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Performing Kinship

Performing Kinship

Krista E. Van Vleet
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    Performing Kinship
    Book Description:

    In the highland region of Sullk'ata, located in the rural Bolivian Andes, habitual activities such as sharing food, work, and stories create a sense of relatedness among people. Through these day-to-day interactions-as well as more unusual events-individuals negotiate the affective bonds and hierarchies of their relationships. In Performing Kinship, Krista E. Van Vleet reveals the ways in which relatedness is evoked, performed, and recast among the women of Sullk'ata.

    Portraying relationships of camaraderie and conflict, Van Vleet argues that narrative illuminates power relationships, which structure differences among women as well as between women and men. She also contends that in the Andes gender cannot be understood without attention to kinship.

    Stories such as that of the young woman who migrates to the city to do domestic work and later returns to the highlands voicing a deep ambivalence about the traditional authority of her in-laws provide enlightening examples of the ways in which storytelling enables residents of Sullk'ata to make sense of events and link themselves to one another in a variety of relationships. A vibrant ethnography, Performing Kinship offers a rare glimpse into an compelling world.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79440-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. ONE Introduction Relative Intimacies, Storied Lives
    (pp. 1-26)

    People who live in the rural Andean highlands of Sullk’ata, Bolivia, establish “relatedness”—that is, bonds of belonging and affiliation—through their interactions with each other. They create and maintain relatedness through habitual everyday activities such as eating together, sharing work, and sleeping under the same roof. Sullk’atas also navigate their relationships with each other through more intensely emotional performances and occasionally violent interactions— and stories about them. A woman wonders how the child she helped raise has forgotten that she is also his mother. Elderly couples sorrow for children who have migrated to cities and are “no longer Sullk’atas.”...

  6. TWO Sullk’ata Contexts Reflections on Identities and Localities
    (pp. 27-54)

    Eulogio left kallpa, where he was born and raised, to live in the city of Sucre in the dry, cold month of August 1995. His wife had died, shortly after giving birth to their second daughter. Even though two years had passed, Eulogio occasionally encountered his wife’s alma (soul, Sp.) or ghost. Sometimes the alma appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, at other times in their fields planted with potatoes or corn. Frightened by the presence of the alma, Eulogio decided he could no longer live in the rural community. He left his children, a precocious five-year-old named Laura...

  7. THREE Circulation of Care A Primer on Sullk’ata Relatedness
    (pp. 55-78)

    To be alone (sapalla) in an Andean community is to be poor (waqcha). The word waqcha also means “orphan,” a person without ties of kinship or compadrazgo. Most of the people living in Kallpa, the Sullk’ata community that I came to know best, either had been born in one of the small adobe houses that surrounded the plaza and lined the ravine or had married someone who had been born there. Although many Sullk’atas travel throughout the region and have lived in cities in Bolivia, Argentina, or even Spain, their everyday lives in the rural community are conducted in a...

  8. FOUR Narrating Sorrow, Performing Relatedness A Story Told in Conversation
    (pp. 79-98)

    I remember one of the first times I visited Lorenzo and María. When I arrived at their house in the afternoon, Lorenzo was in the courtyard. He invited me in but told me that María was still away from the house, herding her sheep. I reminded him that I had come to visit him as well as María. Lorenzo possessed a far-reaching understanding of the political organization of the ayllu and had agreed to tell me about its history. As the alcalde, the highest-ranking authority in Kallpa, he had the knowledge and authority to advise me about the ayllu. I...

  9. FIVE Storied Silences Adolescent Desires, Gendered Agency, and the Practice of Stealing Women
    (pp. 99-128)

    Julia was washing her clothes by the stream when I went down to get water. I squatted down next to her where she was sitting on top of the concrete-covered reservoir. She poured a little extra powdered soap into her basin even though the suds were floating over the rim. Women who could afford ace powdered soap rather than a bar of laundry soap used it to wash everything from dishes and clothing to hair. I asked her when she’d be going back to Santa Cruz, where she worked as a domestic servant in the home of a wealthier Bolivian...

  10. SIX Reframing the Married Couple Affect and Exchange in Three Parts
    (pp. 129-160)

    Marriage is so much a part of the experience of almost every adult in Sullk’ata that the practices and the everyday contingencies of married life are assumed as “simple experience” and “common sense” (Williams 1977:110).¹ In many Andean regions, including Sullk’ata, a person must be married and have children, and ideally contribute to the ayllu by farming the land and participating in the cargo system, in order to be a mature human being. Yet in regard to this transition from childhood to adulthood, the Sullk’atas that I know would agree with the words of a Peruvian mother of the bride:...

  11. SEVEN “Now My Daughter Is Alone” Violence and the Ambiguities of Affinity
    (pp. 161-182)

    In late december 1995 the Ley contra Violencia Familiar (Ley 1674) or Law against Family Violence was signed by President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. By the time I left Bolivia in July 1996 the law had been advertised for months. Broadcast in Quechua from the popular Llallagua radio station Pío Doce, the most dramatic of the two commercials began with a woman screaming and crying and a man yelling in the background. As I remember it, moments later the calm voice of a male doctor spoke over the crying: “I have seen many women come to the clinic with injuries...

  12. EIGHT Conclusion Reflections on the Dialogical Production of Relatedness
    (pp. 183-196)

    In this ethnography I have described the everyday discourses, both violent and sociable, through which relatedness is constituted in a small region in Bolivia. Attention to Sullk’ata narratives and practices illuminates the ideals of sociality and, at the same time, the complex practicalities of relatedness as lived. Most Sullk’atas do not, for example, assume a universal (biological) connection between family members or romantic love as the affective foundation of marriage but embed relatedness into broader understandings of the cyclicity of the universe. At the same time, Sullk’atas collude with and contest multiple identities and hierarchies as they navigate their relationships...

  13. APPENDIX A. Chapter 5 Narrative Transcriptions in Quechua and in English
    (pp. 197-204)
  14. APPENDIX B. Chapter 6 Interview Transcriptions in Quechua
    (pp. 205-208)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 209-224)
    (pp. 225-228)
    (pp. 229-256)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 257-273)