Arbeitstitel des Dissertationsvorhabens

"The Performative Production of the Indigenous Space Tawantinsuyu: The Aymara New Year celebration at Tiwanaku, Bolivia"

Betreuung: Prof. Dr. phil. Ingrid Kummels

My PhD project investigates the contemporary revival of the indigenous space Tawantinsuyu, as the former Inca Empire was called, and the related reconfigurations of indigeneity during cultural performances in Bolivia. This transformation process started in the 1980s and was driven by ethnopolitical movements who challenged the dominant ideal of the Bolivian nation based on the concept of mestizaje. Today it is pursued by Evo Morales’ project of a plurinational and decolonial Bolivia. The PhD project particularly considers cultural performances to understand how the indigenous space Tawantinsuyu is reinterpreted and associated with ideas on indigeneity. Cultural performances are taken as events where actors, symbolic representations and ideas about indigeneity interact at specific sites and during special moments. Therefore, the creation, negotiation, appropriation and contestation of social spaces become visible, and, thus, can be analyzed.

The project exemplarily investigates the Aymara New Year celebration during the winter solstice on June 21st at the archaeological site of Tiwanaku. The celebration was invented more than 30 years ago by Bolivia’s ethnopolitical movements. By reviving precolonial practices, these actors oppose their discrimination on an ethnic basis and sustained their demands on cultural, political and economic self-determination. In 2009, the celebration was declared a plurinational holiday, and, in consequence, forms part of Evo Morales’ refoundation project of a plurinational and decolonized Bolivia.

The hypothesis is that the ethnopolitical movements as new actors introduced new understandings of indigeneity in relation to the indigenous space Tawantinsuyu and thus promoted their social inclusion. However, in doing so, they reproduce historical exclusions. Even though both – the actors as well as the socio-historical context – have changed dramatically during the past 30 years, the movement’s ideas still nurture the plurinational and decolonial project, and, as a consequence, obstruct its potential for deeper social transformations. The project’s central questions therefore address changes and continuities as well as the inclusions and exclusions that are promoted by the concept of indigeneity and its reconfigurations. The main questions are: How do these changes affect and form the reinterpretation of the indigenous space Tawantinsuyu, and what kinds of continuities are maintained or reproduced – implicitly and explicitly?

The investigation of these questions involves ethnographic and ethnohistorical research methods. To access the historical dimension, archival research and interviews with the historic members of the indigenous movements are undertaken. Participant observation and the visual documentation of the Aymara New Year celebration at Tiwanaku are employed to grasp the present-day significance and negotiations of indigeneity.