The Bodily Logics of Production: Intergenerational Perspectives on Adolescence, Exchange, and Aspiration among Kichwa Women in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Shenton, Jamie Erin Zuehl
This study examines the emergence of adolescence in Sacha Loma, a small, indigenous Kichwa community in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The new cohort of teenagers in Sacha Loma is the first generation to be encouraged to remain single and childless while pursuing broadening aspirational horizons that include higher education, white-collar employment, and mass-mediated consumer culture. With a focus on young women and intergenerational dynamics, the dissertation explores adolescent girls’ new status in terms of the concept of the “bodily logics of production”—the complex of principles and aspirations that direct how identities are (re)made through productive activities carried out on and through the body. For elder women, bodily capacities are central to their identities as producers of crops, food, and children. Young women extend this bodily logic in novel directions. They marshal their teenage status and its perks (technology, mobility) in service of unprecedented productive endeavors, like higher education, in which bodies continue to be a prime resource. They embody modernity through practices of consumption (clothing, tele-viewing) and non-consumption (dieting)—forms of identity work they view as necessary to achieve their aspirations. The study highlights multiple frameworks for future-making that are emerging in Sacha Loma. In contrast to views of Western influences as homogenizing global forces that rend the kin group, this study finds both change and continuity. As young Ecuadorian citizens eager to stake their claim to the consumer economy, young women deploy Western images and ideas to “seguir adelante” (get ahead) by pursuing non-agricultural work and projects of self-making. Yet these influences are powerful mechanisms for the production of proper Kichwa persons, as young women’s aspirations remain directed toward augmenting the resources of the body social. The dissertation foregrounds production as a Kichwa-centered notion that not only illuminates contemporary indigenous experiences of social change, but also suggests an angle of reflection for interrogating social theory of globalization and local modernities.