Youth, Quechua and neoliberalism in contemporary Perú

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Abstract

Framed within a critical and ethnographic approach to language policy, my study addresses the phenomenon of language commodification and the construction of neoliberal subjectivities in contemporary Perú. Specifically, I address a project of Quechua teaching in the city of Lima called Quechua para Todos, or Quechua for All, promoted by young Quechua activists developing interventions to change historically established imaginaries. Taking this project as a starting point, I analyze what is behind the extremely high demand these Quechua courses are having among youth in the capital city, where Quechua has been historically silenced. My argument is that a significant group of the young students from the courses have begun to integrate the Quechua language to the figure of the entrepreneurial subject for whom both personal and national branding is central. While speaking Quechua has historically indexed 'indianness' linked to backwardness, rurality, ancestrality and ignorance, it is now being associated with other linguistic and non-linguistic signs (such as being a professional and knowing English) to enregister a multicultural citizenship within a context of neoliberal economic growth and state policies of cultural branding. Although the demand to study Quechua in Lima is shifting the meanings and values of Quechua, at least within a domain of speakers, it may also be erasing ongoing processes of racialization of indigenous peoples in Peruvian society and fundamental gaps in access to education and economic resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-66
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Volume2023
Issue number280
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023

Keywords

  • Perú
  • Quechua
  • multicultural citizenship
  • nation branding
  • neoliberalism
  • youth

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