‘In Quechua, the expressions ‘I am thinking,’ ‘I am remembering,’ ‘I am your thought’ are translated by just one word: Yuyachkani,’ the noted Peruvian commentator Hugo Salazar del Alcazar wrote in one of his many pieces on the Yuyachkani theater group. 1 The term ‘Yuyachkani’ signals embodied knowledge and memory, and blurs the line between thinking subjects and the subjects of thought. The reciprocity and mutual constructedness that links the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ is not a shared or negotiated identity politics - ‘I’ am not ‘you,’ nor claiming to be you or act for you. ‘I’ and ‘you’ are a product of each other’s experiences and memories, of historical trauma, of enacted space, of sociopolitical crisis. But what is ‘embodied’ knowledge/memory, and how is it transmitted? And how does it differ from the ‘archival,’ usually thought of as a permanent and tangible resource of materials available over time for revision and reinterpretation? What is at stake in differentiating between these systems of organized thought, especially perhaps when thinking about trauma?
The transitive notion of embodied memory encapsulated in ‘Yuyachkani’ - the ‘I am remembering/I am your thought’ - entails a relational, non-individualistic understanding of subjectivity. Coya, the indigenous survivor, recounts a vision of annihilation that is and is not her own. The ‘I’ who remembers is simultaneously active and passive (thinking subject/subject of thought). Yuyachkani, a collective theater group, sees itself implicated - both as product and as producer - in various modes of cultural transmission in an ethnically mixed and complex country. For the past 25 years, the group has participated in at least three interconnected survival struggles - that of Peru, plagued by centuries of civil conflict; that of the diverse performance practices that have been obscured (and at times ‘disappeared’) in a racially divided, though multiethnic, Peruvian culture; and that of Yuyachkani itself, made up of nine artists who for decades have worked together in the face of political, personal, and economic crisis. In adopting the Quechua name, the predominantly ‘white’ Spanish-speaking group signals its cultural engagement with indigenous and mestizo populations and with complex, transcultured (Andean-Spanish) ways of knowing, thinking, remembering. Yuyachkani attempts to make visible a multi-