Current Institutional Affiliation
Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2017
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center
Between Waste and Huacas: Cultural Patrimony and Recyclers’ Rights in Lima-Peru

The pre-Columbian ruins, colloquially referred to as huacas, that sprinkle the landscape of contemporary Lima were central to configurations of property rights and native identity during Peru's colonial period. Today, even as huacas in Peru's capital stand as trash-filled dumps, they have once again become central to definitions of indigeneity and property within a novel United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Peruvian national development plan intended to consolidate Peru's economy around tourism and a "revalorized" cultural patrimony. Huacas thus instantiate Peruvian state efforts to sanitize the nation's collective possessions by eliminating "modern waste" from the ancient monuments and roadways located in the UNESCO-sanctioned "Andean Road System." Yet for many of Lima's citizens, garbage is more than an obstacle to the codification of their activities and histories as "culture:" it is both a popular resource and the currency of street commerce. In fact, recent national legislation enshrines recyclers' right to appropriate trash and they often lay claim to discarded items found in the huacas that have become recycling hubs. As a result, I will direct 12 months of research at the overlapping interpretive frames recyclers and heritage experts bring to bear upon their interactions within huacas. I seek to understand how, in the wake of Latin America's export-oriented natural resource boom, stakeholders encouraged by their status as "cultural producers" historicize and represent their connections to Lima's built environment and the artifacts they manipulate within pre-Columbian shrines. This research asks how recyclers' extraction of "waste" and production of cultural properties as motors of national development inflects new modes of national inclusion in Lima today.