Negotiating the centre: Community and public investment projects in Huamachuco, Peru

Wilson, Anna. 2021. Negotiating the centre: Community and public investment projects in Huamachuco, Peru. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The growth of large-scale mining in Peru has increased government budgets, and public
investment projects have proliferated. Whilst projects are viewed as a way to decrease
inequality, local government implementation is often criticised by regional and local elites due to
a ‘lack of capacity’. This research considers how projects are chosen and undertaken in the
northern Andean district of Huamachuco. Ethnographic fieldwork focused on urban elites in
Huamachuco and, including several rural villages, shows how government processes become
incorporated and adapted into local social relations, shaping projects and their effects.

The thesis argues that Andean duality, a socio-spatial organising principle core to regional
ethnographies, is key to understanding how communities engage government bureaucracies in the
creation of projects. Andean duality and the concept of a central liminal space negotiated through
‘boundary objects’ (Star and Griesemer, 1989), are used to demonstrate how public investment
projects are active monuments to the relationships which create them, not inert once completed
but continuing as liminal centres of relationship (re)negotiation and (re)making.

Projects are shown to be articulated into ideals of moral communal behaviour through scales of
interaction in time and space, becoming a focus for the negotiation of relative identities and
expressions of ‘progress’. Whilst national government rules and processes claim certainties and
knowledge conducive to progress, global gold price fluctuations, tax receipt timings and unequal
social negotiations over the division of resources create inherent uncertainty. Claims to progress
through project processes transfers risk to local actors, who are blamed for incompetence if
projects do not produce desired effects.

From design to implementation of projects, the thesis shows how they are sites of power and
hierarchy simultaneously including and excluding local actors. Projects are assessed as mutually
constructive sites through which relationships are built to provide possibilities, albeit limited, to
incrementally challenge power relations.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


mining canon, mining tax, infrastructure, public spending, public investment projects, duality, boundary objects, moral economy, Peru, Andes

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 Sep 2021 11:38

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:19


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