Introductory Overview

Popular dramatizations of the Incas’ defeat by the Spaniards remain widespread across the central Andes. Most studies assume such dramatizations to be a form of resisting hegemony from ‘dominant’ sectors of society. While agreeing that, at one level, this tradition attempts to resist hegemony, this article argues that, at a deeper level, it actually reinforces the underlying hegemonic ‘logic’: the supposed existence of two unequal and intrinsically irreconcilable groups. To argue this, I integrate Laclau and Mouffe’s political theory of hegemony with Kristeva’s psychological theory of abjection. The resulting framework is a powerful tool for exploring how hegemonic articulations acquire deep emotional and cognitive resonance at the psychological level, and how, as a consequence, they can be so ‘contagious’.

I then apply this framework to the case of folk literature. Given its often ritualistic context, with the heightened emotional and aesthetic dimensions that this entails, folk literature is ideally placed to reveal otherwise covert discursive principles that inform social attitudes. Taking one Quechua poem as a case study, I trace the intellectual lineage of the genre to two main philosophical traditions: Augustinian and pre-Hispanic. By exploring how the Andean poetics of ‘resistance’ combines and reshapes philosophical concepts from both traditions, I show how the same underlying ‘logic’ of the hegemonic discourse is occluded by the variation in its mode of articulation.

Section One: Andean Poetics of ‘Resistance’

The poem discussed in this article forms part of a tradition widespread across the central Andes which ritually and theatrically represents the Incas’ encounter with the Spanish invaders at the time of the Conquest. The earliest record of such dramatizations dates from 1555 in Potosí (Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela), while the first concrete example comprises two illustrations of a drama documented by Baltazar Jaime Martínez Compañón y Bujanda, Bishop of Trujillo (Millones, Actores de altura). Such dramatizations were doubtless influenced by historical movements such as the taki unquy or ‘dance sickness’, a religious movement that began around 1565 and predicted the ultimate victory of indigenous gods over Christianity (Chang-Rodríguez), and dramatizations of the conflict between Moors and Spaniards in medieval Europe which were brought by the Europeans to the New World (Kapsolí). Garcilaso’s seventeenth-century chronicles present the Incas in a very similar light to the poetic traditions: as benevolent rulers of a prosperous empire (see Murra). Since the 1950s, a number of texts from this tradition have surfaced, particularly in Bolivia (Balmori; Beyersdorff; Lara) and Peru (Burga; Flores Galindo; Gonzáles, Odi; González Carré and Rivera Pineda; Kapsolí; Millones, El Inca por la coya, Actores de altura).

Scholars of this tradition generally agree in viewing it as a response to the longstanding socioeconomic and political marginalization of the majority of the rural Andean population (see Chang-Rodríguez; Millones, El Inca por la coya, Actores de altura; Pigott ‘Foreign Encounters’;, Wachtel),1 specifically through the tradition’s reinvention of the Incan Empire as a utopia destroyed by the Spanish invaders.2 Indeed, upon examining the anthropological literature on Andean countries, one quickly discovers how these societies continue to be characterized by, on the one hand, a discourse of racial inequality between the categories of ‘indigenous’ and ‘Hispanic’, and, on the other hand, a society that is largely mestizo (racially, culturally and ethnically mixed).3 Every sector of Andean society is mestizo to a certain extent. To take a linguistic example, even the prosperous urbanite speaks a ‘deviant’ form of Spanish to that of Castile, while no remote hamlet remains entirely monolingual in Quechua, the main indigenous language family. As long as the discourse of incompatible ethnic dualism remains psychologically pervasive, such mestizaje (miscegenation) will always be felt to contain the sinister shadow of the ‘enemy within’, ready to annihilate, in one fell swoop, the very basis of one’s existential legitimacy.

This fear of miscegenation was probably already endemic in medieval Iberia when Moors and Christians constituted, at an ideological level, separate categories that engaged in a mutual process of negation (the fact that much of Iberia was, at that time, also mestizo or mudéjar would only serve to fan the flames). It is not surprising that this legacy continued in Latin America, where the people that the newcomers encountered were even more different to them than the Moors had been. The result was, of course, five hundred years of discrimination along racial/ethnic lines that still finds its articulation today.

My aim, then, is not to argue against the view that contemporary dramatizations of the Incan Empire constitute an act of attempted resistance to the inequalities born of racism. Where I do disagree is with the widespread view, expressed so well by Chang-Rodríguez, that this ‘theatrical rendition of what happened centuries ago underscores the endurance of Andean culture and its ability to resist hegemonic values by redefining history in its own way’ (56). Instead, I argue that the tradition perpetuates the very hegemony that it purports to resist – that is, a discourse of radical and unequal ethnic disunity that leaves no room for alternative viewpoints to co-exist. Just as racism against the ‘indigenous’ brings this category into existence only in order to erase it from the social landscape, so the poem cited in this article permits no valid form of existence beyond the essentialized category of ‘indigenous/Andean/Incan’. Thus, far from questioning the fundamental assumption of the discourse that it attempts to counteract – the existence of ‘indigenous’ and ‘Hispanic’ people as irreconcilable and unequal categories, and therefore hybridity as a kind of aberration – all that Andean poetic ‘resistance’ achieves is to flip the coin the other way.

In order to illustrate this process, I integrate two theories, seldom discussed together, into a single framework that can account for the underlying social and psychological motivations of the tradition: Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of hegemony, and Kristeva’s theory of abjection. I then apply this framework to a specific case study so as to illustrate how concepts from two philosophical traditions widespread in the post-Conquest Andes – pre-Hispanic cosmology and Augustinian-based theology – are combined in such a way that the hegemonic discourse is perpetuated. I use the terms ‘pre-Hispanic’ and ‘Augustinian’ philosophy, rather than ‘Andean’ and ‘European’, to avoid the trap of defining ‘Andean’ cosmology in opposition to the European influences that have come to form part of contemporary Andean cultures.4 It is this very opposition that the article attempts to deconstruct. Thus, it is crucial not to conflate historical differences with current ideology.

Section Two: The Apu Inka

The poem that constitutes this case study is one version of the Apu Inka genre that is widespread across Pomabamba province, located in the region of Ancash, central Peru. The Quechua term apu can have a range of meanings, including the head of an ayllu, the spirit of a mountain (Carranza Romero, 34), a guardian deity, and the ancestor of a lineage (Earls, 398). The apu can therefore be globally defined as an authority legitimized through privileged access to the supernatural, and who gives life to a community (Skar, 21). The apu protects those who reciprocate in kind but, having ‘power over life and death’ (Earls, 398), can be dangerous to those who do not. As can be inferred from the name of the genre, all versions of the Apu Inka focus on venerating the Incan dynasty and on redefining the contemporary community as a direct continuation of this dynasty.

There is some variation between the different versions of Apu Inka performed across Pomabamba province. Traditionally, each version is performed at least annually, at the community’s patron saint festival. In the provincial capital (also Pomabamba), the Apu Inka takes the form of a play re-enacting the first encounter with the Spaniards and the Inca’s subsequent execution. In the villages, all examples were in verse and sung by a capitana (a female participant who sings the traditional songs of festivals), except for those versus sung by the ‘Inca’. The Andean association of femininity with agricultural fertility may explain why it is generally women rather than men who perform this role (Carrasco, 237).

All across Pomabamba province, the Apu Inka tradition has declined considerably. The poem is no longer performed in Huanchacbamba because there is no capitana who remembers the lyrics. In other villages, most of the capitanas I interviewed were at least fifty years old, and very few young people were interested in continuing the tradition. This invites the question: if the Apu Inka is not primarily an agricultural ritual, whose decline can be explained in terms of mass migration, formal education and a distancing from historical lifeways, but a sociopolitical one that aims to resist discrimination, why is it declining along with the other traditions? Discrimination certainly still exists in Peru, and most of the people I interviewed across central Peru expressed a strong ideological attachment to ‘Andean culture’ or ‘Incan identity’.

While a full answer would require a separate paper, I suggest that, although the central theme of the Apu Inka continues to be widely propagated (i.e. recapturing ‘Incan identity’), the format of such festivals (communal, ritual participation involving agricultural motifs) is now felt to be anachronistic and potentially dangerous, insofar as it threatens to incite the very discrimination that it was designed to counteract. In a situation where the categories of ‘indigenous’ and ‘Hispanic’ are relative and potentially applicable to everyone, people’s identification with each category must be circumspectly defined. Identifying too strongly with either ‘group’ risks becoming the victim of abjection oneself, so the performance of identity will always operate within tacit and communally agreed parameters (see de la Cadena).

The version of the Apu Inka discussed in this article comes from the village of Huanchacbamba, where I documented the text in 2011. I have chosen the Huanchacbamba text because it is the most complete version that I found, running to several thousand words while other versions only amounted to a few residual songs. Henceforth, when I refer to Apu Inka, I mean specifically the Huanchacbamba version. Huanchacbamba is a small hamlet on the site of an ex-hacienda at around 3,500 metres. Most of its residents engage in full-time subsistence farming, tending chakras (small agricultural plots) that often lie at some distance from their homes. In common with most Andean communities, Huanchacbamba has witnessed a dramatic reduction in its population as young people leave to study or find work elsewhere. There are, however, a primary and secondary school, a small shop selling basic groceries and a chapel, which is the main focus of the Apu Inka ritual.

I was given the text by Don Marianito Jaramillo Paulino, in his late fifties at the time. Ever since his childhood in Huanchacbamba, Don Marianito has been fascinated by the region’s folklore, and, from an early age, set about to document the verses of traditional songs. In his twenties, he felt a calling to learn about his Incan past in Cuzco (his father’s place of origin). He travelled there and lived in the city for a number of years, acquiring expertise in ‘Incan’ mystical practices. He then returned to Huanchacbamba, where he married and fathered a single daughter. By the time I visited, his daughter was eighteen. He was at that time teaching her the Apu Inka verses, with a view to her becoming capitana and reviving the tradition. Don Marianito is also a devout Catholic, and sees no contradiction in advocating pre-Hispanic and Christian belief systems which, for him, are inseparable. This standpoint is unsurprising if, as I argue, the Apu Inka derives from both traditions.

Don Marianito divides his time between his house in Huanchacbamba and a small hut at the base of the ancient Recuay ruins of Yayno, about 2 kilometres further uphill, where he tends his herd of llamas. During my visits, he would dictate the verses from a notebook, as I typed them onto my laptop. He would then repeat each verse, explaining its literal and symbolic meaning, in the style of a teacher to his apprentice. Therefore, most of the literal interpretations are Don Marianito’s. While he would doubtless agree strongly that the poem combines Christian and pre-Hispanic philosophies, he would disagree just as strongly with my argument that the Apu Inka perpetuates, rather than counteracts, the totalizing hegemony that it attempts to resist.

Don Marianito told me that he was given the copy of the Apu Inka by a previous capitana in his youth, and that she recited the verses for him to copy down. The poem used to be performed between 12 and 14 September during the festival in honour of the Virgin and San Juan, the patron saint of Huanchacbamba. The 12th is the rompe (a term that denotes the start of a festival), the main event being the Camino del Inca [The Inca’s Journey] in which the Inca and his retinue leave the chapel to walk around the village. The 13th is the víspera (the day before the main celebrations), when the Inca encounters the Spaniards and foretells his demise. On the 14th, the presentación, the participants visit the chapel in order to render homage to the Virgin and San Juan.

On the basis of Don Marianito’s observations in his youth, the festival comprised the following personages, each represented by residents of Huanchacbamba: the Inca; Atawchi (brother of the last Inca); three ñustas (Incan princesses); a ruku (shaman with powers of divination); Mama Warmi (mother of the Inca); Mama Uqllu (wife of Manku Qapaq, the first Inca); sargentu (the Inca’s bodyguard); pispi cóndor (the condor).

Given the length of the Apu Inka (running to almost 3,000 words), it is not possible to examine more than a few fragments of the total text. Nonetheless, the text maintains remarkable thematic continuity, particularly in its continual emphasis on the Inca’s perceived divinity and moral superiority to the Spaniards. Below, I provide a list of the main songs, divided by day, so that my discussion of specific examples can be more readily located within the overall textual landscape. I took the titles from Don Marianito’s notebook; some are in both Spanish and Quechua, others in just one of the two languages.

Rompe (12 September):

  • Inka hipimuy/Rompe (the capitana indicates that the festival has begun, the Inca appears and the participants initiate a ritual journey across the imagined Incan Empire)
  • Ruedas del Inca (four rounds of dancing, where the participants offer flowers to the Virgin/Saint, led by the Inca)
  • Camino del Inca (local features metamorphose into important locations in the Empire)
  • Adoración/Harawi mañakuna (the entire group venerates both the Saint/Virgin and the Inca, and the power of the Inca is emphasized)
  • Despedida (the participants thank the organizer of the festival [alcalde] for the food that he has prepared)

Víspera (13 September):

  • Vispirachaw Inka hipimuy (the Inca once again enters the celebration and is venerated)
  • Naani ayway (the Inca and his retinue prepare to travel across the Empire)
  • Pizarrowan kaptinqa kaynawmi (the Inca foretells the Spanish invasion)
  • Rueda de todas las pallas/Pampakuna hirkata tarirnin (the lyrics explain how the Inca is necessary for everyone’s strength)
  • Víspera/Rezaywasimancha chaanantsik (the retinue arrives at the church)
  • Ruedas (the lyrics reinforce the privileged relation between God and the Inca)
  • Adoración (the Inca leads the veneration of the Virgin/Saint)
  • Rueda (the Inca is described as fulfilling the will of God)
  • Aswa hipimuy (the sacred Andean drink, chicha, is distributed and several references are made to gold, symbolic of the Inca’s association with the sun)
  • Despedida/Aywallay (the retinue leaves the church)
  • Adoración ushaskptin (the retinue walks around the church as the four quarters of the Incan Empire are mentioned)

Presentación (14 September):

  • Alba (the retinue returns to the church at dawn, walking around it)
  • Dianchaw Apu Inka hipiy (the Inca is brought out from his ‘palace’, i.e. the home of the person enacting him)
  • Arawi (description of the Inca leaving his palace)
  • Resentimiento del Inca (the Inca tells of his birth in Lake Titicaca and foretells his demise in Cajamarca)
  • Tambo Inkapa (recounts the Inca’s control over his Empire and the events that led to the downfall of the dynasty)

Section Three: A Theory of Hegemonic Abjection

The Apu Inka is, as I have already indicated, more than the ritual expression of a cultural worldview. This outward expression masks its deeper, underlying rationale, which is profoundly political, as an act of attempted resistance that, at the same time, creates the sense of existing as a separate polity (indigenous/Incan) in opposition to other political entities (non-indigenous). This political formation, moreover, is not invoked as a contingent, strategic, unity that is useful in some situations and not in others. Instead, the polity is conceptualized as an underlying essence that permits no permutation of its hermetically sealed frontiers. It therefore reinforces the hegemonic discourse of radical ethnic disunity that the European invaders brought with them from medieval Iberia and that, implanted in the new continent, has led to the continued marginalization of those living in the Andean hinterlands.

These considerations strongly suggest that the Apu Inka can be productively examined in the light of theories from political science. In particular, the poem’s preoccupation with ‘resisting’ (but actually perpetuating) hegemony necessitates a discussion of what hegemony entails and how it is perpetuated. Laclau and Mouffe’s landmark work, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, is a foundational reference on this topic. The authors develop their theory from Gramsci’s concept of ‘cultural hegemony’, which describes how the values, norms and practices of a dominant elite become generalized and unquestioningly internalized as universal ‘common sense’, thereby ensuring the tacit submission of the populace. Gramsci’s key contribution was to recognize that hegemony can operate as much by tacit consent as by overt coercion; the former he terms ‘moral and political passivity’ (Gramsci, 333).

Laclau and Mouffe go further, by rejecting Gramsci’s lingering attribution of hegemony to a specific social group: ‘Hegemony is, quite simply, a political type of relation, a form, if one so wishes, of politics; but not a determinable location within a topography of the social’ (Laclau and Mouffe, 139). Their motivation for this claim is the universally contested nature of social life, which precludes the designation of one social sector as united in its acceptation of hegemony: ‘in order to advance in the determination of social antagonisms, it is necessary to analyse the plurality of diverse and frequently contradictory positions, and to discard the idea of a perfectly unified and homogeneous agent’ (84). By describing hegemony as a ‘type’ of relation, the authors are able to identify hegemony in discursive arenas that would, in the traditional Marxist-Gramscian understandings of the term, not be considered hegemonic, for example in discourses of resistance to hegemony. Indeed, Laclau and Mouffe name only two conditions for a hegemonic articulation: ‘the presence of antagonistic forces and the instability of the frontiers which separate them’ (136).

The process of hegemonic articulation, according to Laclau and Mouffe, is realized through the construction of ‘fields of equivalence’ that derive from the association of ‘floating elements’. A ‘floating element’ is a concept that has not yet been incorporated into a specific hegemonic discourse. It ceases to be ‘floating’ when it does become incorporated into such a discourse, which links it with other previously floating elements (93–145). The way that these elements are linked serves to perpetuate the discourse. For example, the poem examined in this article redefines the Quechua concept of pacha by associating one aspect of this concept (co-existence of past, present and future worlds) with the Christian concept of moral hierarchy. The result is the definition of the past world of the Incas as a moral standard for the present. Here, pacha and ‘moral hierarchy’ are previously floating elements that become linked in a ‘chain of equivalence’, and redefined in the process. Often, such concepts will only be implicit, and can only be illuminated through textual analysis of discourses, such as that performed later in this article. Such analysis naturally requires an awareness of the diverse frameworks of knowledge circulating in the specific context.

The result of such chains of equivalence is an opposition between the identity constructed by the chain, and the ‘alterity’ of those floating elements that lie outside it. In this way, an ideological separation of two social groups results – groups that are defined as existing in an unequal opposition: ‘Only the presence of a vast area of floating elements and the possibility of their articulation to opposite camps – which implies a constant redefinition of the latter – is what constitutes the terrain permitting us to define a practice as hegemonic’ (136). Thus, in the above example, the chain of equivalence between pacha and ‘moral hierarchy’ informs a deeper chain of equivalence that associates ‘Incas’ with ‘morality’ and ‘Spaniards’ with ‘immorality’.

Many of the aforementioned studies on Andean poetic ‘resistance’ characterize it as a ‘millenarian’ movement, though the idea central to millenarianism – that a single leader will be resuscitated and revitalize a glorious but vanquished society – is present in highly varying degrees. The poem discussed here predicts the demise of the Spaniards but does not foretell the return of the Inca in the way that some similar texts do. Laclau and Mouffe refer to millenarianism in their analysis, stating that it is an ‘extreme example of the logic of equivalence’ (129):

Here the word divides, through a system of paratactical equivalences, into two camps: peasant culture representing the identity of the movement, and urban culture incarnating evil. The second is the negative reverse of the first. A maximum separation has been reached: no element in the system of equivalences enters into relations other than those of opposition to the elements of the other system. (129–30)

They nonetheless exclude millenarianism from their theory of hegemony, stating that:

There is no hegemony because there is no articulation of floating elements: the distance between the two communities is something immediately given and acquired from the beginning, and it does not suppose any articulatory construction. The chains of equivalence do not construct the communitarian space; rather, they operate on pre-existing communitarian spaces. (136)

This article contests the above exclusion. I reveal how the text in question does, in fact, evidence the articulation of floating elements (philosophical precepts from Augustinian and pre-Hispanic philosophy) that are recombined in such a way as to construct fields of equivalence. Far from being ‘immediately given and acquired from the beginning’, the opposing communities are continually constructed precisely because they are so obviously contradicted by reality. The cyclical re-enactment of the ritual represents a periodic struggle to re-articulate fields of equivalence against the full weight of empirical evidence. In a context of miscegenation, any discourse of radical ethnic disunity is far from stable and pre-existing; it requires an even more energetic process of hegemonic articulation.

Hegemonic equivalence operates in absolutes: ‘What we affirm is […] that certain discursive forms, through equivalence, annul all positivity of the object and give a real existence to negativity as such’ (128–9). There is thus a tension between the fluid, merging nature of reality and the hegemonic striving to lock this fluidity in the stasis of a chain of equivalence between bounded categories. Insofar as ‘hegemony supposes the construction of the very identity of social agents’ (58), we can see how such a tension has the potential to cause significant insecurity at the psychological level, particularly when hegemonic articulations acquire totalizing dimensions.

Once an individual has adopted a specific hegemonic way of thinking – for example, chains of equivalence that distinguish the imagined categories of ‘indigenous’ and ‘non-indigenous’ in a relationship of radical and unequal identity and alterity – then the dynamic interconnectedness of the world is likely to be experienced as profoundly threatening to what Giddens calls ‘ontological security’ (Giddens, 31), or a stable sense of selfhood. The irony is that it is the very intersubjective boundlessness of the world that leads such discourses to be unquestioningly assumed through psychological osmosis, so that even the resistance to a specific hegemonic articulation often reproduces the same logic of that articulation (i.e. the chains) in a different guise (by reshuffling the floating elements).

The above discussion strongly indicates that the full force of hegemonic articulations cannot be understood by remaining on the purely social plane. Instead, it is necessary to explore how the destabilizing potential of hegemony might be grasped from the perspective of theories in psychology and, particularly, theories of emotion. Kristeva’s theory of abjection offers a psychological account that can be profitably integrated with Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of hegemony, to produce a concept that I shall term hegemonic abjection. The abject, for Kristeva, is ‘something rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object’ (Kristeva, 4). What is abject may be consciously perceived as an object from which one desires to be removed. However, this very desire supposes a connection, the inability to be severed completely. Thus, the ‘abject has only one quality of the object – that of being opposed to’ (1). Moreover, it is ‘not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite’ (4).

One can thereby see how Kristeva’s notion of abjection interacts closely with Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of hegemony. The irreconcilable tension between the dynamism of reality and the perceived need, created through hegemony, to encapsulate the self within a fixed ‘identity’, is prone to create a profound and permanent sense of fear that can only be mitigated through the emotionally and cognitively exhausting process of repression: ‘The more or less beautiful image in which I behold or recognize myself rests upon an abjection that sunders it as soon as repression, the constant watchman, is relaxed’ (Kristeva, 13). What is repressed and abjected is that dimension of reality that does not fit within the hegemonic discourse. The extent to which a particular hegemonic articulation creates and perpetuates a process of abjective fear plausibly depends on just how widespread and totalizing that particular articulation is.

The concept of ‘abjection’ offers one way in which the sociopolitical concept of hegemony can be understood at the psychological (emotional and cognitive) level, and thus explains how hegemonic articulations frequently derive their persuasive power: by instilling fear in the subject (creating the unconscious, impossible ‘need’ for ontological stasis) and then by proffering the ‘cure’ (creating a ‘bucket’ category into which all fears can be deposited). The fact that the ‘cure’ is impossible to realize – the tension between the desire for fixity and the reality of interpenetration is ever present – ensures the cyclical reproduction of the emotional ‘need’ and the hegemonic articulation: ‘To assure the self of how it is essentially different from the other, the other needs to be systematically debased’ (Kinnvall, 754). Such ‘systematic debasement’ is what I term hegemonic abjection.

The rest of this article explores how hegemonic abjection is discursively enacted in the Apu Inka. Concretely, I illustrate how concepts deriving from the two intellectual traditions widespread in the postcolonial Andes – pre-Hispanic Andean philosophy and Christian theology – become incorporated into a chain of equivalence that not only demarcates the border between ‘indigenous’ and ‘non-indigenous’ as categories but also defines the former as the only valid form of existence. First, however, it is necessary to introduce the relevant concepts from each tradition, before we consider how they are transformed in the hegemonic articulation.

Section Four: Pre-Hispanic Floating Elements

The Apu Inka evidences the heritage of several concepts in Quechua, a family of closely related languages, one of which (Cuzco Quechua) was the official language of the Incan Empire. The concepts most relevant to the Apu Inka are enumerated below:

  1. Pacha. This is ‘a complex and polysemous concept, of great force in the production of various meanings’ (Almeida and Haidar, 7, author’s translation). The most basal meaning is ‘the world as a given arrangement of time, space, and matter’ (Salomon and Urioste, 15). Pacha thus denotes both ‘a moment or interval in time and a locus or extension in space’ (14). The concept conveys ‘the inner connectedness of the whole on all levels of world constructs’ (Baumann, 25), understanding the world as ‘animated, sacred, variable, harmonious, diverse, immanent, and cosubstantial’ (Gonzáles, Tirso, 203, author’s translation), so that any entity is both open and incomplete.
    Quechua philosophy conceptualizes the universe on three vertical planes: hanan pacha (the sky); kay pacha (the earth); uku pacha (the underworld). The three planes are all pachas, and their overall arrangement is also pacha, so that the specific manifestation is an instance of the general concept. This is equally true in temporal terms. Past, present and future co-exist in the overall arrangement of the universe: previous worlds are ‘are past-as-potential future […] waiting for their time to come around again’ (Allen, Foxboy, 114). This possibility of transcending temporal frontiers concords with an understanding of the future as behind and the past as in front. What has happened is visible and can therefore be engaged with, while what is yet to occur is unknown and thus opaque. The interaction between the spatial and temporal dimensions of pacha is important in the Apu Inka, such as when the village of Huanchacbamba becomes magically transformed into the ancient Incan Empire.
  2. Yarpay. Given the emphasis that pre-Hispanic cosmology places on temporality, memory (yarpay) has a crucial role: ‘The cultural function of remembering in Andean ways of thinking is a regenerative one, whereby the past provides the symbolic resources for making sense of the present and projecting toward the future, in a way that allows at once for continuity and change’ (Howard, ‘Spinning a Yarn’, 46). Forgetting, by contrast, ‘is the way that neglect of social and ritual obligations is described, and it is punishable in the form of sickness, crop failure, even death’ (29–30). Storytelling, rituals and festivals are key contexts for the vital enacting of memory: ‘mythic-historical and personal consciousness intertwine when storytellers talk about the past as a way of making sense of the present and as a projection toward the future’ (28). Such collective consciousness becomes embedded in the individual psyche through an intimate association between the ‘discursive construction of the landscape, the knowledge so produced, and the performance of oral traditional narratives’ (46). Such themes are foundational to the Apu Inka, where an imagined ‘memory’ of the past is the principle on which group unity is enacted, a unity that is nonetheless imposed as the only valid trajectory for the future development of personal identity.
  3. Yachay. This word, like yarpay, is both noun and verb and means ‘to know a fact, to know something deeply, wisdom, to habituate oneself to something’ (Carranza Romero, 285, author’s translation). Knowledge in the Andes ‘has to do with achieving a fuller state of being, in the sense that it is a process through which persons or states of affairs become ‘other’ than what they were before the process was undergone’ (Howard, ‘Yachay’, 19). Thus, yachay expresses how knowledge accrues to wisdom and entails existential transformation, so that ‘the acquisition of knowledge is inseparable from experience of the human life cycle’ (Crickmay, 43). In this way, knowledge is to be conceptualized as ‘processual “knowing”, occurring in and through subjective practice, rather than as ready established, objectified fact, alienable from the experiential process in which it takes shape’ (Howard ‘Yachay’, 19). In the Apu Inka, progression to ‘Incan’ identity is similarly portrayed as existential enhancement through knowledge.
  4. Ayni. In daily life, ayni refers to ‘the equal exchange of a given good or service’ (Gelles and Escobar, 175) and is a fundamental operating principle of traditional Andean society. At a more philosophical level, ayni refers to ‘the basic give-and-take that governs the universal circulation of vitality’, denoting ‘a system of continuous reciprocal interchanges, a kind of dialectical pumping mechanism’ (Allen, ‘When Pebbles Move Mountains’, 77) which facilitates the circulation of vital resources. Moreover, ‘[e]very category of being, at every level, participates in this cosmic circulation’ in such a way that ‘[h]umans maintain interactive reciprocity relationships, not only with each other but also with their animals, their houses, their potato fields, the earth, and the sacred places in their landscape’ (77). Thus, ayni is conceptualized ‘not as an abstract principle of governing social interaction, but as the fundamental organizing basis of the material world’ (Mannheim, 19). Moreover, ayni ‘can be positive, as when brothers-in-law labour in each other’s fields; or it can be negative, as when the two men quarrel and exchange insults’ (Allen, ‘When Pebbles Move Mountains’, 77). The positive and negative dimensions of ayni are clearly apparent in the Apu Inka, where the European invasion is portrayed as a divine punishment for the last emperor’s ‘fall from grace’.
  5. Ayllu. Related to the verb aylluy ‘gather, unite’, ayllu denotes any community ‘whose members share a common focus’ (Allen, The Hold Life Has, 272). Such a focus can be ‘kinship ties, adherence to the same mountain deities […] cosmology, social structure, and economic organization’ (Wissler, 24). Thus, there are several kinds of ayllu:

    In many contemporary Andean communities, the word ayllu refers to a bilateral kindred, the group of people a given individual recognizes as kinsmen on both parents’ sides of the family. Sometimes the word ayllu refers to moieties, or two halves, of a community, whereas in other contexts it refers to work groups temporarily mobilized to accomplish a specific task. Moreover, different usages can co-occur in a single community, and any given use of the word seems to make sense only within a limited context. (Allen, The Hold Life Has, 82)

All ayllus are maintained through the operation of ayni, since adherence to the ayllu ‘implies obligations to its members, as well as rights over communal land’ (Sichra, 50, ft. 14). If ayni is the operating principle of Andean practical philosophy, the ayllu is the logical result of ayni and therefore ‘the basis of the Andean productive system’ (50, ft. 14). The ayllu is thus ‘a great source of security and moral support’ (Allen, The Hold Life Has, 85). The sense of an ‘Incan’ ayllu as grounded on ethical standards is a basic theme in the Apu Inka.

Section Five: Augustinian Floating Elements

The other main intellectual tradition that informs the Apu Inka is Christian theology, particularly the writings of Augustine of Hippo (St Augustine) (354–430). Latin American theology has been influenced by multiple sources. However, Joel Cruz, in his Histories of the Latin American Church, illustrates how these rest on two main theological traditions: Scholastic and Augustinian (54–5).

Scholasticism, derived from Aristotle and developed during the High Middle Ages, particularly through the writings of St Thomas Aquinas, centres on the relation between reason and faith, viewing the former as the only point of access to divine illumination. The arrival of the Scholastic tradition in the New World meant that:

The beliefs, worldviews, experiences, and practices of a given people were considered secondary at best and idolatrous at worst, to be extirpated. Thus Christianity, as spread throughout the New World, was presented as a matter of rational ascent followed by a change in behaviour rather than as experience, relationship, or acculturation. (Cruz, 54)

The Apu Inka bears very little relation to Scholasticism. Given that this is true of Andean poetic ‘resistance’ in general, the reason is unlikely to be lack of contact with Scholastic missionaries. A more plausible one, I suggest, is that the detached, rationalistic ideals of Scholasticism offer little in the way of psychological resources for dealing with the emotional traumas of a subjugated people, not to mention the fact that a stark rejection of ‘cultural’ worldviews was even more important for Scholasticism than for other theological schools.

The theology of Augustine, by contrast, has psychological wellbeing at its very core. It was, then, inevitable that aspects of Augustinian theology would be adopted, from the missions, as a psychological panacea by those experiencing the hardship of colonization and the subsequent discrimination of half a millennium. Augustine’s immense impact on Christian thought is largely due to the Gregorian Reforms in the eleventh century, which sought to reassert the moral authority of the Church by citing the fathers of theology. Augustine was the chief source because:

Nowhere else amongst the writings of the fathers did so considerable an armoury of texts remain available for medieval ingenuity. The repute of Augustine’s writings in the Western Church was as considerable as their range. As a theologian he towered above the rest of the fathers, his works dominating their libraries as his ideas dominated their minds. (Dickinson, 69)

By the end of the twelfth century, Augustine’s influence in Christian thinking was almost universal (Dickinson, 62), to the extent that Pelikan has argued that Western theology is merely ‘a series of footnotes to Augustine’ (Pelikan, 330).

Augustine’s most important legacy was to fuse Christian scripture with the Platonic tradition inherited from Plotinus (204/5–270 CE) and, indeed, many modern doctrines of Christianity (e.g. the immateriality of the soul) derive not from Scripture but from Platonism (Mendelson). Despite their differences, all major ecclesiastical orders in Latin America are and were informed by Augustinian interpretations of the Bible. Indeed, ‘Catholic and Protestant thinking, essentially the flip sides of the same coin, follow or react to the African bishop’s reflections on God, human nature, grace, salvation, the church, and sacraments’ (Cruz, 54). Consequently, the inhabitants of Andean Peru have, since colonial times, been exposed to Augustinian ideas in addition to the pre-Hispanic concepts detailed above. The following Augustinian ideas are clearly represented in the Apu Inka:

  1. Submission to a single, supreme force. For Augustine, God is ‘the ultimate source and point of origin for all that comes below’ (Mendelson), and is equated with Being, Goodness and Truth. Augustine advocates complete and unconditional submission: ‘Give up your desire to be, as it were, just your own person and under your own power, and profess yourself to be the slave of this most merciful and mild master’ (Soliloquies I.30, translated by Gerard Watson and cited in Remes, 163). This notion is not, of course, unique to Augustine but it is important to mention as a cornerstone of his theology and is central to the Apu Inka.
  2. Eudaimonism. This term applies to any philosophy that equates goodness with the attainment of psychological wellbeing. Augustine’s philosophy is profoundly eudaimonistic because it serves as a practical guideline on how to achieve the inner peace that has been lost through the soul’s separation from God, as a result of original sin. Augustine uses ‘his life as a concrete example of how an isolated individual soul can extricate itself from this state and Neoplatonically ascend to a unity that overcomes this isolation and attains to rest in God’ (Mendelson). The resulting psychological wellbeing is, for Augustine, ‘the eudaimonistic conclusion through which the pursuit of knowledge is vindicated and to which it is, ultimately, to be subordinated’ (Mendelson). That Augustine believed souls were pre-ordained for heaven or hell makes the eudaimonistic purpose of Augustine’s theology even clearer: ethical behaviour will not change the facts but it will make one feel better.
  3. Introspection. This is the method whereby divine illumination, and therefore psychological wellbeing, is achieved: ‘When Augustine turns towards truth, he turns first towards this private inner space, and only then up towards God who, although present in the soul, is ultimately separate from it’ (Remes, 159). Augustine inherits the notion of the mind as an inner sanctuary from Plotinus. While ‘Plotinus still sees in his inward vision a statue rather than an inner dimension or space [… for] Augustine, the soul has a magnitude, quantitas, memory is “vast palaces” or “a vast hall”, “a huge cavern”, and even “a vast and infinite profundity”’ (Remes, 159). By accessing ‘the teacher within, Christ present in the soul’ (Remes, 164), one can reunite with other souls ‘in a way that overcomes the distance imposed by their mortal bodies’ (Mendelson). Therefore, one can summarize the process of illumination as ‘inwards’ (introspection), ‘upwards’ (accessing the divine) and ‘outwards’ (overcoming the physical barriers between us) (Remes, 160). This process is important in the ritual transition of Apu Inka, where the withdrawal to the Incan ‘core’ of selfhood, existing in a privileged relation to the divine, is the only way to attain the social unity that has been lost since colonization.
  4. The mind as memory. Illumination is not guaranteed by introspection alone, but requires the use of memory. For Augustine, ‘memory not only denotes the human capacity to retain experiences and cognitive contents, but the mind in general. This mind is depicted as an inner space where Augustine walks, and where he meets his memories, his plans for the future, his self as well as God’ (Remes, 159). By defining the mind in terms of memory, Augustine allows for the mind’s ability to transform itself through analysis of specific recollections; this interpretation ‘yields selfhood which may change both gradually […] and radically’ (Remes, 173). The mutable nature of mind is therefore the key to attaining communion with the immutable nature of God. Memory of one’s past is, then, ‘more than a potential source of paradigms of good behaviour’ (Remes, 171). Instead, it is ‘a story of who one is and on what kind of necessary foundation one must build all future efforts at self-improvement’ (Remes, 171). The Apu Inka similarly portrays memory in terms of accessing a past utopia that must be recaptured by cleansing the soul of all ‘European’ influence.
  5. Real (noumenal) world versus illusory (phenomenal) world. Augustine, reflecting his strong influence from Platonism, distinguishes between the real world (God, accessed through the soul) and the misleading world of empirical experience. Like Plato, Augustine conceptualizes Truth as occurring in a hierarchy ‘that begins with absolute unity and progressively unfolds through various stages of increasing plurality and multiplicity, culminating in the lowest realm of isolated and fragmented material objects observed with the senses’ (Mendelson). While ‘the world of the senses is intractably private and isolated, […] the intelligible realm is truly public and simultaneously open to all’ (Mendelson). Augustine considers evil to derive from an error in perception: the misguided belief that the sensible world is all that exists, which leads to ‘our myopic materialism and tendency to focus upon our own self-interest’ (Mendelson). Introspection, then, is the most public and communicative act possible, since it is the only method which allows us to perform a ‘Neoplatonic ascent’ (Mendelson) that opens upwards to God and outwards to all of creation.
    The human soul can perform this ascent because it ‘has the capacity to perceive its own liminal status as a being embodied partly in the sensible world while connected to the intelligible realm’ (Mendelson). Through the power of memory, engagement with the sensible realm becomes the vehicle of its own transcendence, leading to ultimate freedom: ‘there is thus the possibility of reorienting one’s moral relation to the sensible world, appreciating it for the goodness it manifests, but seeing it as an instrument for directing one’s attention to what is above it’ (Mendelson). In the Apu Inka, ritual experience is likewise a means of accessing a ‘true’, ‘Incan’ reality hidden behind the world of everyday experience.
  6. Temporality. Augustine’s ‘treatment of memory as not solely the retention of the past but also as the place where the self forms and encounters its plans and protentions for the future shows […] how significant he thinks that temporality is for human selfhood’ (Remes, 171). The mutability of the soul, in contrast to the fixity of God, is ‘a feature that not only serves to distinguish it from its creator but one that [Augustine] views as necessary to explain the possibility of moral change, be it for better or worse’ (Mendelson).
    Given Augustine’s eudaimonism, the atemporality of God is presented as a psychological panacea: ‘the sensible world is subject to the consumptive effects of temporality, whereas the intelligible realm is characterized by an atemporal eternity wherein we are safely removed from the eviscerating prospect of losing what and whom we love’ (Mendelson). Thus, time (existing in the phenomenal realm) is a ‘psychological “distension”’ of eternity (existing in the noumenal realm), and which ‘needs to be overcome to reach […] unity and rest in God’ (Mendelson). A similar vision of temporality is evidenced by the Apu Inka, in which the time that has passed since the invasion, characterized by impoverishment and marginalization, is portrayed as an illusion that masks the abiding eternity of the Inca realm.
  7. The City of God versus the City of Man. Augustine distinguishes between two communities: the City of Man (the vast majority of souls who are destined for hell as a result of original sin) and the City of God (the remainder who, through unmerited and inexplicable divine grace, will ascend to heaven). A crucial point is that in ‘this life, we can never be sure of which individuals belong to which city […] and thus they are intermingled in a way that thwarts any moral complacency’ (Mendelson). The movement of history, moreover, will inevitably conclude in the resurrection of the dead, as each soul is reunited with its former body and the two Cities are given their respective rewards or punishments. There are strong parallels with the abjective separation of ‘Hispanics’ and ‘Incas’ in the Apu Inka.

Section Six: Comparison of Pre-Hispanic and Augustinian Floating Elements

I now compare the pre-Hispanic and Augustinian concepts. The similarities are outlined in Table 1 and the differences in Table 2. The pre-Hispanic concepts are on the vertical axis, and the Augustinian concepts on the horizontal axis.

Table 1

Single, supreme force Eudaimonism Introspection Memory Noumenal vs. Phenomenal World Temporality Cities of God and Man

Pacha Incompleteness of entities Looking at the past to move forwards Co-existence of several worlds; spatiotemporal hierarchy Time as contingent rather than absolute Non-finality of death
Yarpay The past as a resource for the present and future; continuity and change; memory as necessary for morality Transcendence of the here-and-now through remembering Mutability of the mind
Yachay Progression towards existential plenitude Existential transformation through knowledge
Ayni Wellbeing as the purpose of ethics; concern with the quality of engagement with others
Ayllu Common focus on a single deity Common focus on engaging with the supernatural through cognitive transformation Shared kinship; community grounded on ethical principles; group membership is not always empirically obvious

Table 2

Single, supreme force Eudaimonism Introspection Memory Noumenal vs. Phenomenal World Temporality Cities of God and Man

Pacha Universe as undefined and multiple (pacha) vs. as the manifestation of a single, unifying force (Augustine) Sociality attained through empirical engagement (pacha) vs. through withdrawal from the empirical world (Augustine) Spatiotemporal hierarchy (pacha) vs. hierarchy of degrees of reality (Augustine); materialism (pacha) vs. immaterialism (Augustine) Contingency of time results from the dynamic interaction between several worlds (pacha) vs. from a fixed, abiding eternity (Augustine)
Yarpay Remembering as a communal, public act (yarpay) vs. as a private, individual act (Augustine) The mutability of mind results from the dynamism of the universe (yarpay) vs. from alienation from the static core of reality (Augustine)
Yachay Wisdom gained through engaging with the empirical world (yachay) vs. through psychological distancing from it (Augustine) Knowledge to be found entirely in the physical world (yachay) vs. truth to be found in the noumenal world (Augustine)
Ayni Symbiotic, reciprocal ethics (ayni) vs. unidirectional submission (Augustine) Engagement with others attained through looking outwards (ayni) vs. looking inwards (Augustine) Ultimate concern with physical survival (ayni) vs. with psycho-spiritual wellbeing (Augustine)
Ayllu Non-exclusive worship of deity (ayllu) vs. exclusive worship (Augustine) Pragmatic basis (ayllu) vs. abiding essence (Augustine) Contingent on behaviour (ayllu) vs. preordained (Augustine)

Section Seven: Bricolage of Pre-Hispanic and Augustinian Floating Elements in the Apu Inka: Construction of Chains of Equivalence

I now bring together the three main threads introduced so far: the Apu Inka; hegemonic abjection; comparison of pre-Hispanic and Augustinian philosophy. I work through Tables 1 and 2, taking each Quechua concept in turn, and, through textual analysis, shall show how the Apu Inka selectively maintains or redefines each concept in association with Augustinian ideas. Most of the concepts are not explicitly mentioned in the poem; rather, their tacit presence has to be inferred from textual analysis. I discuss the two tables together (i.e. working from left to right on the first row of Table 1 in conjunction with the first row of Table 2, then to the second row of both tables, and so on). By discussing the similarities and differences together, it will be easier to explore how each concept is modified in the poem. Exactly which aspects of each concept are maintained or redefined is motivated by the poem’s central concern of constructing a discourse of hegemonic abjection as a response (ultimately unsuccessful) to discrimination.

  1. Pacha
    1. The first issue in Table 1 is the incompleteness of entities, common to pacha and to the Augustinian idea that all entities are distanced from the one Supreme Being. The difference is that pacha celebrates incompleteness as existential openness, while Augustine considers it negatively as alienation. In the Apu Inka, incompleteness is understood in largely Augustinian terms, since its very motivation is, in the words of Don Marianito, rescatar nuestra identidad incaica ‘to rescue our Incan identity’. The sense of each entity’s incompleteness as resulting from its dependence on a single, supreme, force, is evident in the following verse:
      Tawantinsuyu tawa suyu Tawantinsuyu, four regions
      Tawan dedon Inkallaypa Four fingers of the Inca
      Kikillanwan pitsqan dedon With him alone, five fingers
      Llapan kallpanwan paqtarishqa Forged with all his might
      (Adoración ushaskiptin)

      where the Inca is defined as the ‘fifth finger’ [pitsqan dedon] through which the other four fingers [tawan dedon] (the four administrative divisions of the Empire) are united. Each subdivision of the Empire (Tawantinsuyu, literally ‘land of four quarters’) is an emanation of the Inca, inseparable parts of his corporeal mass, while the Inca essence is what unites them as part of a single body. Given the identitarian politics at the heart of Apu Inka, it is not a big stretch to interpret this as positing the festival participants as part of a single ‘mass’, the alienation from which causes their fragmentation and ontological incompleteness. The sense of the Inca as a supremely powerful being is conveyed by the last line, which can be interpreted as universal [llapa] power [kallpa].
    2. The next issue in Table 1 is the notion of the past as providing a sense of direction, common both to pacha, which localizes the past in front, and to the Augustinian concept of memory. This theme is evident in the following couplet, sung by the Inca:
      Shonqullaami llakikullan My poor heart is saddened
      Imachawtan rikakullaashun How (lit. in what) will we see ourselves?
      and in the later verse:
      Mananam kananqa llakikuutsu I am no longer sad
      Vasallukuna guerraqam Vassals, to war,
      Intukunapaq To join together
      Intushqa kanantsikpaq So we may unite
      (Pizarrowan kaptinqa kaynawmi)

      The first couplet invites participants to reflect on their contemporary situation, implying that their misfortune derives from the overthrow of the Incas. This is not, however, a call for resignation but for a revival of the Inca in people’s hearts, a recognition of their ‘true’ identity. The sadness felt by those marginalized is the sadness of the Inca himself, since they are indissociable parts of the apu. Thus, sadness is replaced by a call for unity through abjecting the Spaniard within that causes the alienation: the verb intukuy means ‘to unite against an external enemy’. As Don Marianito stated, estamos muy resentidos contra los españoles ‘We are very resentful of the Spanish’. Through looking into the past, a future direction can be found.
      An important difference between pacha and Augustine’s memory, however, is that the former centres on empirical engagement while the latter involves a withdrawal into the recesses of the mind. Both, ultimately, are profoundly social, since both emphasize unity, but their methods for attaining such unity could not be more different. The Apu Inka contains elements of each tradition. On the one hand, the communal nature of the ritual involves face-to-face interaction and shared embodied experiences. On the other, the abjection of anything perceived to be non-Incan represents a withdrawal from empirical reality. Both are evidenced in the verses of the Camino del Inca [The Inca’s Journey]. During the song, the participants walk around the village, which is imaginatively redefined as the extension of the Incan Empire. Thus, familiar constructions become Incan landmarks:
      Qollqanpata kuyay palacio Qollqanpata, dear palace
      Manku Qapaqpa kipu kamayoqnin Manku Qapaq, animator of the kipu
      Amarukancha Qosqoymanta Amarukancha of Cuzco
      Wayna Qapaq qori palacio Wayna Qapaq’s golden palace
      Hatun calle Huancayomanta Great road from Huancayo
      Mana pantay kuyay naani Dear, unerring, road
      (Camino del Inca)
      Kaymi Inca kaymi Apu This, Inca, this, Apu,
      Qorikancha rezaywasi Is Qorikancha, house of prayer

      The participants’ houses are variously identified with the Incan palaces of Qollqanpata and Amarukancha, the residences of the rulers, Manku Qapaq and Wayna Qapaq, respectively. The fact that not just one Inca but the dynasty itself is thereby remembered emphasizes the sense that the Inca is above time and space, not localizable in any fragmented ‘entity’ but a general essence that binds the true citizens of the Empire together in one metaphysical community (see also Columbus, 20). The chapel, the focal point of the festival, is identified with Qorikancha, the Incan sun temple in Cuzco.
      Perhaps the most revealing of the above verses is the penultimate, which conflates the path trod by the participants with the main Incan artery that linked Huancayo, a major Incan city, with Cuzco, the capital. Given the overall theme of the poem, the kuyay naani [dear path] is open to a wide range of interpretations: a path in Huanchacbamba; a principal road of the Incan Empire; a channel for the circulation of the Incan essence; a journey across time and space to the era of the Incas; a metamorphosis into one’s ancestors; a journey to the core of (Incan) selfhood; a journey towards social unity and the disappearance of suffering. The description of the road as beloved [kuyay] and unerring [mana pantay] portrays it as a sure path to salvation,5 and also emphasizes, in the minds of participants, the ultimate ontological stability of Incan identity, the ‘true self’. By moving along the path, participants ‘see’ the ‘true’ world by shedding the Hispanic shells that five centuries of ‘foreign’ domination have caused to harden around them. The kuyay naani, in short, can be equated with the very process of abjection.
      While, in the Apu Inka, abjection operates through a reinforcement of participants’ mental categories of ‘indigenous/non-indigenous’ (a retreat to the Augustinian mind), it is also realized through embodied experience (pacha). The very act of moving along the path provides the physical, empirically felt ‘proof’ of the spatiotemporal transition from present to past; the very exertion is the muscular demonstration of making a tangible difference to one’s identity, of actively hauling the self up from the hidden recesses in which it has been buried. The fact that this embodied experience is also shared among all participants – kinetically (through the movement), visually (through ‘seeing’ the Incan world open up before them) and aurally (through ‘hearing’ the words of the Inca) – serves to break down, all the more, the sense of difference between people.6 The experience is more salient than the individual, so that a feeling of Incan communitas arises. As Don Marianito emphatically stated, vivimos lo que vivían nuestros ancestros ‘we live what our ancestors lived’. Allen similarly notes how ‘[t]he mere fact of walking is experienced as an affirmation of the Runakuna’s [self-ascribed ‘indigenous’ Andean] connection with the Sacred Places, so that walking itself is an affirmation of community’ (Allen, The Hold Life Has, 173).7
      This physical ‘proof’ of engagement is, however, equally the proof of disengagement, since hegemonic abjection involves the selection of those empirical elements that reinforce the mental category in an effort to redefine the world in accordance with one’s ideological preferences. Thus, the stronger the bonds of ‘Incan’ community, the weaker the bonds with other, abjected, dimensions of reality (e.g. the differences between the Incan palaces and people’s homes in Huanchacbamba, since the recognition of these differences would be tantamount to accepting non-Incan elements as part of one’s identity). In this way, the Apu Inka sits halfway between the empirical focus of pacha and the mental focus of Augustine.
    3. The following theme – the co-existence of several worlds – is common to pacha and to the Augustinian (originally Platonic) distinction between the realm of matter and the ‘true’ realm of ideas (God). Stobart has noted how, in a Quechua community in Bolivia, the landscape is a gateway to accessing ‘knowledge from beyond’ (Stobart ‘Interlocking Realms’, 89):

      For my Andean hosts ‘Other’ is perhaps primarily understood in terms of powerful hidden knowledge, which may typically mean that it is either possessed by other social groups, for example in their songs (Seeger 1993: 32), or somehow embodied in the animated landscape. (Stobart, ‘Interlocking Realms’, 90)

      By exercising the power of intuition at ritually important sites or on specific occasions, hidden layers of knowledge can be brought to the surface. This certainly concords with the revelatory nature of the Apu Inka, and in this sense the poem is clearly influenced by pre-Hispanic epistemologies.
      However, the sense of the contemporary and Incan worlds existing in an ontological and moral hierarchy, with the Inca world as superior, is certainly an Augustinian inheritance, since the tripartite spatial and temporal organization of pacha involves no such hierarchy of legitimacy. There is no evidence that traditional practices of intuition imply a movement from illusion to truth, as in the Apu Inka; instead, intuition is an ever-deepening hermeneutic strategy that builds on, rather than discards, more readily observable levels. In addition, while God and the Inca are distinct in the poem, the fact that God is never referred to as Dios (the Spanish name commonly used by Quechua speakers) but by the Incan name of Wiraqocha, and that divine grace is attained through communing with the Inca as mediator between Earth and Heaven, makes the Inca akin to a divine emanation in a similar way to Christ.8 It is, after all, the Inca who sings the following and thereby enters into a special relationship with God:
      Wiraqocha hanaq patsachaw kaykaamoq Wiraqocha, who abides in the sky,
      Chakiykiman kimsa kuti qoqorishpanam I kneel three times before your feet
      (Adoración/Harawi mañakuna)

      The emphasis on divine communion may suggest an Augustinian favouring of the spiritual over the physical world, but the Inca realm is not defined in entirely spiritual terms. As we saw in sub-section (b), embodied experience is fundamental to participants’ accessing the imagined Inca world, reflecting the influence of pre-Hispanic notions, while Augustinian conceptions of spirituality are evidenced in the remoteness of Wiraqocha residing far away in the sky. This juxtaposition allows the Apu Inka to make the Incan world existentially ‘immediate’, and yet qualitatively different, in its ethereal nature, from the ‘hispanized’ contemporary world that is thereby abjected.
    4. The notion of temporality is, as we have seen, central to the Apu Inka. Both the Augustinian idea of time and the pre-Hispanic concept of pacha portray time as contingent rather than absolute, although for very different reasons. For Augustine, time is contingent because, along with space, it is an expression of our alienation from the static core of reality (God). According to pacha, the world is a dynamic arena of interacting energies, and time and space are first and foremost expressions of relationships.
      Both Augustinian and pre-Hispanic understandings are evident in the Apu Inka. The temporal progression from present to past concords with the notion, inherent in pacha, that the past lies latent and can be accessed at special, ritual, moments. Nonetheless, the sense that this past world is the only true one is very similar to the atemporal, universalist conception of Augustine. Indeed, the Apu Inka discursively uses the principles of pacha – the co-existence of different ‘dimensions’ of spacetime – in order to transcend it, through the ultimate evaporation (abjection) of all other dimensions in the light of the one, true, Incan, reality.
    5. The final issue in Table 1 is the correspondence between the notion of temporality inherent in pacha with the Christian idea of the Apocalypse. In pre-Hispanic days, it was believed that, provided that the bodies were not physically destroyed, deceased Incas were still alive. They were brought out to celebrate in festivals, continued to ‘own’ their lands and properties, and were frequently asked for advice (see McEwan, 137–60). According to the Apocalypse, the dead will be resurrected and the just will live forever in heaven. Together, these two belief systems constitute a strong framework for reinforcing the continued presence of the Inca in people’s hearts and minds:
      Kawsatsun Apu Inka Long live the Inca Lord!
      Manku Qapaq Wiraqocha Manku Qapaq Wiraqocha
      Kawsachunna Apu Inca Long live the Inca Lord!
      Atawallpa qolla qapaq Atawallpa, Lord of the North
      Kawsachunna Cajamarca Long live Cajamarca!
      Intipa churin tiyanampaq So the son of the sun may sit enthroned
      Kawsachunna llapan ñusta Long live every ñusta [princess]!
      Kunan tushur takirirnin Now dancing, singing
      (Adoración ushaskiptin)
    6. To summarize so far, we have seen how the Apu Inka selectively combines, maintains and/or redefines the concept of pacha through association with Augustinian ideas. We have also seen how these examples all serve the purpose of hegemonic abjection: the definition of ‘Incan’ and ‘Hispanic’ as irreconcilable, unequal categories. The key examples were: the incompleteness of entities is redefined in a negative, Augustinian, sense, in order to define the ‘Hispanic’ part of self as alienation from ‘true’ ‘Incan’ identity; the notion of the past as providing a sense of direction, common to pacha and Augustinian memory, is maintained, since this provides the emotional, cognitive and normative basis for abjection; the physicality of pacha is partly maintained insofar as it creates an embodied sense of Incan commonality, yet the mental focus of Augustine is equally emphasized in the retreat to an imagined Incan spacetime, only accessible through abjecting contemporary (Hispanic-influenced) reality; pacha’s co-existence of several worlds is maintained but hierarchized in Augustinian terms in order to class ‘Incan’ spacetime as ontologically and morally superior to contemporary reality; temporality is defined as contingent in a negative, Augustinian sense in order to convey the idea of alienation from eternal Incan identity, yet the co-existence of several worlds (pacha) is maintained as it provides the framework through which abjection of the ‘Hispanic’ can be realized (i.e. through rejecting this world and entering Incan spacetime).
      Table 3 illustrates how this selective ideological syncretism, by facilitating the mechanism of hegemonic abjection, results in the emergence of discrete, irreconcilable categories, each with their attendant concepts that thereby form chains of equivalence.

      Table 3

      Incan Hispanic

      Non-Hispanic Non-Incan
      Past and future Present
      Existential fulfilment Existential vacuity
      Moral Immoral
      Togetherness Isolation
      Superior Inferior
      Real Illusory

      The combination of powerful rhetoric (in the indigenous language) and shared ritual experience, infuses the above bracketing with strong emotional and normative resonance, as is to be expected if hegemony reproduces itself at a deeply personal level, through hegemonic abjection.
  2. Yarpay. Roughly translatable as ‘memory’, this concept concords with the Augustinian understanding of memory, since both conceptualize the past as a resource for understanding the present and projecting towards the future. We have already seen how this is a central theme in the poem. In both philosophies, moreover, memory is a means of becoming more ethical, since forgetfulness is understood as morally and existentially nihilistic. The Apu Inka conveys this through the frequent references to the three foundational laws that the Incas used to govern their Empire:
    Ama lulla ama suwa Do not lie, do not steal
    Ama qela vasallukuna Do not be lazy, vassals

    The constant reinforcement of these laws serves to ‘remind’ participants that losing their true, Incan, self, inevitably results in losing their morality.9 Therefore, the ritualistic ‘memory’ of the Incan world enables participants to shed the perceived nihilistic, amoral, trappings acquired over five centuries of European influence, and attain moral and ontological plenitude through communion with their latent Incan ‘essence’.
    Implicit in both the Augustinian and pre-Hispanic understandings of memory is the mutability of the mind; through memory, we become different from what we were before. An important difference, however, is that yarpay conceptualizes this transformation as a natural, continuous, state, as a function of the universal dynamism of pacha, whereas Augustine considers mutability as an expression of alienation from the static core of existence. For Augustine, memory is therefore something to be surpassed through the deployment of its own principles. In other words, it is through harnessing the (undesirable) mutability of the mind, and directing it through specific channels of reflection, that one can partially overcome such mutability and come to rest in immutable divinity. We have already seen this process in the Apu Inka, where participants use the principles of pacha to transcend the here-and-now, and eventually to transcend pacha itself, as a latent Incan identity is resuscitated (the ascension through the Platonic hierarchy to commune with the One). In this sense, the Apu Inka evinces a distinctly Augustinian (Platonic) intellectual heritage.
    Another important difference is the public nature of yarpay and the private nature of Augustinian reflection. The communal reflection that is so central to the Apu Inka is strongly redolent of yarpay, and in this sense the ritual is very similar to other Andean rituals where memory plays a central role (see Howard ‘Spinning a Yarn’, 29–30; Pigott ‘Unity and Difference’, 86, 89–90). However, if, as I have argued, the idea of ‘Incan selfhood’ coincides not with the physical limits of individuals but with the ideological bracketing from ‘Hispanic’ identity, then one can also interpret the ritual’s use of memory in Augustinian terms as an intensely personal, private, act. According to the concept of ‘distributed personhood’, ‘a person and a person’s mind are not confined to particular spatio-temporal coordinates but consist of a spread of biographical events and memories of events’ (Gell, 222). In the Apu Inka, memory serves the function of redefining the self in such a way that the latter becomes entirely coterminous with a single, Incan, essence, just as, for Augustine, all those on a religious path are ‘of one mind and one heart’ (see van Bavel, 43).
    So, the very meaning of the ‘private/public’ distinction is transformed. ‘Private’ refers to everything within the bracketed category of ‘Incan’, while ‘public’ is that which is outside this category and thereby abjected (i.e. ‘Hispanic’). The ‘self’ becomes widened to include ‘external’ dimensions, yet also narrowed to exclude undesired ‘internal’ dimensions. In the Apu Inka, memory is the vehicle through which this transformation occurs, and hence part of the discursive machinery of hegemonic abjection.
    To summarize, the Apu Inka reflects both yarpay and the Augustinian notion of memory in the following ways: equation of memory with morality (yarpay and Augustine) to define the Incan past as a moral standard; the mind’s mutability is conceptualized as alienation (Augustine) from the one, true, Incan reality; memory is public (yarpay), yet also private (Augustine), insofar as it realizes hegemonic abjection, within which the self is redefined.
  3. Yachay. This concept concords with Augustine in the notion that knowledge entails positive existential transformation. We have already seen this theme several times in the Apu Inka. A major difference between yachay and Augustinian thought is the affirmation of empiricism in the former and its refutation in the latter. The imaginative redefinition of the landscape in Apu Inka reveals the heritage of both traditions: on the one hand, the landscape is experienced through the kinaesthetic and embodied participation in the ritual pilgrimage; on the other, those aspects of the landscape that differ from the imagined Incan world are cognitively and emotionally abjected. As I discussed this theme under pacha, no more than a brief mention is needed here.
  4. Ayni.
    1. This concept coincides with Augustinian ethics in its eudaimonism (equating morality with wellbeing). The Apu Inka is profoundly eudaimonistic, as evidenced by its several references to the happiness engendered by the festival (and, consequently, the sense that regaining an Incan identity is a psychological panacea):
      Kushikurishpa tushukurishpa Rejoicing, dancing
      Takirishpam ripukumuuni Singing, I go
      Intipa churin killapa wawan Son of the sun, son of the moon
      Ima kushitsiy kay kallanqana! What happiness this will bring!
      (Camino del Inca)

      Another common factor in both philosophies is their concern for the quality of engagement with others, a dimension that is brought out in the Inca’s fair and just treatment of his citizens, in accordance with the principle of reciprocity inherent in ayni:
      Kanan punchaw rakipunakushun Today we will divide among us
      Llapan allpay qorintsikta All the gold of our dear land
      (Pizarrowan kaptinqa kaynawmi)

      This verse is enunciated as a response to news of the Spaniards’ arrival, and serves to contrast the Inca’s benevolence with the invaders from outside. In this way, ‘the moral triumph of the vanquished disqualifies the evil actions of an unworthy conqueror’ (Millones Actores de altura, 61, author’s translation). Like many of the Inca’s qualities in the Apu Inka, this depiction is at odds with historical fact: the Incas, like the Spaniards after them, manipulated the traditional concept of reciprocity as a means of soft coercion to affirm allegiance.10 Furthermore, ‘nobody governs more than fifty ethnic groups without the backing of a machinery of warfare and an apparatus of control which ensures the privileges of those who seize power’ (Millones Actores de altura, 59, author’s translation). The following extract from an Incan war chant gives a somewhat different picture to that of the Apu Inka:
      We will drink with the skull of the enemy
      We will use his teeth as necklaces
      We will play the flute with his bones
      With his hide we will play the drums and dance.
      (Guaman Poma, cited in Millones 1992: 55, author’s translation)11

      Clearly, this is not a eulogy to universal love. The contrast only serves to reinforce the gulf between the Apu Inka and the true nature of the Incas which it claims to represent, and, consequently, the poem’s primary concern with contemporary sociopolitical issues, rather than historical accuracy.
    2. Major differences between the pre-Hispanic and Augustinian philosophies are the reciprocal, horizontal ethics of ayni (as an ideal concept, not necessarily as a universal practice in the Andes) and the unidirectional submission to God in Augustinian thought. The Inca’s equal distribution of resources recalls ayni, although the fact that this is not a reward for a service in kind, but an expression of preordained fairness, makes the Inca the arbiter of morality in a similar way to Augustine’s God. Moreover, the Apu Inka depicts Wiraqocha (God) as a distant and unknowable entity, only accessible through the mediating role of the Inca. The only direct form of engagement with Wiraqocha is his punishment of the Incas as a result of Atawallpa’s murder of his ruling brother, Waskar. This punishment takes the form of the Spaniards:
      Pakarishpa waqakushpa Hidden and crying,
      Wiraqocham castigamantsik Wiraqocha punishes us
      Kunan punchaw yarqayamunnam This day is already departing
      Wakinqam chaallamunna Others are arriving
      Kullu rupashqa Burnt tree-trunks
      Rumi shapra wañuynii kallanqa Lichen-beards will be my death
      (Pizarrowan kaptinqa kaynawmi)
      […] […]
      Kuyay wawqita wañutsinqaata Waskar Inka My dear brother did I murder, Waskar Inka
      Apu kanqanta kananqa noqallaapis wañushaqmi
      Wawqiita wañukuynin
      Hanan rumi tsakapita unyarullaaman
      Being Apu, I also shall die
      The death of my brother
      May they hurl me from the highest bridge
      (Tambo Inkapa)

      Rather than contradicting the equation of the Incas with truth and morality, Atawallpa’s crime is the exception that proves the rule. Don Marianito explained to me that the Apu Inka celebrates Waskar rather than Atawallpa, because Atawallpa was not the true Incan heir, being the younger brother.12 The actions of Atawallpa serve as a contrast with the benevolence of the ‘true’ Incas, and also provide a causal explanation of the Incas’ demise that does not sacrifice Incan agency. Rather than being defeated by a more powerful enemy, the Incas, through Atawallpa, brought about their own downfall and thereby remain accountable for – and ultimately in control of – the contemporary situation. Atawallpa’s hybridity (being ‘Incan’ yet not fully so) enables participants to account for their contemporary marginalization while safeguarding a sense of agency. The parallels with the Bible are strong: humanity’s fall from grace does not threaten its position at the top of the hierarchy compared to other species. Punishment, moreover, is an expression of relation (in this case, with divinity no less) and, as a corrective mechanism, often has as its premise a person’s inherent potential to be good. The fact that the punishment itself operates according to the principles of ayni (which entails equal exchange in both positive and negative terms) reinforces the sense that Incan laws are isomorphic with the moral laws of the universe.
      The abjection of that which is non-Incan (‘Hispanic’) is thereby complete: the Spaniards are denied any existential legitimacy whatsoever; they exist only as a consequence of Incan actions. Any meaningful relation with them is defined as not simply undesirable but impossible. In this way, ‘[t]he other is viewed with contempt, as a despicable and worthless nonhuman. As argued by Murer (1999), once the other has been so thoroughly reduced to inhumanity, any required act to maintain the boundaries of self and other can be justified’ (Kinnvall, 754). Just as Augustine characterizes evil not as the polar opposite of goodness (the philosophy of the Manicheans) but as an error of perception, so the poem portrays the Spaniards as an illusion.
      Clearly, this is a powerful subliminal warning to avoid losing ‘Incan identity’ through miscegenation with the Spaniards, particularly in view of the fact that many rural Andeans ‘have interiorized their marginal position according to social/ethnic prestige, resulting in a certain feeling of inferiority regarding issues removed from their peasant environment’ (Masson, 81, author’s translation). The ambivalence of the discriminated means that a sense of inferiority is likely to lurk in the hearts of many of the participants. Thus, ‘[l]ike a besieged city, the movement must strengthen its walls against the enemy without and search for enemies within. True belief does not permit question and doubt’ (Robins and Post, 94–5). The fear of being ‘found out’ as a potential traitor is likely to strengthen the abjection – the need to ‘prove’ one’s allegiance – all the more. This is particularly likely since at least some degree of intercultural influence is inevitable, as proven by the intellectual framework of the Apu Inka itself.
    3. Another similarity between ayni and Augustinian ethics is that both reject egoism. This notion is evidenced in the criticism of Atawallpa’s seizure of the throne, and also in the contrast between the Incas (who divide their wealth among the entire populace) and the thieving Spaniards:
      Qori qellay suwarishqa Gold and silver stolen
      Usharillaashaq I shall end
      Qori qellay usharinqa Gold and silver will end
      España llaqtapam apakuyanqa They will carry them to Spain
      (Pizarrowan kaptinqa kaynawmi)

      Indeed, the social context of the Apu Inka parallels that in which Augustine developed his theology. The Rule of Augustine:

      Sounds an implicit protest against inequality in a society which is so clearly marked by possessiveness, pride and power. According to Augustine, therefore, a monastic community should offer an alternative by striving to build up a community that is not motivated by possessiveness, pride and power, but by love for one another. And, in this sense, the Rule of Augustine is also socially critical. (van Bavel, 8)

      Augustine’s ‘monastic community’ can be equated with the ‘Incan community’ that is bracketed from European-derived customs in the same way that a monastery is bracketed from all influences of the outside world. The fact that the Apu Inka criticizes egoism by citing a precious metal, however, reveals the conceptual influence of ayni and the underlying concern of the ritual in terms of physical prosperity (as well as, but not only, psychological wellbeing). Indeed, the above quote from the poem is strikingly similar to a common phrase that many people uttered to me with regard to foreign mining companies: están llevando nuestra riqueza (they are carrying away our wealth).
    4. In sum, the concept of ayni and Augustinian theology are synthesized in the following ways in the Apu Inka: the attainment of happiness (ayni and Augustinian eudaimonism) through abjecting the ‘Hispanic’ category; the concern for others, evidenced by the equal distribution of resources (ayni) and by the unidirectional arbitration of the Inca (Augustine), sets the Incas as a moral standard; the punishment by Wiraqocha (Augustine) for disobeying the laws of reciprocity (ayni) defines ‘Incan’ laws as universal, safeguards participants’ sense of agency, and abjects people who display ‘Hispanic’ influences as subhuman.
  5. Ayllu. This concept relates to Augustinian theology in the sense of a common focus on a single deity, though it is also different in that Augustine’s monotheistic focus is exclusive, unlike that of an ayllu which, on the whole, accepts religious pluralism. In this respect, the Apu Inka is distinctly Augustinian. Moreover, while the ayllu’s worship of an apu is ultimately instrumental (motivated by the material benefits of a supernatural alliance), communion with the Incan essence is, in the Apu Inka, an end in itself. In the poem, the Inca explicitly refers to the citizens of the Empire as an ayllu:
    Llapan ayllu wiyarinampaq For the whole ayllu to hear
    Alli wiyaw Hear well
    Hanan ayllu urin ayllu Upper ayllu lower ayllu
    Alli wiyaw Hear well
    (Naani ayway)

    The reference to ‘above’ and ‘below’ indexes the dual organization of most Andean political entities, and can equally refer to Huanchacbamba, Cuzco and the whole Empire. The verse performatively creates a sense of psychic unity between participants through the imagined sharing of an Incan essence. As such, the verse also enacts abjection of that which is non-Incan (‘Hispanic’).
    Arguably, the aspect of Augustine’s theology that corresponds most closely with ayllu is his distinction between the City of God and the City of Man. The idea, common to both philosophies, of a common kinship grounded on ethical behaviour, is foundational to the Apu Inka. Another important similarity is that group membership is not immediately obvious; it is not always clear to which ayllu people belong (for men, hardly ever, though the provenance of women can sometimes be identified from the pattern of flowers on their hat), just as membership of the City of God cannot be adduced from one’s personal characteristics in this life.
    This second similarity is equally crucial in the Apu Inka, since the importance of returning to ‘Incan identity’ is only perceived because participants feel distanced from it in the first place. Thus, their external appearance may betray non-Incan influences, but, in a discourse of hegemonic abjection, these elements form chains of equivalence that can be abjected as a single category (‘Hispanic’). In this way, such attributes do not form part of ‘true identity’ which emerges as a pure, hidden, category at the core of being, revealed in special ritual moments where the transition from secular to sacred is also the process of abjection. Such a discourse allows participants to reconcile the inevitability of intercultural contact with the ‘preservation’ of their common ethnic ‘essence’ that functions as a safe haven from discrimination. Thus, the necessary adoption of external attributes is sanctioned, while identifying too strongly with the (invented) ‘outside’ is presented as morally, socially and existentially catastrophic:
    Mayintsikqa karpis yana puyukuna13
    Waktsayaarmi ushakanqa
    Though they may be numerous, the black fleas
    They will grow poor and die out
    (Adoración ushaskiptin)

    The Apu Inka, by transforming the concept of ayllu from a pragmatic bond to a latent essence, enacts a vision of the ‘Incan ayllu’ that is identical to Augustine’s concept of the ‘divine community’: ‘the first community of Jerusalem plays the role of an ancient dream which becomes an ideal for the present and for the future’ (van Bavel, 8). One need only replace ‘Jerusalem’ with ‘Cuzco’ for this to describe the Apu Inka.14 The tragic irony is that, while constructed in order to resist hegemonic discrimination, the Apu Inka in fact perpetuates it by cementing even further the divide between two imagined and unequal categories. In this way, hegemonic abjection operates cyclically, as a never-ending trap, where the ‘solution’ exacerbates the problem to be solved, creating an even greater reliance on the hegemonic discourse.

Conclusion: Beyond Hegemonic Abjection

It is now time to retrace the argument that I have constructed in this article, before concluding with some wider implications. In Section One, I introduced the phenomenon of Andean poetic ‘resistance’ together with the core argument: far from challenging the hegemonic discourse of radical and unequal ethnic dualism, Andean poetic ‘resistance’ perpetuates the same underlying assumptions in an equally totalizing discourse. I illustrated this by taking as my case study the Apu Inka text of Huanchacbamba, central Peru. Just as the colonial discourse permits no viewpoint other than that of the intrinsic superiority of the ‘European’ race, so the Apu Inka affirms a monolithic narrative which defines ‘indigenous/Incan’ identity as the only valid way of being. In Section Two, I introduced the Apu Inka, describing how the text was transcribed and interpreted in the field, and how it related to wider social phenomena in Huanchacbamba.

In Section Three, I laid the theoretical foundations for my argument, constructing a framework that I termed hegemonic abjection. This framework synthesized aspects of Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of hegemony and Kristeva’s theory of abjection. I discussed how, in their Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Laclau and Mouffe define hegemony not in terms of a specific social group but instead as a type of relation. This allowed them to locate hegemony not only in the discourses of ‘powerful’ groups but also in acts of (attempted) resistance to such discourses, such as the Apu Inka. All that is required for hegemony to exist is the instability of frontiers between opposite forces, which nonetheless attempt to solidify these frontiers and create a fundamental dualism between positivity and negativity. Each side is continuously constructed through the formation of chains of equivalence between previously floating elements. Insofar as the ‘self’, as an ‘empty signifier’ in the sense of Lacan, is incorporated into such chains, hegemony involves the construction of identity and alterity. I showed how the theory can be profitably synthesized with Kristeva’s concept of abjection – a felt imperative to achieve an impossible separation between ‘self’ and ‘other’ – to explain how hegemony acquires emotional and cognitive resonance.

In the following three sections, I discussed the ‘floating elements’ that formed the intellectual raw material used to construct the Apu Inka’s hegemonic articulation. These elements derived from two philosophical traditions: pre-Hispanic Andean and Augustinian. In Section Four, I introduced the key Andean concepts informing the poem – pacha, yarpay, yachay, ayni and ayllu – followed, in Section Five, by the Augustinian concepts – a single and supreme force, eudaimonism, introspection, memory, the distinction between the noumenal and phenomenal worlds, temporality, and the distinction between the City of God and the City of Man. Section Six compared the similarities and differences between concepts from each tradition, summarized in Tables 1 and 2.

Section Seven brought together the diverse strands drawn in the previous sections, by illustrating, through close textual analysis, how the Apu Inka combines and redefines concepts from both traditions in its endeavour to construct a new chain of equivalence. This hegemonic articulation involved the creation of a radical opposition between ‘Incan’ and ‘non-Incan’ identity, where the notions of past and future, existential fulfilment, morality, togetherness, superiority and truth were associated with the former, and the present, existential vacuity, immorality, isolation, inferiority and falsity were combined with the latter (see Table 3).

Just some of the ways that this discourse was formulated were: the imagined Incan past as providing a direction for the future; the selective combination of physical embodiment (pre-Hispanic) with mental disassociation (Augustinian) in order to provide a framework for engagement while abjecting the ‘non-Incan’ unconformities; the (Augustinian) hierarchization of the multiple worlds of pre-Hispanic cosmology; memory as public (pre-Hispanic) but also private (Augustinian) insofar as the parameters of selfhood are narrowed to exclude ‘non-Incan’ autobiographical dimensions but widened to include the ‘Incan’ dimensions of other people; the attribution of the Incas’ demise to Atawallpa, who, by being partly but not fully Incan, provides just the right mix for participants to feel accountable for their current situation but still maintain the moral high ground; the ‘Incan’ law of reciprocity (ayni) as a universal law; the ‘Incan’ City of God versus the ‘non-Incan’ City of Man.

All this strongly suggests that Andean poetic ‘resistance’ is motivated primarily by fear, namely the fear of a perceived threat to ‘ontological security’ (i.e. a stable sense of selfhood) (Giddens, 31). This fear is likely to arise particularly in contexts where a discourse of racial/ethnic discrimination has become normalized, as in the case of Andean Peru. I would argue that what is particularly insidious about such discourses is not, however, the overt discrimination itself but the underlying premises that inform the discrimination, namely that selfhood can be defined in a bounded category, that existential legitimacy depends on it being thus defined, and that certain ontological categories are more legitimate than others.

When discrimination is particularly overt, its jarring ‘noise’ is liable to focus attention only on the offending cacophony, which becomes the sole object of repulsion. What is overlooked is the underlying mechanism, the skewed logic of the fallible premises, which, being thereby eclipsed, are often unquestioningly adopted by the ‘other side’. In this way, a Derridean ‘trace’ is engendered, whereby each ‘side’ is a replication of the other and derives its identity only by denying the other’s right to exist. The discourse of discrimination thereby operates by sleight-of-hand, obscuring itself under the blinding light of the crossfire that it continually ignites.

Thus, by focusing people’s attention externally, the discourse occludes its operation internally – that is, in the individual’s own psychology. This means that discourses of hegemonic abjection can involve a high degree of agency and creativity at one level – the recombination of floating elements to create a powerful rhetorical weapon – but a deep lack of agency at a deeper level – the unquestioned assumption of underlying premises. This paradox may be another reason for the successful replication of hegemonic discourses: the creative ways of perpetuating the discourse mean that it is appropriated and made ‘one’s own’. While the Apu Inka might be interpreted as a case of ‘strategic essentialism’ (a phrase that Spivak coined but then distanced herself from),15 the point is that the ‘essentialism’ is nothing more than a fractal offshoot of the hegemonic discourse which therefore remains unchallenged. Such responses may be ‘strategic’ to some extent, but their ultimate effectiveness, and the degree of agency informing them, are necessarily limited.

The irony, in the case of the Apu Inka, is that the unquestioning adoption of a premise of essentialized identity is proof of the fallibility of such a premise. That is to say, the logical error replicates through intersubjective engagement, which runs directly counter to the idea that selfhood can and must be conclusively delimited in the first place. Indeed, when discrimination is covert rather than overt, it is likely to result in an underlying inferiority complex whereby the discriminated unconsciously internalize a sense of their own inadequacy (Masson, 81). The mix of overt and covert discrimination in the contemporary Andes explains why several people I interviewed had such ambivalent attitudes towards the Quechua language – often emphatically defending it in Spanish, while remaining shy of speaking it in front of the microphone.

The fact that the underlying premise remains unseen means that the impossibility of its demand – full existential closure – serves not to weaken that demand but to reinforce it. Acquiring biographical influences from the ‘other side’ is seen not as a natural and unavoidable process of intersubjective osmosis, and therefore a flaw in the demand itself, but instead as an individual failure which must be rectified by reinforcing the boundaries all the more. So, normative discourses of monolithic identity perpetuate a cyclical and escalating process in which any effort to acquire the longed-for stability only moves the goalposts further and further away, heightening the sense of fear and the possibility of its culmination in ethnic violence. Kinnvall describes this process with crystalline clarity:

Religious and cultural rituals and ritualistic observances of anniversaries can serve to sustain the trauma and feed into the continued demonization of the other while sacralizing the self. In the illusory but powerful need of securitizing subjectivity, hate becomes the link among the present, the future, and a re-created past. In this sense it serves as a social chain for successive generations as a particular event or trauma becomes mythologized and intertwined with a group’s sense of self. (Kinnvall, 756)

Laclau and Mouffe argue that a degree of conflict can be socially constitutive but that, for this to be the case, people must first recognize the contingency of any social group. For these authors, ‘radical and plural democracy’ (184) can be achieved ‘when the open, unsutured character of the social is fully accepted’ and ‘the essentialism of the totality and of the elements is rejected’ (192). This involves recognizing ‘the contingency and ambiguity of every “essence”, and […] the constitutive character of social division and antagonism’ (193). Mouffe later distinguishes between the negative effects of ‘antagonism’ and the productive benefits of what she terms ‘agonism’.16 Several scholars have similarly noted how conflict can be socially productive in Andean society, citing the Quechua concept of tinku, whereby two sides have to be differentiated in order to maintain reciprocal complementarity (Allen, The Hold Life Has, 205; Harrison, 69; Pigott, ‘Unity and Difference’; Stobart, Music and the Poetics of Production, 134, 140).

For Laclau and Mouffe, such forms of interaction can still be termed ‘hegemonic’, insofar as the boundaries between competing groups remain, so that the solution to totalizing discourses is not the elimination of hegemony but the proliferation of hegemonic discourses in agonistic competition (149–93). It is questionable, nonetheless, whether the term ‘hegemony’ is thereby distilled beyond all recognition, particularly since the totalizing intolerance of diversity is so central to the common understanding of this term. However one defines the terminology, Laclau and Mouffe’s suggestion that totalizing discourses can be counteracted by people’s recognition of the contingency of any identity is still a key point.

It is interesting, on this matter, to contrast Kristeva’s description of abjection with Varela, Thompson and Rosch’s discussion of co-origination:

If it be true that the abject simultaneously beseeches and pulverizes the subject, one can understand that it is experienced at the peak of its strength when that subject, weary of fruitless attempts to identify with something on the outside, finds the impossible within; when it finds that the impossible constitutes its very being, that it is none other than abject. (Kristeva, 5)


Attempt to find a stable ego-self […] limit[s] our lived world to the experience of suffering and frustration. By progressively learning to let go of these tendencies to grasp, one can begin to appreciate that all phenomena are free of any absolute ground and that such ‘groundlessness’ […] is the very fabric of dependent co-origination. (Varela, Thompson and Rosch, 144)

Both passages emphasize the boundlessness of selfhood, whereby engagement with any element is also an autobiographical process of becoming. The difference is that, in abjection, such boundlessness risks creating an existential crisis, insofar as the subject feels compelled to maintain an impossible frontier between ‘self’ and ‘other’, often due to the internalization of hegemonic ‘logics’. In the second quote, where this compulsion is absent, the boundlessness of selfhood is instead an expansion of the potential field of engagement and thereby a widening of the possible trajectories of self-development. From the first quote to the second, the existentially reductive cycle of essentialized identity morphs into an expansive one where the chains linking floating elements become freer, more malleable and elastic, capable of being recombined in ways that are socially productive and existentially enhancing.

I should like to conclude by suggesting that, here, education can play a crucial role, by elucidating underlying assumptions and bringing them into the conscious sphere of open debate. The power of hegemony lies in its tacit, unconscious and therefore highly contagious nature, deflecting the focus from the underlying principle to the opposing ‘sides’ that this principle engenders. In such a way, the self becomes trapped in a discourse of fixity and irreconcilability, perpetuated through the psychological mechanism of abjection. By revealing the ultimate groundlessness and contingency of all forms, an authentic education can go a long way towards dispelling the illusory need for ontological fixity, and enable the self to embrace, rather than reject, its inherent multiplicity.