The ambitions and ambiguities of community: state policy and artisan cooperation in rural Peru
Vogt, Jennifer Ann
Based on fieldwork among artisans in the rural district of Quinua, Peru, this dissertation analyzes recent state policies to promote creative industries and organize business associations. I focus on two concrete practices – local business associations and intellectual property right (IPR) regimes – that enact official business models for development promoted in neoliberal policy agendas and international law. Development specialists intended these forms of local cooperation to encourage creativity, efficiency, and entrepreneurism in support of shared craft and cultural identity for national competitiveness in global markets. This research argues that while this strategy can be successful to a point, it also overlooks existing inequities in targeted communities. Resources funneled through associations, for instance, have provided small business development for artisan ceramicists, but association leaders with entrepreneurial potential are also influential, prominent, and well-informed people in the Quinua district. “Culturally appropriate” development projects have thus unintentionally rewarded existing economic “winners” and further marginalized disadvantaged producers. At issue, though, is how more disadvantaged artisans have disputed these elite claims since many artisans claim that leaders are not “true” Quinua artisans. Drawing on actor-oriented and discursive analysis, this dissertation reveals that conflicting aspirations emerge from real material differences between artisans, making strategic cooperation and community building problematic. But even as artisans evaluate each other, struggling to define who should benefit from development projects all engage in ongoing discourses within and about community and shared identity. My findings suggest that associations and IPRs – integral to current development models in Peru – may unexpectedly provide arenas for collective renegotiation of how community-based projects are implemented. This thesis contributes to studies of community realities targeted by such local-level development projects. Ultimately, while associations and IPRs assume symbolic and material value of local interdependencies, they may in certain contexts become vehicles for reinforcing inequalities. Still, local people can strengthen cultural identity through inclusive and careful debate over how development projects are contrived in their communities.