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Daniel M. Goldstein-page 1
20. Aim and scope of the project
Throughout the Andes region of South America, the migration of rural populations to urban centers
is accompanied by worsening poverty, diminishing health and sanitary conditions, and mounting
interpersonal violence. Displaced from their rural origins, migrants often find themselves in a harsh urban
environment where the old support networks no longer function, and where old social identities are no
longer appropriate. However, despite these trends toward immiseration and marginalization, residents of
migrant barrios in Andean cities often engage in efforts to improve their conditions through collective
social action, organizing as communities to challenge their marginalization within national urban society.
Migrant people in Bolivia are forging a collective identity–a sense of themselves as “urban campesinos”
(urban peasants), rural people displaced from their communities of origin who nevertheless refuse to
abandon a rural identity. Such a refusal is not due to blind adherence to tradition, but rather stems from a
recognition that rural forms of organization and interaction can be strategic resources in the formation of
new communities in an urban setting. Through these communities, collective action may be initiated and
claims to equal rights within the nation advanced.
The proposed dissertation research in anthropology will examine the processes by which a
community is formed among people struggling to earn a living and find a political voice in the migrant
Quechua barrio of Villa Granada, on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia. The concept of “community”
has long been important in anthropology (Wolf 1957; Redfield 1967; Smith 1989); in the Andes region,
the formation and defense of the rural community (particularly through ritual and the fiesta cycle) has
been a major theme of ethnographic writing on the indigenous peasantry (Mallon 1983; Isbell 1985; Izko
1986). Less attention has been paid, however, to the formation of urban migrant communities, perhaps as
a result of the belief (held by some intellectuals as well as by urban Bolivians in general) that rural-tourban migrants have lost their “traditional” culture and that individuation (rather than community
formation) is the inevitable result (Degregori and Blondet 1987; Rivera 1993). What such assumptions
overlook are the attempts by urbanized people to retain their identities, as they assert ties to rural
“tradition” and formulate new identities and communities of “traditional” Quechua people residing in a
“modern” urban environment.
The question of identity in urban Bolivia must be understood in relation to an ideology that locates
Quechua-speaking people only in the countryside, equating rural areas with the traditional and backward,
and urban areas with all things modern and progressive (Abercrombie 1992; Muratorio 1993). Individuals
who migrate from the rural to the urban areas of an Andean nation are thus believed to have abandoned a
traditional rural identity for a modern urban one; migrants are often slapped with the derogatory label
“cholo,” an upwardly mobile “Indian” with no clear location in the national racial hierarchy (Bourricaud
1975; Crespi 1975; Seligmann 1989). The construction of collective identity in migrant barrios is enacted
against this ideology; it is a struggle to preserve the sense migrants have of themselves as essentially rural
people with profound connections to their communities of origin.
The goal of the proposed research is to illuminate the central questions: How is a sense of
community and collective identity forged and mobilized in a context of migration and urbanization? How
are “typically rural” cultural forms strategically employed to create community in a nonrural context?
Specifically, the goals of this research are:
1) To explore the role of “typically rural” forms of social organization and interaction in urban
community formation. Rather than assuming that urban migrants abandon all attachment to prior lives
and identities, this study will pursue the hypothesis that the most salient forms of community expression
in an urban context are direct adaptations of “rural” forms of organization and interaction. The “typically
rural” may serve as a symbolic resource for communities seeking to express publicly the continuities
between their rural past and urban present, and to define a collective identity as urban campesinos in
terms of their shared historical experience. The creative use of such “rural” phenomena as collective labor
parties or agrarian rites in a nonrural context suggests the important manipulations of lo Andino (the
typically Andean) that occur in producing a resistant consciousness among Quechua migrants facing
possible assimilation and loss of identity. Indigenous “tradition” is an important symbolic resource,
invoked selectively by people struggling to create an autonomous voice in a contested political space
(Albó 1979; Nash 1979).
Daniel M. Goldstein-page 2
20. Aim and scope of the project (continued)
Two additional goals represent strategies for observing this symbolic struggle as it occurs in the
organizations and interactions of the study population.
2) To examine the production and communication of collective identity through ritual and
public performance. “Community” and collective identity are expressed in public discursive practices:
ritual, ceremony, and other events through which a collection of individuals publicly defines itself as a
community, stating “This is who we are as a people.” Such a statement may represent a rejection of
pejorative, stereotypical identities otherwise imposed on a group by the dominant ideology of the nation
(Taussig 1980; Albó and Preiswerk 1986; Rivera 1986; Rasnake 1988; Lagos 1993). In the context of
urban migration, expressive events may beadaptations of formerly rural activities; their performance in an
urban context serves to constitute the new community in terms important in the old one. For example,
fiestas celebrated to mark important days in the rural ritual-fiesta calendar may be maintained in the city,
promoting solidarity among migrants through their participation in a rural performance. Similarly,
collective labor parties typically employed to improve communal resources in an agricultural village (e.g.,
mink'a) are transposed to an urban context to construct a community building or to erect a water storage
tank; here, the very form in which labor is organized calls attention to its basis in “traditional” rural
activity. Specific expressive genres that bear strong associations with the rural past are strategically
employed in an urban setting; analysis of their performance will reveal how new relations of community
are established and an otherwise contradictory “urban campesino” identity is elaborated through public
discursive practice.
3) To identify the local organizations instrumental in community formation and collective
action. In many Bolivian migrant barrios, formal and informal political and cultural organizations serve
as loci of community expression, coordinating collective activities such as ritual performances, labor
groups, and political events, and voicing community demands of the local government (Mangin 1970;
Roberts 1978; Velez-Ibañez 1983; Benton 1993). Perhaps most important among these are the juntas
vecinales, neighborhood groups formed to provide social and economic assistance to new arrivals to the
city, to secure needed physical improvements in both the barrios and the rural communities, and to serve
as a political instrument through which marginalized people can address the state. These groups also
mobilize community support for and participation in collective action, organizing work parties and
political rallies in order to express grievances and improve conditions in the barrio. It has been suggested
that the juntas vecinales are urban extensions of peasant unions (sindicatos campesinos), rural political
organizations that have assumed important new roles as peasants have moved to the city (Iriarte 1980;
Huaman 1982; Albó 1988; Healy 1989). Similarly, kin networks, central to the organizational structure of
rural communities, are also important in providing a basis for urban group affiliation and solidarity
(Murra 1975; Bolton and Mayer 1977; Lehman 1982; Platt 1986; Albó et al. 1990), serving as a
foundation in efforts to reform the community of origin in a new context (Lomnitz 1977). Attention will
thus be paid to these groups and networks as the institutional loci of community-formation activities,
employing organizational patterns that index their basis in more “traditional” forms.
In considering the formation of what he calls “counter-hegemonic communities,” William Roseberry
(1989: 228) has urged anthropologists to undertake “an examination of the cultural forms and symbols
around which alternative images of community can be built, and an exploration of the organizational or
institutional forms through which such images can be given political expression.” It is this challenge that
orients the proposed research. The project considers the new kinds of community that are emerging in
migrant barrios, and the organizational forms, political activities, and public performances through which
these are expressed. It also represents an attempt to reformulate anthropological understandings of
“community,” by viewing it not as the essential structure of a traditional village but as the emergent
product of an ongoing process in which the definition of collective identity is continually negotiated. The
focus on community formation emphasizes the symbolic dimensions of a political and economic struggle,
one in which marginalized and subordinated people are producing new identities and communities to
challenge the terms of their subordination in national urban society.
Daniel M. Goldstein-page 3
21. Methodology to be used
As a country with a rich and well-studied rural tradition, Bolivia offers a promising site for considering the demographic and cultural transitions now occurring throughout much of Latin America.
Characterized by a predominantly rural population for much of its history, Bolivia is urbanizing rapidly:
Cochabamba, for example, grew from 200,000 to more than 300,000 people in the decade between 1976
and 1986, and is nearing 400,000 today (Escobar and Ledo 1988). Villa Granada, a barrio of some 1500
residents on the southwestern fringe of Cochabamba city, has been a site of much of this growth, as
peasants leave the Bolivian altiplano in search of better opportunities in the temperate Cochabamba
valley (Guzmán 1972; Laserna 1984; Larson 1988).
The theoretical discussion and analysis contained in this document is inseparable from a
methodology concerned with direct observation of identity formation through discursive practice,
understood in terms of the productive activities and socioeconomic positions of the participants engaged
in it. Data-collection methods include: 1) Participant-observation in the study community of Villa
Granada, to provide access to the various activities and performances through which identity and
community are presented, elaborated, and communicated. In addition to observing everyday interactions,
this method will require attendance at and participation in community performances and public events,
especially work parties and seasonal fiestas. Such events occur frequently in the study community,
providing a rich source of data on social interactions; other performances targeted for analysis will be
those deemed most significant by community members themselves. Key events and activities will be
audio- and, where appropriate, video-tape recorded. Still photographs of daily interactions and special
events will also be taken. 2) Direct observation of and participation in cultural performances will be
supplemented by informal collaborations between the investigator and barrio members to get at local
interpretations of these performances and their significance to participants. Group viewings and
discussions of collected video recordings will be organized after each event, in which community
members and event participants will share their interpretations of what transpired, and assess the meaning
of the various symbolic elements involved (Mannheim 1991; Goodwin 1993) Similarly, people will be
asked to select photographic representations of themselves that conform most closely to their identityformation project. Selected photographs will be compiled into a book format, the community’s own
representation of itself, to itself (a technique adopted from Jelin and Vila 1987). This multimedia
approach will add significant depth to an understanding of identity production, and will encourage direct
involvement of study subjects in the research process. 3) Network analysis will be conducted to identify
patterns of social interaction in the study community (Milroy 1980; Buechler 1980). A brief survey will
be administered to determine constellations of interactants, and the positions of particular households and
community organizations in the various networks. 4) Socioeconomic data will be collected through
unstructured interviews with community members, selected nonrandomly from the various social
networks. Data will be collected regarding household composition, income sources and occupations,
migration history, and political participation. Involvement of individuals in various political and cultural
organizations will be determined, their reasons for such participation considered, and the importance of
these organizations to community life assessed. Interviews with officials of the juntas vecinales will also
be conducted to get at these individuals’ perceptions of their and their organizations’ roles in community
formation and popular mobilization. 5) The field research and data collection will be supplemented by a
period of archival research in the Archivo Nacional de Bolivia in Sucre, intended to provide an overall
historical context for the study of migration and community formation in Bolivia.
The period of field research in Bolivia is expected to last 16 months, from September, 1994 until
December, 1995. My ability to speak Quechua will help to expedite access to the community; my
familiarity with Cochabamba and associations with local social scientists (acquired during the preliminary
study in the summer of 1993) will enable me to begin investigations with little start-up time. The research
will begin with a three-month period of settling in to the Villa Granada community, with initial
observations of public performance events and the still-photo project to begin during this period.
Recordings of events and collaborative analysis sessions will follow. The informal interviews will be
completed during the second six-month period, with any necessary follow-up inquiries being conducted
thereafter. Fieldwork periods of several months will be broken up by two four-week periods of study in
the Archivo Nacional de Bolivia in Sucre, as well as in national and regional archives in La Paz and
Cochabamba. This program is suggested as a way to enable historical investigation of trends uncovered
Daniel M. Goldstein-page 4
during fieldwork, with additional research questions emerging iteratively through archival work.
Daniel M. Goldstein-page 5
22. How the project relates to other literature on the subject, and how it contributes to
anthropology
The indigenous or peasant community has long been the focus of anthropological research, in the
Andes region and elsewhere (Adams 1959; Isbell 1985; Roseberry 1989). As anthropologists have
become aware of the increasing integration of rural communities into national and global political,
cultural, and economic systems, emphasis has been placed on the ways in which these communities
maintain their integrity in the face of pressures toward disintegration. The collective labor activities
described in this proposal have been regarded in the Andean literature as one important means of binding
individuals together in a community through webs of cross-cutting obligations and relationships (Alberti
and Mayer 1974; Carter and Mamani 1982; Harman 1987). In addition, following Turner’s (1967, 1969)
studies of ritual among the Ndembu of southern Africa, Andean ethnography has regarded ritual and
fiesta as crucial means by which a community demonstrates to itself the underlying structural and
cosmological principles that lie at its communal foundation (Condori and Gow 1982; Salomon 1982;
Isbell 1985; Poole 1984; Sallnow 1988). Ritual and mythic performances suppress tendencies toward
individualism and differentiation that serve to undermine community solidarity (Albó 1979; Harrison
1989; Albó et al. 1990; Stern 1983; Urton 1992), while simultaneously reasserting the group’s rootedness
in a communal territory (Mishkin 1945; Buechler and Buechler 1971; Bastien 1978; Martinez 1987; van
den Berg 1989).
But ritual is not simply the unproblematic reproduction of “tradition” by an isolated community, the
performance of communal forms that have persisted unchanged since pre-Incaic times. Rather, as has
been shown in the Andean context, ritual can be profitably viewed as a contested domain, one in which
the challenges to the persistence of community livelihood and integrity are resisted through the
elaboration of alternative definitions of society and identity (Buechler 1980; Salomon 1981; Calderon and
Dandler 1984; Abercrombie 1986; Albó and Carter 1988). Ritual and public performance, when used as
explicitly counter-hegemonic forms of popular culture, become sites for state attempts to regulate political
expression, as well as media through which resistant voices may be heard (Williams 1977; Hall 1981,
1986; Albó and Preiswerk 1986; Rasnake 1986, 1988; Stern 1987; Allen 1988; Dillon and Abercrombie
1988; Gal 1989; Scott 1990; Lagos 1993). The work of June Nash (1979, 1989) among Bolivian tin
miners recognizes the resistance potential of ritual activity; her observation that rural Andean cosmology
may be transposed to the context of a proletarianized mining community is influential to my own attempts
to understand the role of rural “tradition” in urban community formation.
Despite the richness of ethnographic work in the Andean countryside, there remains a notable dearth
of literature on urban communities. When urban migrants appear in Andean studies, they are usually
considered in reference to their importance in maintaining rural communities. Migrants to Andean cities
often continue to think of themselves as members of the rural community, and retain this membership by
serving as the unofficial representatives of that community to the national government (Mangin 1970;
McEwen 1975; Isbell 1973). Fiesta and ritual have also been considered in relation to urban migrants, as
systems for reintegrating return migrants to the rural community (Isbell 1985; Harman 1987), shifting
capital from the countryside to the city (Smith 1977), or generating competition and divisiveness between
rural and urban fiesta participants (in contrast to more harmonious models like those described above; see
Mitchell 1991; Crandon-Malamud 1993). Migrants have also been featured in studies of gender relations
(Bohman 1984), urban women’s economic activity (Bunster and Chaney 1985; Nash and Safa 1986; Babb
1989), and the role of migrant labor in industrialization (Laite 1981; Whiteford 1981). Although some
work has been done on popular political activity and community organizations in urban barrios and
squatter settlements (Lloyd 1980; Lobo 1982; Jelin et al. 1990; Benton 1993), relatively little attention
has been paid to urban community formation as a form of cultural resistance
The research described in this proposal will help to fill this void by recognizing the centrality of
identity-formation processes to the maintenance of migrant communities. It represents an effort to focus
anthropological attention on the problems faced by indigenous Latin American peoples in an urbanizing
world, and on their efforts to combat the disintegrating effects of these transitions on their lives and
identities. As the site of the struggle to preserve indigenous livelihoods and cultures shifts to the cities of
Latin America, anthropology too must turn its sights on the cultural processes taking place in these urban
centers. It is the contribution of this research to show that the cultural resources used to create and defend
community in rural areas continue to be vital elements enabling the cultural survival of urbanized
Daniel M. Goldstein-page 6
indigenous communities.