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Grant number: FN-50056-09

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Elisabeth Gabrielle Kuenzli
University of South Carolina Research Foundation (Columbia, SC 29208-0001)

Acting Inca: Ethnic Identity and Quechua Theater in Early 20th-Century Highland Bolivia

The project will study a form of elite, early 20th-century Quechua language and theater in highland Bolivia. The Quechua language was the central language of communication with the rise and expansion of the Inca Empire, which lasted from the early 1400s until the Spaniards' arrival in 1532. The proposed study deals with both text and context; the source is a theatrical performance of the Spanish conquest in Caracollo, Bolivia, whose origins date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I hypothesize that the Quechua employed belongs to a specific, elite set of Quechua linguistics--often called "capac simi"-- employed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in some performances of Quechua theater. While several authors have noted the use of the specialized Quechua in performance, nobody has analyzed its linguistic or contextual significance. I am interested in investigating relations and constructions of power and identity as expressed through this distinct form of Quechua as well as through constructions and appropriations of an "Inca" identity in highland Bolivia in the early 20th century. While there are still an estimated 3 million Quechua speakers in Bolivia today, Quechua theater as a linguistic, cultural, and political form is nearly extinct. As enactments of Quechua theater quietly die out across the Andes, the play that originated in the early 20th century and continues to be performed in Caracollo today represents one of the last chances to document and analyze the historic roots of Quechua theater and language. (Edited by staff)

Project fields:

Documenting Endangered Languages - Fellowships

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2009 – 7/31/2010