Argentina by Erika Wittekind

By Erika Wittekind

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Derrida does not leave out acting subjects, so much as he negates them: in his approach iterability is not just a source of sense; it also reveals that it is not subjects who speak but the systems of signification that speak through them. I find the more nuanced approach to subjects and agency in Butler’s discussions of performativity (see, especially, Butler 2006) very apt for understanding Quirpinis’ decidedly ambiguous possibilities for agency. Through their actions they partially make their own worlds, and influence other worlds, but they do so under conditions, and as subjects, that often render those actions questionably their own.

Few houses or fields are visible where the road passes through Tambo Mokho, as most of them are clustered around the few arable fields on a seasonal river a few hundred yards to the west; all that is visible is a small school and scattered mulli trees. Below Tambo Mokho the road enters San Lucas, a stronghold of the region’s Spanish-speaking elite in a terrain mainly inhabited by campesinos. But before we arrive in San Lucas, some historical and social background is in order. “Campesino” is the term by which Quirpinis designate their social position and which members of the Spanish-speaking San Lucas elite use to refer to the Quechua-speaking residents of the many small villages of the region.

Although I am describing the spatial practices of a specific group of people, it is not my concern to emphasize, or to underplay, their uniqueness. Some of the patterns of action I describe can be found in many other conjunctures; others are particular to the Andes or to Quirpinis. Similarly, the question of how culturally “Andean” their lives and practices are is of little interest, except insofar as it interests them or interests someone (such as the local priest) whose actions affect them. Quirpinis cannot be understood outside the framework of Andean history and culture, but that framework does not fully contain them.

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