Through discussion of my experience with Yuquí community members in Bolivia, I reflect upon a widespread phenomenon: when people with limited options resort to the sale of their culture for their economic survival. There is substantial literature that supports that indigenous peoples can influence the representations of themselves communicated through artisanry or touristic products in such a way that is self-asserting; however, the Yuquí case demonstrates that such representational control may not always be possible. The image that Yuquí crafts communicate is of an archaic, vestigial people, an image that the Yuquí do not esteem. Although it is an invalid and incomplete image of the Yuquí that the artisanry conveys, the Yuquí sell it out of economic necessity. Anthropology, with its long-standing study of remote, indigenous peoples, tends to authenticate this partial and exoticized image and in this way can be a discomfiting accomplice in its promotion and sale. By helping indigenous research consultants articulate more complete self-images through their cultural commodities--images that they can actually relate and identify with--perhaps anthropologists can help indigenous peoples participate in their cultural commodification in ways that return to them their human dignity.
"“Did You Find Culture There?”: Yuquí Artisanry of Bolivia and the Uncertain Control of Self-Representation through Cultural Commodification,"
Journal of Contemporary Anthropology: Vol. 2
, Article 6.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jca/vol2/iss1/6