An Ethnography of Feeding, Perception, and Place in the Peruvian Andes (where Hungry Spirits Bring Illness and Wellbeing)

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Drawing on anthropological field work, this ethnographic study by Marieka Sax proposes that an Andean “idiom of feeding” is enacted in a variety of everyday and ritual contexts so as to establish relationships, advance agricultural and market-based economies, and restore health. The book asserts that the process of feeding others carries with it a sense of self-identification for the people of the Peruvian Andes and that feeding as a ritual, is highly connected to Andean spirits who extend life-giving energy, productivity, and general well-being. The study of feeding and the cultural context given to it through language, presents to the reader local, national, and global connections with the people of the Peruvian Andes.


“It says something about our community of practice when a young researcher opts for philosophy to justify ethnographic inquiry, engage[s] with established work, and discuss questions of continuity and dislocation within a cultural tradition. But in finest Andean fashion, the inside of our discipline is dramatically renewed by a serious engagement with the outside. The lucidity of description and analysis in this book, its sensitivity to both grounding and movement, and its principled refusal of neoliberal modernization narratives all point to better days ahead. “-Prof. Peter Gose, Carleton University

“…explores ideas and practices related to migratory movement between rural and urban areas in a variety of places. Relationship to places is an important perspective to understanding how Andean people conceptualize new situations and how they reassert efficacy.”-Prof. Sarah Lund, University of Oslo

“This publication contributes to fill the shortage of ethnographic works on the indigenous population of the contemporary Central Andes. [The author] collected information includes important data and testimonies about rituals, oral tradition and native language in the region where she did fieldwork.”-Prof. Juan Javier Rivera Andía, University of Bonn

Table of Contents

Foreword by Peter Gose


Chapter 1: Feeding, Perception, and Place
Three ethnographic moments
Summary of the overall discussion

Chapter 2: From Lima to Huancavelica
The “Bautista” family
Market days: a taste of Paucará
The importance of the cash economy
The ethnographic problem of place

Chapter 3: Hungry Places and Wellbeing
Mountain spirits and agricultural production
The herranza: animal fertility rituals
The ambivalent power of mountain spirits
The mesa: feeding hungry spirits
Chapter summary

Chapter 4: The Social Importance of Feeding
Feeding and symbolic communication
Feeding guests
Gifts of food
Reciprocity and social advancement
Commensality and overabundance
Work relations and prestige
Feeding and social memory
Chapter summary

Chapter 5: Feeding as a Force of Production and Advancement
Reciprocal feeding and reciprocal work
Feeding and agricultural production
Feeding and the fertility of money
Feeding, reciprocity, and urban livelihoods
Feeding as exchange, circulation, and sacrifice
Ritual offerings, luck, and non-agricultural productivity
Chapter summary

Chapter 6: Place and Sickness
Departure and the non-productivity of place
Sickness and urban migration
Feeding as a curative response to illness
Evangelical Protestantism in relation to place-based illness
Sickness and religious conversion
Chapter summary

Conclusion: Feeding and the Andean Horizon



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