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Cosmopolitan comuneros: celebrating indigeneity through the appropriation of urbanity in the Quito Basin

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Title: Cosmopolitan comuneros: celebrating indigeneity through the appropriation of urbanity in the Quito Basin
Author(s): Williams, Julie
Director of Research: Whitten, Norman E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Orta, Andrew
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Whitten, Norman E.; Torres, Arlene; Manalansan, Martin
Department / Program: Anthropology
Discipline: Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): urban indigeneity identity plurinationalism ethnicity performance Latin America Ecuador
Abstract: My dissertation examines urban indigenous identity in the Quito Basin in contrast to essentialized representations of indigenousness that emanate from emerging multicultural state policy and prominent indigenous movements in Ecuador. Based on ethnographic research I conducted between 2003-2011, I focus on the indigenous identity celebrated in Lumbisí, an urban indigenous community that borders Quito. Dominant national stereotypes of indigeneity position Lumbiseños as culturally and ethnically assimilated members of Ecuadorian society (mestizos) or as unrecognized citizens of the Cumbayá Valley community. By contrast, Lumbiseños reject claims of assimilation and assert an indigenous identity rooted in their communal land rights, ancestry, traditions, and social networks. While Lumbiseños adhere to their own conventional markers of indigeneity, they also depend on urban earned salaries and related social capital to reinvest in their community. I argue that the local indigeneity recognized and practiced within Lumbisí represents a distinct urban indigeneity that selectively draws on urban capital, education, and interactions with non-indigenous others to reinvest in their community and bolster their indigenous identity outside the processes of acculturation, hybridity, and mestizaje. This dissertation contributes to long-standing discussions in the social sciences regarding the apparent tensions between indigeneity and urban modernity with relation to race, class, and emerging concepts of plurinational citizenship in Ecuador. I engage the influential ideologies of the folk-urban continuum (Redfield 1941) and blanqueamiento or the process of cultural and ethnic whitening through assimilation from various academic perspectives (Hurtado 2007, Quijia et al 2006, Stutzman 1981, Whitten 1981, Whitten 2003), which correlate increased indigenous contact with urban spaces with the loss of indigenous culture in favor of modernity and an idealized mestizo citizenship. In the case of Lumbisí, I argue that the more contact indigenous people experience within the city, the stronger and more empowered their indigenous identity becomes. I demonstrate that urban indigenous peoples choose to reinvest in their home community and identity by appropriating urban capital and prestige goods as an integral part of their indigeneity without implications of assimilation. I also provide insight to local symbolic, ideological, and performative interpretations of urban and global experiences in Lumbisí through the ritual analysis of large-scale, local festival production. Building upon recent Ecuadorianist research that underscores festivals as sites for the negotiation of new forms of rural indigeneity (e.g. Corr 2004, 2010, Wogan 2003, Wibbelsman 2005, 2008, and Fine-Dare 2006), my dissertation examines comparable processes in an overlooked urban case.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34198
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Julie Williams
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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