Academic journal article Anthropologica

[Linking Separate Worlds: Urban Migrants & Rural Lives in Peru]

Academic journal article Anthropologica

[Linking Separate Worlds: Urban Migrants & Rural Lives in Peru]

Article excerpt

Karsten Paerregaard, Oxford: Berg, 1997.

Reviewer: Susan Vincent

Mount Allison University

Paerregaard begins his book by invoking the long-standing image of Peru as two separate worlds, one modern, official, urban, Spanish-speaking and capitalist, while the other is traditional, informal, rural, Quechua-speaking and peasant. While early treatments largely left the connections between the two worlds unanalyzed, over the past two decades these connections have been made the subject of anthropological research. Paerregaard contributes to this focus on connections by writing about migrants as the manifestation of the links between the worlds.

This is a wide-ranging book, replete with fascinating detail about the lives of the villagers of Tapay in the southern Peruvian highlands and of Tapeno migrants to Arequipa and Lima. The strength of the book lies in the way disparate aspects from sports to religion are shown to be linked together. Paerregaard refuses to portray an easy homogeneous picture of Tapeno society and culture. Instead he weaves polyvalent themes of history, ethnicity and folklore, religion, kinship, livelihood and politics around the movements of migrants to present the complexity of Tapeno identity. This is an ethnographic rather than a theoretical book: Paerregaard's framework is to present a multitude of perspectives on Tapeno identity, rejecting the functionalist representation of homogeneity of much past anthropological writing.

The major focus of the book relates to ethnicity and identity which Paerregaard demonstrates to be complex and dynamic. For example, a discussion of the impact of the immigration of a family of Spanish-speaking mestizos in the 19th century, a priest and his brother and sister-in-law, reflects a combination of history, migration, kinship, politics and economics. While the priest's children (!) were identified as local poeple (runa) since he could not acknowledge paternity, his brother's children continued to be considered mestizo and formed the local elite. This domination ended when return runa migrants, with a command of Spanish as well as of political and economic process, were able to displace the mestizo family. Paerregaard then goes on to demonstrate that the current state of ethnic identity is differently formulated from the inherited class/cultural/linguistic division of the past. Thus, in Chapter 8, Paerregaard presents a discussion of ritual in both rural and urban spheres, demonstrating the dynamic and contextual hybrid that comprises folk identity.

Paerregaard's focus on migration allows for a rich analysis of the interplay between ideas deriving from rural and urban worlds. For example, in Chapter 7, a discussion of Catholicism and of conversion and reconversion to different Protestant sects in Tapay is set against a background of politics and migration. The necessary abstinence from drinking, music and dancing that Protestantism entails in Tapay leads to social isolation for converts, making it difficult to participate in rural social life. Thus, Paerregaard argues that Protestantism is linked to migrants, whose image of being Tapeno is less invested in close reciprocal social ties than non-migrants. Still, many lapse back into Catholicism as they attempt to adjust to a workable identity in the context of peasant life.

Much of the literature on rural-urban migration in Peru takes the economy as a central focus. While Paerregaard's concentration on identity overshadows economic processes, livelihood activities are a part of identity. …

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