Connecting Human-Nonhuman Animal Relationships to Race, Indigeneity, and Gender in Cusco, Peru - Graduate Research

In the historic center of Cusco, Perú, Indigenous Quechua and mestiza women dressed in “traditional” clothing walk to the city’s tourist areas with llamas, alpacas, and lambs, and pose with or for tourists who pay the women to take their photos (see Scarles 2012 and Simon 2009). These women, called sácamefotos (or “take my picture”) by the anthropological literature (Ypeij 2012), work informally in Cusco’s cultural tourism industry and may be actively performing ideas of “authentic” indigeneity and femininity and commodifying their identities to sell to tourists (Comaroff and Comaroff 2009). Relationships with nonhumans may be crucial to this process and may ultimately lead to more social and economic mobility for the women.

My project explores the role that human-nonhuman animal relationships play in the social and economic mobility of Indigenous Quechua women working in cultural tourism. This proposed twelve-month ethnographic research project employs theories from multispecies ethnography (Kirksey and Helmreich 2010) as well as from studies in race, indigeneity, and gender. Integrating such approaches will facilitate a deeper understanding of both the importance of human-nonhuman animal relationships for the livelihoods of Quechua women and can the workings of discrimination and marginalization that Quechua women face.