The Metamorphosis of Heads

The Metamorphosis of Heads: Textual Struggles, Education, and Land in the Andes

Denise Y. Arnold
With Juan de Dios Yapita
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjrn0
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Metamorphosis of Heads
    Book Description:

    Since the days of the Spanish Conquest, the indigenous populations of Andean Bolivia have struggled to preserve their textile-based writings. This struggle continues today, both in schools and within the larger culture.The Metamorphosis of Headsexplores the history and cultural significance of Andean textile writings--weavings and kipus (knotted cords), and their extreme contrasts in form and production from European alphabet-based texts. Denise Arnold examines the subjugation of native texts in favor of European ones through the imposition of homogenized curricula by the Educational Reform Law. As Arnold reveals, this struggle over language and education directly correlates to long-standing conflicts for land ownership and power in the region, since the majority of the more affluent urban population is Spanish speaking, while indigenous languages are spoken primarily among the rural poor.The Metamorphosis of Headsacknowledges the vital importance of contemporary efforts to maintain Andean history and cultural heritage in schools, and shows how indigenous Andean populations have incorporated elements of Western textual practices into their own textual activities.

    Based on extensive fieldwork over two decades, and historical, anthropological, and ethnographic research, Denise Arnold assembles an original and richly diverse interdisciplinary study. The textual theory she proposes has wider ramifications for studies of Latin America in general, while recognizing the specifically regional practices of indigenous struggles in the face of nation building and economic globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7102-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book examines how the centuries-long struggle for sovereignty in the Andes is played out in conflicting ideas over the nature of writing. It traces at one extreme the colonial confrontation over the expression of divine power, personified in the fateful encounter at Cajamarca in 1532 between the Inka leader Atawallpa, whose textual polity, or textual basis of government, was founded in cloth, and representatives of the Spanish Church, whose textual authority was inscribed in the Holy Scriptures. At the other extreme is the everyday reality of modern neoliberal politics in Bolivia, where the current educational reform program’s more secular...

  6. PART 1. TEXTUAL STRUGGLES
    • 1 ANDEAN TEXTUAL POLITY
      (pp. 19-37)

      The world’s remaking in the 1990s through information technology and communications has been unforeseen and all-encompassing. An electronic interface has enveloped daily life and manners of conducting business, with new communication media (computing, digital display, optical fibers, mobile telephones, e-mail, visible languages, geographic information systems) and textual practices (writing onto a computer screen, manipulating a PlayStation, or weaving a technotextile made of fiber-optic threads).

      However, these new directions in technological development are rooted in the past and linked to countless institutions. One aspect of this technological dynamics is the role of communication media, and the textual practices associated with them,...

    • 2 COLONIZING TEXTS AND THE STRUGGLE OVER MEANINGS
      (pp. 38-66)

      With the Spanish Conquest, the resulting contact between different texts and forms of writing, as well as different textual, numerical, and literary practices, initiated a textual struggle of epic proportions. Since then, overlapping textual fields have coexisted as historical strata of practices and interpretations,lapsus memoriaein time and space between one practice or another, one interpretation or another, amid the play of interests in reproducing one or another element of society.

      The present attempt by the educational reform to disseminate alphabetic writing in regions such as Qaqachaka “in a different way” is not entirely new, since it logically follows...

  7. PART 2. THE ROSTRUM OF HEADS
    • 3 LAND, SEEDS, AND LETTERS: THE CYCLES OF PRODUCTION AND REPRODUCTION
      (pp. 69-86)

      Part 1 showed how the gradual textual domination of alphabetic writing occurred within a series of alliances between state and ecclesiastical policies, a social order and a discursive formation. Beginning with the Spanish Conquest (and the encounter at Cajamarca), this domination was strengthened by the formation of the nation-state and the republic, and since then been introduced massively into the school precincts. In parallel, this same process was interpreted by Andean populations according to their own textual practices, and incorporated into their own struggles for land. However, the textual basis of this means of interpreting and incorporating schooling on the...

    • 4 CYCLES OF METAMORPHOSIS: THE CHILDREN AS ENEMIES
      (pp. 87-109)

      Within the nexus of community-state relations, Andean childhood hinges on the ambiguous role of children in the reproduction of two textual polities: that of the state, through the textual practices of schooling, and that of theayllu, through the textual practices of the community. Once this ambiguity is understood, then we can approach an Andean view of “interculturality.”

      In part, the differential role of children in both textual polities derives from their function in overlapping tributary systems. In this tributary context, official state history gives emphasis to the institution of schooling as a place to forge the homogenization of the...

    • 5 WARRIORS AND WEAVERS: THE PATHWAYS OF LEARNING IN THE COMMUNITY
      (pp. 110-132)

      With the Spanish Conquest and five hundred years of colonization, republicanism, modernization, and now globalization, many formal Andean educational institutions—theaqlla wasi, houses of learning for young weavers, and theyachay wasi, schools for the sons of caciques—were wiped out or seriously undermined. But other aspects of the regional educational apparatus, with textual roots in the previous period, continued in changed and adapted forms. It is to these we now turn.

      The systematic communal educational practices found in Livichuco and other rural communities of the region challenge the point of view that holds there is no “formal” education...

    • 6 THE CYCLES OF LIBATIONS IN SCHOOL RITUALS
      (pp. 133-158)

      The school premises, as a primary mediating space between the community and the state, articulates a historical stratification of multiple intercultural encounters. What happens, then, in the ceremonial activities of schooling organized by the state in rural areas to instill in local participants a sense of nationhood? More specifically, how do community members, pupils, and teachers interpret school rituals from their differing perspectives and varying degrees of involvement as citizens in the Bolivian nation-state?

      Given the Andean theory of textuality we posited earlier, let us now examine what role those national rituals with their host of symbols (flags, uniforms, tribunes,...

  8. PART 3. ANDEAN TEXTS AND THEIR INTERPRETATION
    • 7 CYCLES OF MEMORY: THE INKA’S VOICE
      (pp. 161-182)

      Regional ways of reading and writing alphabetic script have been a fundamental part of Andean textual practices for centuries. Emergent in the historical struggle for lands through the competent handling of written documents, these techniques were later transferred to the classroom and the traditional didactic methods practiced there.

      Now we trace the historical roots of these ongoing regional reading and writing practices, their status “in accordance with the law,” and their ties to notions of corporeality. We show how fundamental ideas about memory, vocal power, and the genealogy and continuity of life, based originally in weaving, were transferred to written...

    • 8 CYCLES OF SOUND: PRAYERS AND THE “RAIN OF LETTERS,”
      (pp. 183-206)

      While many traditional oral and written schoolroom practices in the Andes derive from a regional interpretation of European reading and writing, they derive most specifically from the reception by Andean populations of colonial ways of teaching (and learning) Christian doctrine. At stake was a struggle over doctrinal corpus. Each party in the struggle (Andean populations and Christian colonizers) had distinct sources, rationales, and methods of reasoning that they drew on.

      To demonstrate that this is so, we first locate the evangelization program of the first decades of the colony, especially Christian instruction carried out in native languages, in the atmosphere...

    • 9 THE CORPOREALITY OF KIPUS: TOWARD A MATHEMATICS INCARNATE
      (pp. 207-224)

      We examine now regional textual practices in their own right, including the numerical operations they facilitate. First we describe the social and corporeal logic of kipus, both in historical examples and in contemporary ethnographies of the region, where there do seem to be certain analogies in key concepts between historical and contemporary practices. Then we describe the numerical and mnemonic systems that might underlie the cultural and textual logic of the knotted kipu, and finally the uses of kipus and textiles in the cognitive and didactic systems in the region of Qaqachaka today.

      In each case, we show how regional...

    • 10 KIPU, NUMBER, AND WRITING
      (pp. 225-243)

      Now we examine the numerical and mnemonic systems that underlie the processing of information through practices based in kipus and textiles, in the context of an Andean theory of textuality. These include the learning of these practices by young people at a pragmatic level in rural communities, as well as the more metaphysical dimensions of the discursive practices in which they are immersed. Both these aspects derive in turn from knowledge systems and controlled sets of numerical and mnemonic practices in the hands of authoritative practitioners that follow certain key institutional structures in order to facilitate their reproduction over time....

    • 11 TEXTUAL LOGIC IN THE ANDES
      (pp. 244-272)

      Let us return now to the question of Andean weaving as writing, in the context of regional ideas about metaphysics and the ontology of being. Our challenge is how we might add, from a perspective centered in Andean texts, to the European debate inspired by Derrida about the status in theory and practice of distinct definitions of writing, and the more Amerindian-centered debate, inspired by the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, concerning ontological depredation and its cultural consequences.

      We saw how, faced with the history of European texts, Derrida’s deconstructivist stance takes as its point of departure the articulation...

    • 12 TOWARD AN ANDEAN TEXTUAL THEORY
      (pp. 273-290)

      The regional theory of textuality we develop in this book, on the basis of a critical reading of the work of Jacques Derrida, seeks to clarify the nature of textual struggle (and the struggle for sovereignty) in the Andes since the Spanish Conquest, as founded in different ideas about writing and its status in the world. Derrida’s work was useful for its exploration of universal concepts about writing that include both European and Andean variants. This allowed us to compare Andean ideas based on cloth about being, knowing, and personhood with European ideas about these same notions based on writing,...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 291-302)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 303-322)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 323-330)