Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology
My research examines the multiple knowledges indigenous peoples in the Andes employ in their relationship with the mining industry and the implications these knowledges have in the ways they experience personhood and their socionatural worlds. While “knowledges” might seem an abstract and overly theoretical category – especially when we consider the concrete impacts of mining – it is crucial to understand how indigenous peoples orient themselves as political actors in scenarios of environmental and health ruination. These scenarios push indigenous peoples to reevaluate their understanding of themselves and the world in order to confront life threatening conditions and communicate effectively with state authorities and mining executives. The urgency and importance of “knowledges” as a subject of anthropological concern goes beyond abstract philosophical preoccupations; it relates to the pragmatics of indigenous peoples’ everyday lives and the political strategies they design to ensure better living conditions for themselves. By focusing on the multiple knowledges people embody and deploy in their relationship with the mining industry, I seek to understand how indigenous people position themselves as social actors in scenarios in which the constitution and properties of the world, as well as peoples’ own embeddedness in it, become active political and pragmatic concerns.
Anthropologists have rarely combined under the same study the science of environmental destruction and the power of religion and indigenous ontologies in shaping people’s understanding of that destruction and respond it. My project brings together these topics to understand people’s political agency and creativity in social settings in which their lives are constantly being threatened. In Espinar, the region where I am doing ethnographic and archival research, people bring into existence new ways of living by drawing on the full range of resources available to them by environmental science, Protestantism, and indigenous ontologies. To grasp this requires taking seriously the scientific worldview which they share with businessmen and politicians, and the cosmology of living mountains and demonic forces. Similarly, it involves articulating radically different phenomena - such as environmental contamination and demonic interventions - within social practice and political action.