February 2017

Karl Swinehart, Comparative Humanities (Linguistics)

“Andino Futurism, Tupak Katari in Space, and Decolonial Time in Bolivia’s Pacha Kuti”

Debates about cultural practices in Bolivia have increasingly unfolded around questions of which practices are deemed essentially indigenous or essentially Western, with many corners of Indigenous Bolivia calling for decolonization and the reestablishment of indigenous cultural hegemony. This paper examines cases in which the construal of time (through calendars, clocks, and notions of the past and future) is depicted as essentially Indigenous to the Andes or a colonial import from the West and, thus, a target for reform. Advancing competing construals of time has become one feature of contemporary state led political interventions, from reorienting clock faces on public buildings to run from right to left, to reconciling the Gregorian calendar with the solar, agricultural, Aymara one, to replacing Spanish-loan words for the days of the week with neologisms, to framing the launching of a telecommunications satellite as the reconstitution of prehispanic astronomical science. Across these cases we encounter a semiotic ideology of andinofuturism that identifies the prehispanic Andean past as a source for technological and social advance. This ideology draws on salient differences between the timespace semantics Indo-European and Andean languages: 1) the linking of front space with past time and anterior space with the futurity and 2) a unified concept of ‘spacetime’ or ‘pacha,’ a term that has become popularized through the widespread use of ‘Pacha Kuti,’ or ‘the turning over of spacetime,’ to refer to what in other contexts might be called “revolution.”

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