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Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World

Complementary Dualism in Modern Peru

Hillary S. Webb

Publication Year: 2012

Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World is an eloquently written autoethnography in which researcher Hillary S. Webb seeks to understand the indigenous Andean concept of yanantin or “complementary opposites.” One of the most well-known and defining characteristics of indigenous Andean thought, yanantin is an adherence to a philosophical model based on the belief that the polarities of existence (such as male/ female, dark/light, inner/outer) are interdependent and essential parts of a harmonious whole.

Webb embarks on a personal journey of understanding the yanantin worldview of complementary duality through participant observation and reflection on her individual experience. Her investigation is a thoughtful, careful, and rich analysis of the variety of ways in which cultures make meaning of the world around them, and how deeply attached we become to our own culturally imposed meaning-making strategies.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. iii-iii


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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

When we are kids, our parents teach us to say “thank you” when someone does something nice for us. Over time, in many circumstances, this social ritual becomes simply an automatic response. But then there are moments in our lives when we step back and take inventory of where we are, where we have come from, and who has helped us to get there....

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Introduction: The Complement of Difference

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pp. 1-18

The first time I heard the term yanantin was back in 2000, when I accompanied a group of people to Peru to learn about the indigenous spiritual philosophies as they exist in that region of the world.1 It was May 21, and we were sitting in the Sacred Valley, watching the ...

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1: The Knower and the Known

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pp. 19-34

I’m not sure why I picked a kangaroo, but I figured that as stuffed animals went, this one would be exotic enough to keep Julián entertained—at least for as long as a two-year-old can be entertained anyway. It had been six years since I had last been to Cuzco, and this was the first time I would ...

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2: Mind and Body; Spirit and Flesh

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pp. 35-48

The next afternoon, I returned to the plaza to meet Amado and Juan Luis. On my way, I cut through one of the tourist markets and once again tried to engage in conversation with some of the vendors about yanantin. Just as before, my questions were received with strange looks and...

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3: Of Time and Space

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pp. 49-62

Along the southeast side of Avenida del Sol (“Avenue of the Sun”), not far from the Plaza de Armas, is a 150-foot mural upon which is painted a pictorial representation of the history of Cuzco. Within the boundaries of the mural, illustrations of the city’s past, present, and ...

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4: Between Self and Other

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pp. 63-76

During that first fieldwork trip, I took a couple of Quechua lessons with a young Peruvian woman named Veronica. I liked Veronica a lot. She was bright and spunky and loved to tell stories. She would tell them to me in Spanish, though she confessed that she preferred speaking in ...

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5: Chaupin

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pp. 77-91

On Friday evening, I arrived at the plaza early to rent a sleeping bag and an inflatable mat from one of the tourist centers lining the square. I felt a slight nervousness wondering what the evening would hold, although now that I had made up my mind to do it, my nervousness was...

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6: The Lanzón

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pp. 91-104

I returned to Peru the following September for my next phase of research. Amado and Juan Luis had suggested that this time we meet in Lima, and from there drive up into the coastal desert of northern Peru, to the ruins at Chavín1 de Huántar,2 a small rural village located in a fertile...

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7: On Good and Evil; Life and Death

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pp. 105-118

I thought about my experience with the Lanzón the rest of that day and into the next. I couldn’t get over the reaction that I, a “rational Westerner,” had experienced sitting there in front of it—that combined sense of awe and dread that was like nothing I had ever felt before. Amado...

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8: The Symbolic Versus the Actual

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pp. 119-136

In January 2009, I returned to Cuzco for my final fieldwork trip. I arrived with a list of the remaining topics that I wanted to cover, among them the distinction between “symbolic” versus “Actual.” This felt like an essential dichotomy to explore, for the Andean spiritual system is thick...

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9: Male and Female

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pp. 137-150

As Jung (1953/1968) said of man and woman, “This primordial pair of opposites symbolizes every conceivable pair of opposites that may occur; hot and cold, light and dark, north and south, dry and damp, good and bad, conscious and unconscious” (p. 152). And so it is. Perhaps no...

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10: Perfection Versus Wholeness

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pp. 151-166

"Earlier, we were talking about the three levels,” Amado said, appearing next to me.
This was not a question, but I answered him anyway.
“Yes,” I responded, uncertainly....

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Epilogue to the Narrative

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pp. 167-170

In The Sun Also Rises, one of the characters asks another, “How did you go broke?” To which his friend replies, “Two ways. . . . Gradually and then suddenly” (Hemingway, 1926/1954, p. 141).
What makes this exchange funny, in a bittersweet kind of way, is that...

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Conclusions: The Global and the Local: Reflections on Yanantin

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pp. 171-182

Thus ends the personal narrative. Some who read an early version of the manuscript wondered if by comparing Western and Andean philosophical models in this way I was trying to make a political statement about the superiority of the latter over the former. Others...


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pp. 183-192


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pp. 193-198


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pp. 199-206

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826350749
E-ISBN-10: 0826350747
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826350725
Print-ISBN-10: 0826350720

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 15 black-and-white images
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 781636139
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Dualism.
  • Mind and body.
  • Space and time.
  • Shamanism -- Peru.
  • Quechua cosmology.
  • Quechua Indians -- Rites and ceremonies.
  • Quechua philosophy.
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