The Lettered Mountain

A Peruvian Village’s Way with Writing

The Lettered Mountain

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 72 illustrations, 7 tables, 1 map Published: November 2011

Subjects
Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Andes, Linguistics

Andean peoples joined the world of alphabetic literacy nearly 500 years ago, yet the history of their literacy has remained hidden until now. In The Lettered Mountain, Frank Salomon and Mercedes Niño-Murcia expand notions of literacy and challenge stereotypes of Andean “orality” by analyzing the writings of mountain villagers from Inka times to the Internet era. Their historical ethnography is based on extensive research in the village of Tupicocha, in the central Peruvian province of Huarochirí. The region has a special place in the history of Latin American letters as the home of the unique early-seventeenth-century Quechua-language book explaining Peru’s ancient gods and priesthoods. Granted access to Tupicocha’s surprisingly rich internal archives, Salomon and Niño-Murcia found that legacy reflected in a distinctive version of lettered life developed prior to the arrival of state schools. In their detailed ethnography, writing emerges as a vital practice underlying specifically Andean sacred culture and self-governance. At the same time, the authors find that Andean relations with the nation-state have been disadvantaged by state writing standards developed in dialogue with European academies but not with the rural literate tradition.

Praise

“[A]s the first ethnography of local writing and archiving practices, [The Lettered Mountain] does a marvelous job of describing the centrality of literacy to Andean societies of past and present…With Salomon and Niño-Murcia’s important ethnography, ignoring Andean writing is no longer possible.” — S. Elizabeth Penry, American Historical Review

In The Lettered Mountain, Frank Salomon and Mercedes Niño-Murcia explore the evolution of alphabetic literacy in Andean villages, providing a valuable historical overview of this theme from Inka times to the present…. It is further evidence of the complex interplay between socio-political conditions and epistemology and how “Western” visions of modernity are now under siege the world over.” — Gavin O'Toole, The Latin American Review of Books

"The Lettered Mountain provides historians with a rich template for understanding how peasant archives are constructed in the Andes." — Alan Durston, Journal of American History

“Simply put, The Lettered Mountain is a beautifully written book and a must read for those interested in multiple literacies, historiography, and ethnography, as well as colonial and contemporary Latin America.” — Judy Kalman, Hispanic American Historical Review

The Lettered Mountain is destined to become a classic. Tracing the deep and rich history of writing and text production from the time of the Inka Empire to the present day, Frank Salomon and Mercedes Niño-Murcia have written a work that will transform our understanding of the nature, implications, and the consequences of literacy in communities that have, until now, been assumed to be outside the realm of the ‘lettered.’ It is a fascinating and highly stimulating read.” — Gary Urton, Harvard University

The Lettered Mountain should surprise many readers. Frank Salomon’s and Mercedes Niño-Murcia’s arguments concerning the passage from khipu to alphabetic literacy and the deep roots of alphabetic writing in rural Peru challenge traditional ethnographic portraits of Andean culture as exclusively oral. Their case for refocusing our attention away from schooled literacy and toward forms of legal literacy whose origins go back to the colonial period is backed by insightful ethnography. The Lettered Mountain forces us to see the Andes in a new light, without losing sight of the themes that were important to Andeanists in the past.” — Joanne Rappaport, co-author of Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Frank Salomon is the John V. Murra Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of The Cord Keepers: Khipus and Cultural Life in a Peruvian Village, also published by Duke University Press.

Mercedes Niño-Murcia is Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and Associate Director of the Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Iowa. She is a co-editor of Bilingualism and Identity: Spanish at the Crossroads with Other Languages.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations xi

Tables xv

Preface xvii

Introduction. Peru and the Ethnography of Writing 1

1. An Andean Community Writes Itself 31

2. From Khipu to Narrative 71

3. A Tale of Two Lettered Cities: Schooling from Ayllu to State 125

4. "Papelito Manda": The Power of Writing 153

5. Power over Writing: Academy and Ayllu 182

6. Writing and the Rehearsal of the Past 221

7. Village and Diaspora as Deterritorialized Library 261

Conclusions 285

Appendix. Examples of Document Genres 297

Notes 301

References 311

Index 351
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5044-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5027-9
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