Performativity, performance, and indigenous activism in Ecuador and the Andes

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​​To explain causality between ethnic consciousness and indigenous political activism in the Andes, scholars have proposed two perspectives. Some argue that ethnic consciousness was pre-existing; others claim that it was the product of political organizational processes. In this study, I demonstrate that the ethnic consciousness of Ecuadorian indigenous Andeans has been a dialogical work-in-progress that has hinged significantly on the emergence of self-conscious cultural performance. I analyze the trajectory from submission to assertiveness of Ecuadorian indigenous Andeans and compare it with the Peruvian and Bolivian cases, focusing on the ways in which performance and performativity have constructed indigeneity as a social reality. Performance implies a bounded act done by a subject who consciously performs, whereas performativity refers to the construction of the subject by the reiteration of norms. The research investigates three interrelated fields that are crucial in the constitution of indigeneity the performativity of racial and ethnic hierarchies, the performance of indigenous culture during protest, and the performance of indigenous festivities. Considering that social hierarchies are iteratively constructed and that cultural performance is part and parcel of the political redress of cultural difference, I argue that through cultural performance Ecuadorian and Bolivian indigenous Andeans have been able to undermine the ways in which performativity has constituted them as subaltern subjects. This transformation has not happened in the Peru, where indigenous Andeans still feel that indigeneity is a stigmatized condition.
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