Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
University of California, Davis
Qhari kaspapas: (Re)creating masculinity in Andean festival performance

My dissertation scrutinizes the complex relationships Andean citizens have with their Indigenous heritage, to illuminate how local knowledge and practices shape their identities. In particular, it explores how male-identified Andeans of Quechua descent deploy Quechua epistemology to make sense of, negotiate, and adapt a vast array of gender notions as they develop community- and place-based masculinities. To do so, my project studies the performance of a troupe of male-identified dancers during one of the most popular public festivals in the Peruvian Andes. When these dancers perform, they embody a character called the Qhapaq Qolla, who to them is both a role model and an extension of their own selves. The dancers conceptualize the Qhapaq Qolla as an embodiment of Andean autochthonous culture, and use the term qhari, Quechua for “male,” to refer to its character traits. Dancers expect everyone in the troupe to behave as qhari at all times, even in their daily lives. The meaning of qhari is always in flux, as dancers constantly explore and (re)create it during their performances and interactions with one another. Grounded in Native American and Indigenous studies (NAIS) theories and methods, and codeveloped with Qhapaq Qolla dancers themselves, my dissertation explores how the members of the troupe construct their own masculinity, one that is fluid and co-constitutive of other identities, as they embody, explore, and (re)shape the Qhapaq Qolla character in their public performances. My project bridges NAIS and Andean studies, providing a novel approach to study Andean societies that centers Indigeneity. It develops a research framework based on Quechua epistemology that acknowledges dancers themselves as theorizers of their own reality. Using that framework, my dissertation studies how qhari masculinity reflects and informs the dancers’ community relationships and responsibilities, transcending common understandings of gender identities as bounded and dichotomic.