Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, London E1 4NS, UNITED KINGDOM.
This thesis is an ethnographic study of Taulli, a “Peruvian peasant community” (PPC) in the highland region of Ayacucho. PPCs are a paradigmatic type of Andean community with distinctive communal features and great historical significance. The thesis offers a detailed case study that contributes to an understanding of the maintenance, current role, and functioning, of these communities in the early Twenty-first Century. Additionally, this case study reassesses key theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Andean cultures, defending the ongoing validity of community ethnographies and many aspects of 1960s-80s research in the Andean region (particularly its “long-termist” approaches).
Specifically, the thesis examines the current role that the community (as a PPC) plays for the Taullinos -such as its respective advantages and disadvantages- in a context where far-reaching social change coexists with rich local traditions. On the one hand, it is argued that the community has become a channel through which Taullinos acquire access to new services and benefits, largely resulting from increased state intervention through unprecedented development-related initiatives. Despite their limitations and mixed results, it is shown how these initiatives partially adapt to and reinforce the local PPC status. The combination of this state intervention and other factors of change, especially emigration, are deepening local integration into national society and have brought remarkable improvements to the quality of life of Taullinos. Nonetheless, such processes are also hampered by severe problems and challenges, largely linked to a legacy of social exclusion and discrimination.
On the other hand, it is argued that the community and local traditions continue to offer Taullinos a strong sense of identity and social cohesion, and some important practical advantages, in the context of social change. In particular, through their participation in the local communal organisation and ritual celebrations, which are key foci of this study. Furthermore, it is demonstrated how local traditions are dynamically reinvented to serve as a primary channel through which Taullinos experience and accommodate change. Therefore, although the local communal system is demanding and has many limitations, Taullinos unanimously accept and identify with it, and with the PPC status that guarantees its continuity.