growing body of work on modern indigenous culture in the Andes has focused on various aspects of an urban, transnational and cosmopolitan identity. However, what does indigenous modernity mean in the poorest region of highland Ecuador, where indigenous identity continues to be associated with rural traditions, poverty, and racialised marginalisation? This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork in two rural communities in the canton of Guamote in central Ecuador. Looking at narratives of family life, religion, and tradition, it explores ambivalent engagements with modernity. In less than forty years Guamote has been transformed dramatically. Once the heartland of both the Catholic Church and the haciendas, land and local government is now in indigenous control, whilst Protestantism is steadily gaining converts in the communities. Meanwhile, the local economy has become dependent on domestic migration to the coast and the highland cities. However despite wide-ranging social, cultural and economic changes, Guamote remains an extremely poor and marginalised region. Rising aspirations have not been met and modernisation has brought its own problems. How has this frustrated modernity affected ethnic identity in Guamote? This thesis argues that, rather than understanding indigenous modernity as the hybridisation of tradition and modernity, it is more productive to look at the contemporary interaction of two frameworks of indigeneity - relatedness and alterity - that both have their roots in the colonial and postcolonial Andes. Through negotiating these related but distinct ways of being indigenous, people in Guamote make various decisions with regard to family, religion and tradition. In their nuanced and pragmatic responses to lives stretched out between city and community, and even between opposed religions, Guamoteños complicate the dichotomies of urban/rural and traditional/modern. Through stories of work and education, migration and conversion, drinking and dancing, this research explores what it means to be modern and indigenous in Ecuador.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Simon Haisell
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2017 16:11
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2017 16:11
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/20072

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