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Art and the Politics of Blackness and Indigeneity in Peru's Past and Present

Lima, Peru

Term Offered: 
Approximate Dates of Instruction: 
June 20, 2019 to July 22, 2019

Directed by historian Adam Warren (History/Latin American and Caribbean Studies) and cultural anthropologist Monica Rojas-Stewart (JSIS/Latin American and Caribbean Studies & African Studies), this interdisciplinary program examines diversity in a non-US setting by asking how identity and history are constructed, negotiated, and renegotiated in Peru through artistic production and expressive culture, and how art engages the politics of historical memory and imaginations of Blackness and Indigeneity. Students will study the longer history of Peru while observing, working alongside, and learning from performing artists, community leaders, and activists who have played crucial roles in preserving Afro-Peruvian and Indigenous artistic and performative traditions. By bringing the arts together with scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, we will situate the work of artists in a broader context and explore how artistic production constitutes a way of thinking historically about identity, diversity, and power. How, for example, do dance, music, and related forms of artistic production such as costume-making create spaces, both figurative and real, for wrestling with the past to confront and challenge the injustices of the present? How do they enable individuals and collectives to imagine alternative political and social configurations and articulate forms of anti-racism? How do they enable people to make meaning of the past and engage the urgency of the present? Finally, what can the study of artistic production and cultural expression among such groups teach us about the complexities of race, equity, and diversity in various contexts in Peru and beyond?

Like many countries in Latin America, Peru is a diverse, multicultural nation. It is home not just to Black and Indigenous populations, but also to sizable populations of Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, and German descent as well as a majority who self-identify as being of mixed heritage. It is also marked by sharp inequalities and a long history of racism stretching back to the sixteenth century. By focusing in particular on Afro-Peruvian and Indigenous populations, their artistic and cultural movements, and their longer histories of resistance and outright rebellion, this program enables students to reconstruct how systems of racial and cultural oppression have operated over time and the myriad ways through which they have been challenged. By asking students to further engage these themes through hands-on work, research, interviews, and observation of artists and performers, the program builds upon the spirit of the UW President’s Race and Equity Initiative. It makes diversity and experiential learning central to the process of understanding the past and the present.

The program focuses specifically on four different sites along Peru’s coast and in the Andean highlands: the country's capital, Lima; the Afro-Peruvian communities of El Carmen, near Chincha; the city of Cuzco; and the historically Indigenous and Mestizo town of Pisac. Although coastal and highland sites are often imagined as separate and cut off from one another, they have in fact been interconnected for centuries, with the result that Black and Indigenous ethnic and racial identities have long been constructed in relation to one another and continue to be articulated in this fashion in the present. Students will examine how contact between populations is remembered and how it has shaped Black and Indigenous music, dance, and artistic expression. They will study how music and dance engage and reflect in their content this longer history, in which Afro-Peruvians populated portions of the largely Indigenous Andes and Indigenous populations from both the coast and the highlands took up residence along the coast and in Lima. In this way, the course will shed light on the historical interplay of such identities while looking comparatively at ways of thinking historically and forms of political mobilization among members of such groups in different parts of the country.

  • CHID 472: History, Performance, and the Politics of Blackness and Indigeneity in Multicultural Peru (5 credits, I&S, Diversity)
  • HSTLAC 481: History of Peru and the Andean Region (5 credits I&S)
  • CHID 499: Independent Project (2 credits I&S)
Fulfills Requirements: 
CHID Cultural and Historical Engagement
CHID Power & Difference
I&S Credit
Total Program Fees: 

*Note that the fees stated above do not include some additional costs, including, but not limited to: airfare, Study Abroad Insurance ($2/day), and personal spending money. Remember that these costs will differ by program. Be sure to read our Fees, Financing, and Withdrawal information for details about the fee structure and payment schedule.