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A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador
Once isolated from the modern world in the heights of the Andean mountains, the indigenous communities of Ecuador now send migrants to New York City as readily as they celebrate festivals whose roots reach back to the pre-Columbian past. Fascinated by this blending of old and new and eager to make a record of traditional customs and rituals before they disappear entirely, photographer-journalist Judy Blankenship spent several years in Cañar, Ecuador, photographing the local people in their daily lives and conducting photography workshops to enable them to preserve their own visions of their culture. In this engaging book, Blankenship combines her sensitively observed photographs with an inviting text to tell the story of the most recent year she and her husband Michael spent living and working among the people of Cañar. Very much a personal account of a community undergoing change, Cañar documents such activities as plantings and harvests, religious processions, a traditional wedding, healing ceremonies, a death and funeral, and a home birth with a native midwife. Along the way, Blankenship describes how she and Michael went from being outsiders only warily accepted in the community to becoming neighbors and even godparents to some of the local children. She also explains how outside forces, from Ecuador’s failing economy to globalization, are disrupting the traditional lifeways of the Cañari as economic migration virtually empties highland communities of young people. Blankenship’s words and photographs create a moving, intimate portrait of a people trying to balance the demands of the twenty-first century with the traditions that have formed their identity for centuries.
Trauma Narrative and Social Action in Latin American Testimonio
As if in direct response to The New Yorker's question of “The Power of the Pen: Does Literature Change Anything?” Kimberly Nance takes up the relationship between ethics and literature. With the 40th anniversary of the testimonio occurring in 2006, there has never been a better time to reconsider its role in achieving social justice. The advent of the testimonio--loosely, a political autobiography of a Latin American activist who hopes, through the telling of her life story, to bring about change--was met with a great deal of excitement by scholars who posited it as a radical new form of literature. Those accolades were almost immediately followed by a series of critical problems. In what sense were testimonios "true"? What right did privileged scholars in the U.S. have to engage accounts of suffering with traditional modes of criticism? Were questions of veracity or aesthetics more important? Were these texts autobiography or political screeds? It seemed critics didn't know quite what to make of the testimonio and so, after a brief bout of engagement, disregarded it. Nance, however, argues that any form as prolific as the testimonio is well worth examining and that these questions, rather than being insurmountable, are exactly the questions with which scholars ought to be wrestling. If, as critics claim, that the testimonio is one of the most pervasive contemporary Latin American cultural genres, then it is high time for a comprehensive study of the genre such as Nance's.
Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492–1763
Philip Boucher analyzes the images—and the realities—of European relations with the people known as Island Caribs during the first three centuries after Columbus. Based on literary sources, travelers' observations, and missionary accounts, as well as on French and English colonial archives and administrative correspondence, Cannibal Encounters offers a vivid portrait of a troubled chapter in the history of European-Amerindian relations.
In Caribbean and Atlantic Diaspora Dance: Igniting Citizenship, Yvonne Daniel provides a sweeping cultural and historical examination of Diaspora dance genres. Daniel investigates social dances brought to the islands by Europeans and Africans, including quadrilles and drum/dances as well as popular dances that followed, such as Carnival parading, Pan-Caribbean danzas, rumba, merengue, mambo, reggae, and zouk. She reviews sacred dance and closely documents combat dances, such as Martinican ladja, Trinidadian kalinda, and Cuban juego de manÃ. In drawing on scores of performers and consultants from the region as well as on her own professional dance experience and acumen, Daniel adeptly places Caribbean dance in the context of cultural and economic globalization, connecting local practices to transnational and global processes and emphasizing the important role of dance in critical regional tourism. Throughout, Daniel reveals impromptu and long-lasting Diaspora communities of participating dancers and musicians.
In this illuminating study, Gelien Matthews demonstrates how slave rebellions in the British West Indies influenced the tactics of abolitionists in England and how the rhetoric and actions of the abolitionists emboldened slaves. Moving between the world of the British Parliament and the realm of Caribbean plantations, Matthews reveals a transatlantic dialectic of antislavery agitation and slave insurrection that eventually influenced the dismantling of slavery in British-held territories. Focusing on slave revolts that took place in Barbados in 1816, in Demerara in 1823, and in Jamaica in 1831–32, Matthews identifies four key aspects in British abolitionist propaganda regarding Caribbean slavery: the denial that antislavery activism prompted slave revolts, the attempt to understand and recount slave uprisings from the slaves' perspectives, the portrayal of slave rebels as victims of armed suppressors and as agents of the antislavery movement, and the presentation of revolts as a rationale against the continuance of slavery. She makes shrewd use of previously overlooked publications of British abolitionists to prove that their language changed over time in response to slave uprisings. Historians previously have examined the economic, religious, and political bases for slavery's abolishment in the Caribbean, but Matthews here emphasizes the agency of slaves in the march toward freedom. Her compelling work is a valuable analytical tool in the interpretation of abolition in North America, uncovering the important connections between rebellious slaves on one side of the Atlantic and abolitionists on the other side.
The Concheros Dance in Mexico City
In Carrying the Word: The Concheros Dance in Mexico City, the first full length study of the Concheros dancers, Susanna Rostas explores the experience of this unique group, whose use of dance links rural religious practices with urban post-modern innovation in distinctive ways even within Mexican culture, which is rife with ritual dances. The Concheros blend Catholic and indigenous traditions in their performances, but are not governed by a predetermined set of beliefs; rather they are bound together by long standing interpersonal connections framed by the discipline of their tradition. The Concheros manifest their spirituality by means of the dance. Rostas traces how they construct their identity and beliefs, both individual and communal, by its means. The book offers new insights into the experience of dancing as a Conchero while also exploring their history, organization and practices. Carrying the Word provides a new way for audiences to understand the Conchero's dance tradition, and will be of interest to students and scholars of contemporary Mesoamerica. Those studying identity, religion, and tradition will find this social-anthropological work particularly enlightening.