Ethnographic scenario, emplaced imaginations and a political aesthetic
The Introduction lays out the research and the ethnography from which the edited collection stems, describing the process from the standpoint of the anthropologist Olivia Casagrande. Drawing on Antropofágias, one of the artworks developed within the project, issues of collaboration, positionality, knowledge production and participative ethnography are discussed. Delving in depth into the methodology adopted during the research, the Introduction engages with current debates concerning the possibilities of ‘decolonising methodologies’ through ethnographic collaboration, experimental methodologies and performance. In its second section, the Introduction discusses the epistemological significance of contemporary indigenous political aesthetics – defined as a political aesthetics of the champurria (‘mixed up’) – for rethinking the (post)colonial city and decoloniality in contemporary contexts. This concept, further developed throughout the book, is also key to the discussion of issues of representation and knowledge production, claiming the need for thinking multiplicities. Finally, the Introduction presents the organisation of the book, and its different sections and chapters, with a final note on the collaborative process of writing in the contemporary socio-political and academic context, especially in light of the recent uprising in Chile and the current COVID-19 crisis.
Building on analyses of the relationship between race, aesthetics and politics, the volume elaborates on the epistemological possibilities arising from collaborative and decolonial methodologies at the intersection of ethnography, art, performance and the urban space. It moves from practice-based and collaborative research with young Mapuche and mestizo artists and activists in Santiago (Chile), drawing together a range of different materials: from artworks to theatre and performance; from graphics to audio and visual materials. An edited collection, the book is constructed by shifting between different authorships and changing perspectives from the individual to the collective. This approach, while to a certain extent within the classical structure of editors/authors, plays with the roles of researcher/research participant, highlighting the ambiguities, frictions and exchanges involved in this relationship. Elaborating on indigenous knowledge production, the book thus addresses the possibility of disrupting the social and material landscape of the (post)colonial city by articulating meanings through artistic and performative representations. As such, the essays contained in the book put forward alternative imaginations constructed through an aesthetic defined by the Mapuche concept of champurria (‘mixed’): a particular way of knowing and engaging with reality, and ultimately an active process of home- and self-making beyond the spatialities usually assigned to colonised bodies and subjects. Actively engaging with current debates through collective writing by indigenous people raising questions in terms of decolonisation, the book stands as both an academic and a political project, interrogating the relationship between activism and academia, and issues of representation, authorship and knowledge production.
Returning to the main themes and lines of analysis developed in the book and to the collaborative research process, this chapter draws the volume’s conclusions. Constructed as a hybrid between written and oral text, it is a dialogue and a conversation in the form of the Mapuche nütxam – extensively adopted during the research project – between the book’s three editors and the project’s coordinators. This conversation, taking place in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 emergency, hovers around the authors’ positionalities, collaboration and frictions. In doing so, it elaborates on the process of collaborative research and collective writing, knowledge production, methodological decolonisation and indigenous political aesthetics and their broader meaning from both an anthropological and activist standpoint.