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Appropriating the Andean in White Argentina: Whiteness, Interculturalism, and (De)Coloniality in Buenos Aires, Argentina


This dissertation is about the reimagining of Argentine identity as racially and culturally diverse and distinctly Latin American as it is performed and experienced by everyday Argentines in the capital region of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is based on 15 months of dissertation research with a community of Andean panpipe musicians and a network of Indigenous language learners. I show how my interlocutors seek to disrupt the hegemonic whiteness of official constructions of Argentina national identity by “recuperating” non-European ways of thinking and being in the world that these constructions deny as valid expressions of Argentineness. They locate these ways of being and thinking as encoded within Indigenous cultural forms, particularly, Andean language and music. I examine how this reimagining is understood as shifting away from aspirational “Europeanness” and toward an embrace of “Latin Americanness,” is shaped by discourses of interculturalism, and is framed as a process of decolonization. I analyze the ideologies of race and colonialism that inform my interlocutors’ praxis and put them in conversation with larger regional discourses of mestizaje and indigenismos. Through this analysis, I consider the extraordinary difficulty in contesting whiteness, which as a category is adept at redefining itself in order to maintain the systems and structures in which it exists. The dissertation is composed of seven chapters including the introduction and conclusion. The introduction sets out the theoretical framework of the dissertation through a discussion of three theoretical axes: whiteness in Latin American perspective, appropriation and cultural circulation, and coloniality and decolonization. Chapter two traces the shifting meanings of whiteness in Argentina and examines how my interlocutors understand and relate to them. Chapters three and four examine the bipartite processes of “recuperation” and “visibilization” as ideologies of cultural circulation through which I illuminate the meanings of colonialism and decolonization for my interlocutors. Chapter five analyzes metapragmatic discourse about the ethical and political stakes of appropriating and recontextualizing Indigenous Andean music in Buenos Aires. Chapter six follows musicians from Buenos Aires to the Andean fiestas where this music originates and documents the affinities and conflicts that are produced between hosts and visitors. Finally, the conclusion advocates for an approach that considers both the harms and the transformative potentialities of this type of work, which, while ethically and politically fraught, is also a site of profound joy and creativity which are vital to the work of imagining an otherwise.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Brown University, 2022


Deal, Lauren E., "Appropriating the Andean in White Argentina: Whiteness, Interculturalism, and (De)Coloniality in Buenos Aires, Argentina" (2022). Anthropology Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.