Intimate Indigeneities: Race, Sex, and History in the Small Spaces of Andean Life

Andrew Canessa

Language: English

Published: Nov 25, 2012


Drawing on extended ethnographic research conducted over the course of more than two decades, Andrew Canessa explores the multiple identities of a community of people in the Bolivian highlands through their own lived experiences and voices. He examines how gender, race, and ethnic identities manifest themselves in everyday interactions in the Aymara village. Canessa shows that indigeneity is highly contingent; thoroughly imbricated with gendered, racial, and linguistic identities; and informed by a historical consciousness. Addressing how whiteness and indianness are reproduced as hegemonic structures in the village, how masculinities develop as men go to the mines and army, and how memories of a violent past are used to construct a present sense of community, Canessa raises important questions about indigenous politics and the very nature of indigenous identity.



"Andrew Canessa makes superb use of more than twenty years of ethnographic experience with Andean villagers of Wila Kjarka to give us a beautifully detailed and intellectually stimulating account of the changing meanings of 'indian' and 'indigeneity' in Bolivia. His focus on the intimate and the public spaces of everyday life, and on the local and the translocal flows of people, ideas, and things, provides a wonderfully engaging picture of how villagers in the Andes think of themselves and others. His deep commitment to the people of the village gives us a refreshing and important perspective on the concept of 'indigeneity,' which is too often taken for granted in the context of contemporary identity politics. Intimate Indigeneities will prove very attractive to students and scholars alike."— Peter Wade , author of Race and Sex in Latin America

"Focused on topics of great interest to contemporary readers—race, inequality, gender, sexuality, social and political change, education, military service, and domestic violence—and written with verve and style, Intimate Indigeneities draws on long-term, detailed ethnographic work that is impressive and rarely achieved. Andrew Canessa presents unique, novel knowledge about a place, a time, and a people."— Mary Weismantel , author of Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes

"Using telling case histories, Andrew Canessa explores how indigeneity appears in the local and national arena, what it means to be indigenous in contemporary Bolivia, and why the villagers he has studied for more than twenty years reject this term. This is a major contribution, a splendid example of a twenty-first-century ethnography."— Jean E. Jackson , coeditor of Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America

[Canessa] “This book is a masterful synthesis of 20 years’ ethnographic fieldwork in one Bolivian community, the Aymara-speaking Andean settlement of Wila Kjarka….this book is a delight to read, both in terms of the author’s clear and engaging style, which frequently blends humour and pathos, and in the non-judgemental approach which testifies to an eagerness to understand others on their own terms. … [it] is a profoundly honest, subtle and wide- ranging study that is sure to inspire scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds.”

(Charles M. Pigott AlterNative )

“Overall, Canessa is an astute observer of Bolivian rural life, and he possesses an engaging sense of humor: the book often makes one think and laugh at the same time.”

(Robert I. Smale Hispanic American Historical Review )

“Canessa’s excellent book…. Provides a wide-ranging yet rooted ethnographic analysis of contemporary forms of belonging in Bolivia, which is the book’s great strength….This book would be a wonderful addition to many courses… It is readable, compelling, and moving.”

(Kate McGurn Centellas Journal of Anthropological Research )

“[P]oignant and deeply insightful…. Intimate Indigeneities is at the top of my reading list for my graduate and undergraduate classes, not only for courses on matters Andean or Latin American, but also for lower level introductory courses to anthropology and upper level theory courses.”

(Linda J. Seligman Anthropological Quarterly )

“Andrew Canessa has written a longed-for book that consolidates his position as one of the most engaging contemporary scholars of Andean anthropology. . . . Intimate Indigeneities is a major contribution to our understanding of indigeneity, race and sex in contemporary Bolivia and, I would argue, the most important and engaging anthropological work on Andean Bolivia written in recent years.”

(Anders Burman Journal of Latin American Studies )

“Valuable for any study of modernity, indigeneity, or interpersonal relations as it provides a poignant look at a community in the midst of a convoluted, contradictory, continuous march to modernity."

(Naomi Glassman NACLA Report on the Americas )

“This wonderful book is highly recommended for all those who are interested in indigeneity, racism, gender, and nation-building.”

(Emma Cervone American Anthropologist )

About the Author

Andrew Canessa is Director of the Centre for Latin American Studies at the University of Essex.