J. Alonso Gamarra - Learning how to Live: Food, Belonging, and Pursuing Change in Neoliberal Peru

Alsonso Gamarra

Events will be held both virtually by Zoom and in-person. Anyone who wishes to attend the event in person in HL 348, The Centre for Ethnography, should RSVP to maggie.cummings@utoronto.ca.

Date and Time: -
Location: Online or in-person at the Centre for Ethnography (HL348)

J. Alonso Gamarra is a PhD candidate in Anthropology Department at McGill University. His research explores the relationship between food and belonging in neoliberal Peru. Through an experience-near engagement with the everyday lives of farmers, market workers and activists, Alonso’s dissertation describes how local foodways and cultivation techniques give life form in social worlds affected by one of Peru’s major eco-territorial conflicts. The Tía María mining conflict began to gather the attention of mainstream Peruvian publics in 2009, when a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico announced its plans to build two open-pit copper mines in the Tambo River Valley (Islay, Arequipa). Over the following decade, state institutions responded to overwhelming rejection of valley residents with a combination of militarized repression and disenfranchisement. In parallel, infrastructural modifications to a dam located farther upriver have altered the flow and composition of the river, negatively affecting the environment, and threatening the future of small-scale agriculture in the valley. This situation raises important questions about the forms of exclusionary violence that sustain Peru’s economic growth today. Framing Peruvian neoliberalism as a political-economic regime constituted through authoritarian state reforms enacted amid the upheavals of a protracted internal armed conflict (1980-2000), Alonso’s writing projects trace the afterlives of these transformations in the overlapping social worlds of project participants. In doing so, they seek to render an ethnographic picture of belonging in neoliberal Peru, which foregrounds ordinary efforts at mediating the competing demands of more than one grounding sociality, particularly in critical moments when the extension of a shared world entails uncertain attempts at collective transformation. To represent these irresolvable pulls, his writing moves between situated concepts of arraigo (lit. “rootedness”) and scenes in which the actions of growing, cooking, and sharing food provide resources for care and worldmaking.