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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pampa and Pallay : the paradox of culture and economy in the Andean mountains Akins, Ashli


Cultural heritage around the world is struggling to stay alive as global markets increasingly reward efficiency and standardization over handmade, traditional processes. Yet it is this very heritage that could bring humanity together, revive cultural identities, and promote sustainable development. The Quechua textile tradition in Peru is one such practice, and its future is tenuous amidst synthetic replicas of traditional weavings that are sold in markets across Cusco. After working to revitalize this tradition for over 15 years, here I delve into theoretical understandings of the realities of safeguarding cultural heritage in an era of rapid economic change. Working collaboratively with five rural Quechua communities, I use mixed methods in this research, including ethnographic immersion, semi-structured interviews, participatory action, and an oral-tactile textile survey. I present my dissertation creatively in two parts: the warp (academic research, expressed through five empirical chapters) and the weft (six practical tools to support textile revitalization at the community level). My research is interdisciplinary, situated within the frameworks of socioecological systems, cultural heritage law, and collective intellectual property rights. I ask how local communities are navigating trade-offs among economic, environmental, and sociocultural considerations as they safeguard their cultural heritage. As part of this, I work with highland alpaca-herders to recuperate their local alpaca-rearing tradition. I also explore the relationship between authenticity and adaptation in the context of the market economy, with reference to how this relationship may affect Quechua weavers’ resilience. I assess opinions of local producers, vendors, and consumers regarding which textile attributes are considered most and least authentic, understanding that many traditional processes are adapting due to stressors like market demand, climate change, and rural-urban emigration. I argue that, when safeguarding cultural heritage, values reflecting sociocultural and environmental wellbeing are often demoted in favour of economic security. Currently, markets are not set up to support small-scale artisans, and especially artisans who are women. I put forth various solutions to these dilemmas, including recommendations about community-based certifications and the pivotal role that vendors can – and arguably ought to – play as educators, to collectively shift the market towards one that recognizes and values cultural heritage.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International