From Centre to Margin: Memory, Mobility and Social Change in a Bolivian Town

Felber, Emma. 2010. From Centre to Margin: Memory, Mobility and Social Change in a Bolivian Town. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis addresses social change in Tapacarí, a small rural town in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Tapacarí, which was once an important colonial town and home to an elite controlling the peasant population around it, is now largely empty due to high levels of migration to urban centres. The town retains symbolic and ritual importance for indigenous peasant people and former townspeople in different ways, but becomes more economically marginalised as the economic and kin relationships between these groups changes. The thesis proposes that the town now be seen as one point on a wider array of multiple residences used by indigenous and peasant people as they respond flexibly to unpredictable economic conditions and build autonomy. At the same time the town exists as a place of memory and history for the people who no longer live there, and who come once a year for the fiesta.

Based on long-term multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork, the thesis locates small-scale processes of cultural production, discrimination and resistance within larger national and international political and cultural narratives. Through examination of spatial divisions, ritual and local government bureaucracy, a depiction of the fractures and tensions of small town life emerges. It engages with the elasticity of ‘the local’ and the different ways of belonging to a place where few people now live, in the context of a wider conversation about indigeneity, identity and memory arising from political and social change in Bolivia in the early years of the 21st century, including the election of Evo Morales. Through discussion of religious and civic events as well as everyday life, this research shows that those who belong to the town form intimate and contradictory relationships which both fracture along and cross over barriers of class, location and ethnicity.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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24 June 2010

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Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 13:46

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 10:31


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