The Real of Community, the Desire for Development and the Performance of Egalitarianism in the Peruvian Andes: A Materialist–Utopian Account

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Abstract

The paper proposes a materialist–utopian perspective for explaining the persistence of community in the Andes by drawing upon Lacanian theory and the thought of the Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui. What characterizes the Andean comunidad are not notions of belonging and identity, but the existence of a fundamental antagonism (what I call the ‘Real of community’). The argument unfolds ethnographically. Usibamba, a peasant comunidad in the central Peruvian Andes, is known as a highly egalitarian and disciplined comunidad. However, a disjunction exists between deep-seated aspirations of justice and egalitarianism and the particularistic interests of families and individuals. This disjunction manifests itself in a contradictory, schizophrenic regime of discipline and negotiation that produces ‘split subjects’. Desiring development and the staging of theatrical performances of egalitarianism enables Usibambinos to deal with this disjunction and to present an image of unity and determination. I conclude that the comunidad persists through ‘impossible political acts’ brought about by a residual but growing category of landless comuneros who constitute ‘the part of no part’, the uncounted or unnamed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-88
JournalJournal of Agrarian Change
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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