The Racial—Moral Politics of Place

Mestizas and Intellectuals in Turn-of-the-Century Peru
  • Marisol de la Cadena


In the early twentieth century, Peruvian intellectuals tended to choose culture and its cognates (language, religion, and ethnicity) as the semantic fields to discuss the significance of race, and thus build its definition (de 1a Cadena 2000, 2001). By subordinating biological and phe-notypic markers of race to the superior powers of morality and reason, elites from Peru—and other Latin American countries—could ignore skin color and biological hybridities. This conceptual strategy allowed them to safeguard their personal distinction from the threat of racial degeneration that North Atlantic thinkers—mainly from Europe and the United States— diagnosed as the reason for Latin America’s political instability (Stepan 1980). The goal of my work has been to reveal the idiosyncracies in Peruvian intellectual definitions of race, and thus render visible the otherwise imperceptible threat smuggled in the apparently innocuous notion of culture, through which brutal exclusions and domination have been con-sensually legitimized. Accepting the challenge of the compañeras that edit this volume, my aim in this chapter is to continue desalambrando the concept of race. I interpret this assignment to mean writing against it (Gilroy 2000) by exposing its constitutive elements: the classificatory wires, los alambres, the taxonomic fences that contain individuals inside discriminatory hierarchies and the hegemonies that sustain them.


Indian Woman Indigenous Woman Indigenous Culture Indian Servant Moral Defect 
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© Rosario Montoya, Lessie Jo Frazier, and Janise Hurtig 2002

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  • Marisol de la Cadena

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