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Starting from Quirpini

The Travels and Places of a Bolivian People

Stuart Alexander Rockefeller

Publication Year: 2010

The people of Quirpini, a rural community in the Bolivian Andes, are in constant motion. They visit each other's houses, work in their fields, go to nearby towns for school, market, or official transactions, and travel to Buenos Aires for wage labor. In this rich ethnography, Stuart Alexander Rockefeller describes how these places become intertwined via circuits constituted by the movement of people, goods, and information. Drawing on the work of Henri LeFebvre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Nancy Munn, Rockefeller argues that by their travels, Quirpinis play a role in shaping the places they move through. This compelling study makes important contributions to contemporary debates about spatiality, temporality, power, and culture.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

One of the first things you learn in anthropology is that no one does anything ‘on their own.’ Like any kind of production, research and writing are social activities. Over the years I have been aided by the favors and input of so many people that I could not possibly remember all, or even most of them. ...

Part 1 Inscriptions

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pp. 1-2

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Introduction: Disorientations

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pp. 3-32

It is customary for ethnographers to begin by giving their readers some information that will “orient” them as to the place, time, and subject matter of the book they are about to read. In a book about places, however, it is crucial that we accept some measure of disorientation. ...

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1 Places and History in and about Quirpini

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pp. 33-60

Quirpini is a community of about five hundred people in the San Lucas River valley. The valley is the historical heart of the loosely defined San Lucas re-gion, in the southern highlands of Chuquisaca, one of nine “departments” into which Bolivia is divided. ...

Part 2 Facets of a Place

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pp. 61-62

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2 Bicycles and Houses

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pp. 63-96

My bicycle kept getting Miguel Paco into trouble. Miguel was my host in Quirpini; I lived on his land in a disused house that he had fixed up for me and ate with his family daily. He had no bicycle of his own, having given the family’s only, rather old bicycle to his son, and he occasionally borrowed my new mountain bike. ...

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3 The Geography of Planting Corn

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pp. 97-130

Corn-planting season struck me from the first as a moment when people in Quirpini were engaged with their social world in a particularly intense fashion. The long sequence of work parties followed by drinking sessions, the tremendous number of meals people shared, the repetition of everyone’s shared activities, ...

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4 Carnival and the Spatial Practice of Community

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pp. 131-164

Up to this point I have held ‘Quirpini’—considered both as a place and a context for action—in a kind of suspension. I have done this in order to highlight smaller-scale spaces, and to emphasize my point that community is not a given, nor is it always present to actors. But if it is not always part of people’s actions, how is it lived? ...

Part 3 From Quirpini

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pp. 165-166

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5 Ethnic Politics and the Control of Movement

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pp. 167-200

Not long before I came to Quirpini, the major political role of its kurajkuna, apart from ritual duties, was performing menial services for officials in San Lucas. Most of the kurajkuna had to go to town weekly for tasks like sweeping the mayor’s patio, taking eggs to town authorities, or gathering their firewood. ...

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6 Placing Bolivia in Quirpini: Civic Ritual and the Power of Context

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pp. 201-220

On the cement stage of Quirpini’s school auditorium stood a throne: a rough wooden chair, set on top of a wooden table, both covered with colorful factory-made textiles of “indigenous” design. Adorning a stage with textiles of this sort, the carrying-cloths that many Bolivian women use every day, ...

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7 Where Do You Go When You Go to Buenos Aires?

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pp. 221-250

On any given day, during my time in Quirpini, a good number of the com-munity’s inhabitants were elsewhere. Nearly one-fifth of them actively maintained households in other communities of the region and spent a good deal of their time there; others would be on short trips to nearby communities or to San Lucas. ...

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Conclusion: Coming Back to Quirpini

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pp. 251-270

Whitman filled his poems with lists—of people, of names—lists of types, showing their dynamism, poignancy, or just their way of being part of the universal. I will begin to draw this book to a close with a much more par-ticular list—biographical vignettes of some people and households, showing how their lives are put together out of multi-scaled movement, ...


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pp. 271-276


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pp. 277-288


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pp. 289-298


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pp. 299-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004635
E-ISBN-10: 0253004632
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354976

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 14 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010