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‘A Return to the Village’ – an introduction

‘A Return to the Village: Community ethnographies and the study of Andean culture in retrospective’, edited by Dr Francisco Ferreira with the American anthropologist Professor Billie Jean Isbell, has just been published by the Institute of Latin American Studies. Dr Ferreira offers a brief introduction to its contents, aims and origins, explained in the context of the Andean anthropology.

Published in February, A Return to the Village, brings together several scholars – including Professor Isbell – who have produced outstanding community ethnographies in the Andes, mostly in Peru but also in neighbouring countries, between the 1970s and 2000s. In their respective chapter, each author offers a retrospective look at their original work, explaining and reassessing key aspects (e.g. theoretical, methodological, personal).

They include some towering figures of Andean anthropology, whose community ethnographies can be considered as classics. As such, the contributors provide privileged insights into the academic context of their work, and the theoretical approaches and debates that underline them (authors and chapters are listed below).

As I confirm in the book’s introduction, some of the revisited community ethnographies were central to my own introduction to Andean anthropology, and a key influence when I was undertaking my PhD fieldwork in a Peruvian Andean community, in the late-2000s.

ferreira-cover-v2My original idea was to bring together some of these authors in a book, asking them to revisit and reassess their original work in light of contemporary anthropology. Later, as the project developed, other writers were incorporated in order to widen the geographical, chronological and theoretical scope of the publication. Overall, this edited volume aims to reflect on the role that community ethnographies have played in, and on their contribution to, the study of Andean culture.

For decades these ethnographies were a central part of Andean anthropology. But they have declined since the 1990s as a result of wider academic changes. In the introduction, I offer a review and a personal interpretation of the evolution of these studies, focusing especially (though not exclusively) in the case of Peru, and in some key theoretical and thematic debates and trends.

Authors and chapters

  • Introduction: Community ethnographies and the study of Andean culture in retrospective (Francisco Ferreira)
  • Chapter 1: Reflections on fieldwork in Chuschi (Billie Jean Isbell)
  • Chapter 2: Losing my heart (Catherine J Allen)
  • Chapter 3: Deadly waters, decades later (Peter Gose)
  • Chapter 4: Yanque Urinsaya: ethnography of an Andean community (Ricardo Valderrama and Carmen Escalante)
  • Chapter 5: Recordkeeping: ethnography and uncertainty of contemporary community studies (Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld)
  • Chapter 6: Long lines of continuity: field ethnohistory and customary conservation in the Sierra de Lima (Frank Salomon)
  • Chapter 7: Avoiding ‘community studies’: the historical turn in Bolivian and south Andean anthropology (Tristan Platt)
  • Chapter 8: In love with comunidades (Enrique Mayer)

‘A Return to the Village: Community ethnographies and the study of Andean culture in retrospective’ is available in paperback (£25.00) and can purchased from the UoL Online shop.

Dr Francisco Ferreira is an independent researcher specialising in Latin American ethnography. His fields of interest include Andean communities, violence, cocalero areas and drug policies; especially in Peru, where he has conducted extensive fieldwork. He completed studies in history and art history in Galicia (Spain), before working for several years in museum jobs in Britain. After doing an MA in Latin American Studies, he also completed a PhD in Andean ethnography, both at the University of London. His PhD was funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the research project Inca ushnus: Landscape, site and symbol in the Andes, and resulted in his thesis ‘Back to the Village? An Ethnographic Study of an Andean Community in the Early 21st Century’ (Royal Holloway, University of London, 2012). Dr Francisco currently lives in Galicia, where he is working on several research and media projects, while doing jobs as translator, teacher and consultant.

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