The Transformative effect of a road on rural Andean social relationships
(University of London)
Paper short abstract:
Road construction can reshape rural communities and social relationships. The paper will discuss how a road, through facilitating movement faster and further, has enabled migration and new kinds of economic exchanges, reconfiguring social relationships within rural communities in the Bolivian Andes.
Paper long abstract:
The traditional rural Andean socio-territorial unit, the ayllu, is defined for its members by complementarity through and inter- and intra- community exchange of products between different ecological levels. Exchange occurs both between human members of ayllus and between living humans and their ancestral landscape deities. Drawing on fieldwork with the Kallawayas, an indigenous Bolivian nation, this paper will examine how the relationships and residence of the ayllu are transformed by the building of a road facilitating movement further and faster. Until 1983, Kallawaya region was relatively isolated. Relationships and dietary variety were maintained through bartering of products within communities of ayllus, situated at different levels of altitude. These journeys would be made on foot with a mule. However, the construction of a tarmacked road, from Bolivia's capital city, La Paz, to the Amazon basin, passing through the Kallawaya region, has had two effects: the road has altered economic relations and residency patterns, extending the ayllu, while fragmenting it. The road has made it easier for communities to be sold directly at market in La Paz and markets on the border with Peru; it has also facilitated migration from rural to urban areas and from Andean to tropical areas, leading to dual residency. This paper will examine how migration and the mixing of barter with monetary relations has affected social relations within the ayllu, transforming the ayllu spatially.
From paths to roads: the transformative capacities of roads on movement and relationships