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Film Still: La Teta Asustada

The Public Sphere and Cultural Rights: Culture as Action

Gisela Cánepa-Koch | Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

The project to create a museum on memory in Peru has opened up a debate around its relevance for national memory and reconciliation, which entails various perspectives on cultural politics in relationship to cultural diversity and citizenship. This article proposes to analyze the role of expressive culture and everyday performativity as a mechanism for staging memory through a discussion on cultural rights and the public sphere.

The Museum of Memory and how we understand culture

A public debate has erupted regarding the German government’s offer of millions of dollars to construct a museum of memory in Peru, a project recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a symbolic action directed toward achieving reconciliation as well as raising consciousness about what occurred during the years of violence (1980–2000). Looking beyond the importance of being able to create a museum of this nature, I argue that when seen from a perspective that understands museums as arenas for public debate rather than as inanimate buildings, its construction has already begun.1

The mere possibility of the Museum of Memory has inaugurated a debate that is necessary for the construction of a healthy and democratic culture of citizenship. For this reason, I consider it equally important to continue to advocate for realization of the project and to insist on the continuation of an open debate. The latter might certainly be much more difficult than the building of the museum, since it requires not only the implementation of a long-term project attentive to and inclusive of different actors’ sensibilities, demands, and forms of cultural action, but also the critical examination of our shared assumptions, which is undoubtedly the greater challenge.

On the other hand, the debate in question is helping to clarify particular conceptions of memory and reconciliation, as well as specific interests and sites of enunciation that are implicit in the arguments put forth but that require critical examination. While the debate is certainly political and ideological, I propose that it may also be worthwhile to open it up to academic debate through which we may critically reflect on notions such as culture, the museum, and the idea of lo público (that which is public),2 which frame the manner in which the public politics of culture are conceptualized and carried out.

Among the arguments that have been advanced in opposition the Museum of Memory we find, for example, those which claim that the public policies of a poor country such as Peru should prioritize investment in production and development, seeing culture as something incidental,3 or that this is not the right moment for a museum of memory because such a museum will not contribute to reconciliation.4 Arguments in favor of the museum, on the other hand, emphasize that museums are necessary because they educate, raise awareness, and contribute to healing.5

While these arguments are put forth from different ideological positions, they coincide in the understanding of culture they mobilize, identifying it with “high culture” and universal values. Such an approach to culture is not only elitist and discriminatory, but it also implies a static and objectifying definition of culture as something “one has,” or something “one lacks” or eventually “acquires.” By this same logic, memory is also seen as a thing contained in the collection of illustrative objects deposited in a museum; a thing that may be acquired by whomever has access to it. Within this logic, the forms and contents of culture, the museum, memory, and the idea of lo público are taken as given, thus running the risk of reproducing forms of social, cultural, and political exclusion and discrimination.

Taking memory as given, or thinking that we can find one unique truth about what happened, implies that only one memory narrative is possible. This thereby excludes the multiple actors who were involved in the years of violence and who enacted or suffered it from different positionings. Overlooking the existence of multiple memories also leads to the ignorance of diverse forms of remembering and of culturally specific ways of coping with pain, which are in turn linked to notions about what belongs in public and private domains, as illustrated in Claudia Llosa’s recent film, The Milk of Sorrow (La teta asustada).6

A museum of memory, both in design and implementation, is not restricted to the topic of memory, but speaks to more general issues of cultural politics in relation to diversity and cultural citizenship. The Museum of Memory is not the only project that takes up memory and reconciliation. There exist many other local practices related to these issues that are rehearsed at the local level, such as the strategies of Quechua women to deal with the fear and pain of rape whose public character is relative to specific audiences (see Theidon 2002). What one local population needs to publicize in order to generate collective responses need not necessarily be publicized in larger spheres; there are also forms whose efficacy depends on their rehearsal within individual or family spaces and which also need to be recognized and facilitated. The reconciliation that is sought in a museum of memory, then, is not achieved magically, but rather entails making room for different memories and forms of remembering and publicizing in order to guarantee inclusion and respecting cultural diversity. In other words, the objective is to assure the performative force of any form of memory. Reconciliation is not about forgiveness or guilt, but about the possibility of the victim becoming an actor in the process of social reconstruction. This possibility requires a cultural politics that recognizes cultural diversity and is inclusive of alternate practices of remembering and generating consensus and social contracts.

In this sense, a museum of memory should be imagined beyond its materiality and its particular expository and communicative forms in order to collect and make visible the memories of the different actors involved in a contextualized manner. Any museum exhibit requires us to inquire about who remembers, what is remembered, how it is remembered, why it is remembered, and to whom these memories are communicated.

A museum of memory, moreover, should mediate and promote other means of memory-making in a decentralized way. The language of museums is not the only mechanism for staging memory. There are others, such as literature, film, visual art, music, and ethnography, which have dealt with diverse aspects of the violence and have even entered into productive dialogue with one another. This is the case with Kimberly Theidon’s ethnography, entitled Entre prójimos: El conflicto armado interno y la política de la reconciliación en el Perú, which inspired Claudia Llosa’s film, The Milk of Sorrow,7 but also with Rocío Lladó’s film Vidas paralelas and Víctor Andrés Ponce’s novel De amor y de guerra, all of which confront the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report. We should also include other forms of remembering or coping with pain, such as music, imagery, oral tradition, and ritual.8 Memory work, in other words, need not be reduced to documentary or ethnographic language; fiction and imagination can also contribute to this work, and it is likewise also necessary to think about publicizing memory in different ways relative to diverse publics and particular topics.

Reducing the idea of a museum, of memory, and of lo público to fixed and pre-established conceptions (rather than understanding these concepts as heuristic means to enunciate, debate, and build consensus on topics of interest) not only represents an impoverished approach in analytical terms, but also limits the possibilities of turning museums and other cultural forms into effective mechanisms for social inclusion and for the construction of modes of citizenship that strengthen participatory democracy. From this perspective, reconciliation, which is one of the goals of the Museum of Memory, should not be understood as a magical transformation that will be achieved merely by walking the halls of the museum. On the contrary, it will only be accomplished in the degree to which museum, memory, and the public are open to debate and to their own re-definition, with the participation of the entire constellation of actors involved and through culturally specific practices.

As indicated above, a scholarly debate on the definition of a series of concepts implicated in the discussion regarding the Museum of Memory is necessary, precisely because these enable the possibility of opening broader conceptual frameworks for thinking about the nation’s cultural politics. Thus, the Museum of Memory itself could be designed and implemented as a part of more general vision of politics. With this in mind, I will now turn to a discussion of the public sphere and cultural rights.

The public sphere: exclusion and cultural rights

A discussion about the public sphere without doubt hinges on Habermas’s definition of the concept as an institutionalized space of free association and discursive action whose political sense derives from its critical function and capacity to generate public opinion (Habermas 1989). As has been discussed, the development of the public sphere was associated with the configuration of a distinctive culture specific to the bourgeoisie that emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries. It consisted of forms of public expression and behavior characterized by a virtuosic, virile, rational style. Through these, the emergent bourgeoisie succeeded in distinguishing itself not only from the aristocratic elites they sought to displace but also from the diverse popular and plebeian strata they aspired to govern (Fraser 1997). The legitimation of a rhetoric based on rational argumentation as the guarantor of discussion and reflection that was critical, rational, and independent of the social identity of the deliberating subjects, allowed the bourgeoisie (as the repository of this rhetorical style) to constitute itself as the moral class capable of this public exercise, and, at the same time, to delegitimize other forms of arguing, debating and arriving at consensus. The domination of one group’s norms of expression over those of another implicit in this process became the condition not only for legitimate participation in the public sphere, but also for the incorporation of the voice representing the general interest.

A consideration of this type leads us to identify two central points in the discussion of the public sphere: a) its exclusive character, and b) the fact that such exclusion is defined not only in terms of access to it, but also by the cultural repertoires and competencies that characterize it. Consequently, in order to account for the exclusive nature of the public sphere, we have to consider not only the structural differences that determine access to hegemonic public space and the means of production and circulation of discourse, but also the cultural differences that are codified in the deliberative styles and repertories particular to different publics. In this sense, for example in Peru, individuals of indigenous ethnic origin are admitted as members of congress only when Spanish is the language of deliberation. Quechua—not to mention other forms of argumentation and legitimation specific to the Quechua world—is not accepted as a valid language in the sphere of formal politics, but is only recognized as valid in the sphere of the cultural (oral tradition, poetry, song).

The exclusion, on the other hand, of other public discursive forms from the political and ideological realm results in a demonstrated lack of interest on the part of academic research in studying the critical and political potential of alternative repertoires for deliberation and action, as well as an underestimation of what is at stake in the field of culture, cultural methods, and cultural industries.9 This bias is founded on an ideological and theoretical tradition according to which the capacity for reflection and argument is only developed through language—the written word in particular—thus excluding other forms of knowledge production, intersubjective dialogue, and consensus, which are characterized as pre-political.

In this sense, anthropology’s general interest in the diversity of expressive and theatrical forms that involve embodied action as much as the word, as well as the discipline’s specific reflection on the reflexive, argumentative, and consensual character of ritual, theatre, dance, and visual expression, can be a contribution toward a critical revision of the concept of the public sphere. On the other hand, anthropology’s longstanding commitment to the investigation of the relation of culture and politics has, in large measure, been achieved through the study of expressive culture. We should clarify, however, that this imperative should not be reduced to the study of cultural repertoires that can be classified as “performative” in the sense that they involve a staging and the body in action, but rather that it also entails the study of such repertoires from a performative perspective. Such a perspective implies seeing any cultural expression as a staging, a framework that takes into account the actions of the individuals or groups involved, as well as the context from which they extract and channel possible meanings. This approach has enabled an argument for the constitutive power of cultural expression, which is precisely what grants it political efficacy.

To problematize the public sphere from studies of politics and expressive culture so defined is important not only because this broadens the spectrum of possible forms of public action, but because it demands that we think about the diversity of forms of public action as part of the transformation of the very field of the political and, therefore, of ways of practicing politics.

In anthropology, the concept of cultural citizenship addresses precisely the right of specific groups not to be excluded from participation in the public sphere based on cultural, racial, gender, or physical traits that distinguish them from the universalist model implicit in conventional definitions of citizenship. The acceptance of culturally specific forms of participation would, precisely, provide the foundation for achieving effective inclusion and full citizenship (see Rosaldo 1997).

Along these lines, it is important to point out that the claim for cultural rights and the constitution of a more democratic public sphere does not merely entail a question of representation, of having a voice, but should also focus on guaranteeing the production and management of its difference for specific groups. It is in this sense that I argue that the constitution of a public sphere that is more inclusive and respectful of cultural rights should be measured precisely by possibilities of participation. It is a question of performativity that centers on the possibility that the iteration—the putting into action—of a specific cultural practice, whether as a form of expressive culture or an everyday practice, enacted in the context of a particular institutional and historical constellation has political efficacy—in other words the capacity to constitute and transform what it enunciates or expresses. Stated differently, a more democratic and participative public sphere would be one in which public action does not merely have a deliberative meaning, but also practical force; the capacity for direct intervention in the configuration of life and the social order such that opinion and action complement one another effectively.

We should note that this issue is one of the concerns taken up by Nancy Fraser when she distinguishes between strong and weak publics. Through this distinction, she calls attention to the possibility that opinion might not be translated into decision, and that public opinion would therefore be divested of its practical force. It is exactly this problem that requires the move from a representational model to a participative one, for thinking about culture as well as acting through it.

To broaden my argument regarding public action and performativity, I would like to introduce a discussion of the relevance of accounting for expressive forms that are culturally different, or even everyday practices, as mechanisms of public action. From an anthropological perspective, these practices are of interest not only for their cultural particularity but also for a) the fact that many of these forms are performative in nature, that is, they involve a staging; and b) the fact that in the current conjuncture, the performative force of culture and its expressive forms have been strengthened.

Public culture: from discourse to action

To address the performative nature of certain forms of public action, I pose as an example the case of religious festivals carried out by communities of devotees of Andean descent in honor of patron saints of their towns of origin. Of special interest are those performed in the historical center of Lima, since the activities involved in their execution imply the access to spaces of worship (temples and altars) as well as to public spaces (the streets and squares of Lima’s center) that are emblematic of a hegemonic creole tradition in Lima. In this sense, it is important to note that the devotees of the Andean images celebrated in the city center do not live there. Nonetheless, they spare no effort to place their images in the churches in the area. My argument is that the activation of the cultural repertoire of the festivals takes on a political character when placed in the context of the UNESCO designation of the city’s historical center as a world heritage site. Through it, diverse groups of different origin struggle to occupy, administer, and assume the role of legitimate guardians the city’s public space as well as its cultural heritage.

For an image to be kept in a church, the religious community has to have carried out complex negotiations with the religious authorities of the parish. These authorities then provide a lateral display case where the image in question is placed, committing the participation of a significant group of parishioners in the year’s liturgical and social activities. The religious brotherhood takes charge of caring for the image, which entails cleaning, maintenance as well as restoration and carving. Carrying out the festival requires additional negotiations with the municipality and the National Institute of Culture (INC). In the context of Lima’s status as a world heritage site and the project to restore the historic center, such negotiations become polemical. In the first case, this is because a municipal order (# 062-1994) decreed that in Lima’s center only traditional, religious, and civic festivals may be carried out, such as those of the Virgin del Carmen de Barrios Altos, the festival of the Señor de los Milagros, the Corpus Christi and Lima’s anniversary. On the other hand, the INC supervises the implementation of the architectural aspects of the restoration project, to ensure that the work is undertaken in accordance with architectural, historical, and aesthetic criteria that respect the colonial and republican character of the buildings and squares.

In this sense, access to and use of public spaces, as well as the work of restoration and outfitting of the churches for Andean religious festivals constitute forms of strategic action through which different migrant groups interact with the Church and the State, and intervene in and on streets, squares, and churches in order to claim recognition and inclusion of their members as legitimate residents of the city. At the same time, these groups negotiate their participation in the historic center restoration project, implemented in the context of the declaration of the city center as a world heritage site, and of policies promoting culture and tourism as a development strategy.

Given this, the festival should not be reduced to its representational function, as a space of expression and articulation in which migrant groups of Andean origin express their regional and local identities. Nor should it be reduced to a event in which Andean migrants contest the public images that associate them to the informal economy, with perceptions of chaos, with the city’s problems, or, in the best case scenario, to the figure of the emergent migrant from the provinces which situates them in the realm of the productive but does not confer upon them cultural and moral value. The festival is, above all, action, and, in this sense, it does not exhaust itself in a call for inclusion, but rather grants practical power to the demand for inclusion to the extent that, over time, the progressive enactment of the festival and its related activities can transform the festive calendar and sites of worship, and the very nature of religious worship. It must be noted that despite resistance from the city and the church to allow festivals of Andean origin in the historic center, these very festivals are capturing the interest of various parishes that see in them the possibility for pastoral work, and of the tourist agencies that now include them in their tour packages.

What is at stake here is both the possibility to re-found Lima’s religious and festival tradition and the possibility to transform the historical center as a place. In a political sense, this translates to the possibility for religious communities of migrant origin to acquire cultural agency, constituting themselves as legitimate interpreters and guardians of the historical center’s traditions and monuments. In this way, festive action as a form of public action does not merely put forth an argument toward cultural recognition, but can also make such a cause effective by situating devotees of migrant origin at the center of this reconstituted historical space.

In short, it is through the iteration of festival tradition and repertoires within this particular context that a form of expressive culture may become public action. It is under these conditions that the call for recognition acquires performative power and can be translated into effective participation.

The performative power of culture in the current conjuncture

In what follows I would like to address the fact that the efficacy of certain cultural practices is due not only to their performative nature but also to the fact that, in the current moment, the points of intersection between culture, economics, and politics are multiplying in such a way that, more than ever before, a variety of cultural practices acquire performative power.

This historical moment, which has been referred to as the “culturalist conjuncture,” can be defined by the impact that contemporary economic, technological, and communicational processes have had on the fields of cultural production and practice. This “culturalist conjuncture” has entailed the definition and putting-into-practice of a culture as difference, as well as its instrumentalization as a resource (see Turner 1999 and Yúdice 1999). According to Turner, in the context of the economic developments associated with globalization, the crisis of the nation-state, and the emergence of a middle class that is characterized, distinguished, and reproduced through lifestyles that require ever more sophisticated modes of consumption, culture—and more specifically “cultural difference”—emerge as a field for self-reproduction and political action. “Cultural” identities such as ethnicity, religion, gender, or indigeneity have become the privileged means of securing social power, demanding rights, and making claims for recognition and inclusion. The consequence has been the politicization of the struggles for cultural self-representation.

An economy based on the production of consumer goods and services, on the other hand, forces groups fighting for self-representation to confront the fact that their cultural goods and repertoires are being appropriated by the state, the media, and the market, each of which has its own agendas for promoting, publicizing, or commercializing them. Thus, these struggles over representation take place within the framework of a public culture in which political, social, and cultural agendas are interwoven with entertainment and consumption in complex and sometimes contradictory ways. For this same reason, social movements for ethnic recognition give way to diverse agendas and forms of intervention such as those of the Zapatistas in Mexico (see Yúdice 2002), who have instrumentalized different media in their political activism, or initiatives such as that of the Asháninkas in Peru, who articulate their calls for land rights and the protection of their surroundings through the language of ecotourism, thus employing development discourses in favor of local political interests (see Espinosa 2006 and Correa 2006).

It is precisely in this line of thinking that authors such as Appadurai and Breckenridge propose a break with the correlation between what is public and European civil society, as well as the correlation between a broadly understood literacy, public community and politics implied in the original definition of public sphere (See Appadurai and Breckenridge 1995). For them, the production of what is public and public action occur across a range of contexts that arise in a variety of historical conditions, and which “articulate the space between domestic life and the projects of the nation-state wherein different social groups (classes, ethnic groups, genders) constitute their identities by their experience of mass-mediated forms in relation to the practices of everyday life. Lo público, in this usage, ceases to have any necessary or predetermined relationship to formal politics, rational communicative action, print capitalism, or the dynamics of the emergence of a lettered bourgeoisie” (see Appadurai and Breckenridge 1995:4-5, translation by author). These authors define public culture as a “zone of cultural debate” in which repertoires of national culture, mass culture, and folk culture are the resources of this discursive interaction, and whose political economy is triangulated by action between different publics, cultural industries, and the State (ibid, 13).

From this perspective, what is public is configured through an arrangement of texts and experiences, which in turn give way to particular contexts that make everyday life “a complex experiential field in which the lives of particular agents, readers, and subjects are interwoven with the shared texts and moments of public culture” (See Mah 2000). Reflection here on the production of what is public transcends the specialized definition of the public sphere that has characterized the scholarly literature, and recovers a sense of Öffentlichkeit, which alludes more precisely to a condition or a circumstance rather than to a demarcated space defined by its own structure and separated from the private and domestic domain which one can enter and exit (see García Canclini 1995).

The concept of public culture erases the boundaries between the private and the public; it allows other languages – corporeal, visual, scenic – as forms of discursive reflection and argument in the creation of opinion. It also proposes a public subject that is always situated, both in terms of its place in the social structure as well as in relation to the production, distribution, and legitimation of discursive forms. This public subject is also always situated in relation to the affects implicit in its connection to different communities of opinion (family, friends, work and professional worlds, the neighborhood, the religious group, etcetera), and whose agendas and forms of discursive action give way to complex and sometimes contradictory identity formations.

This perspective aligns with a series of studies that have taken up the analysis of different forms of reception, interpretation, appropriation, and re-signification of content transmitted through a variety of discursive forms that include the academic, the literary, the visual, the spectacular, and the experiential, situating the consumer therefore not as an abstract reader or a passive consumer, but as an active agent. Nestor García Canclini, in particular, has argued that in the current historical moment, consumption constitutes a fundamental civic action.

It is precisely in the framework of the culturalist conjuncture that culturally-specific practices—not just those that fall under the category of performative genres as described above but also everyday practices—can, in specific contexts, acquire political efficacy and constitute public actions calling for cultural, economic, and political rights. Examples of such practices include actions such as lava la bandera (“wash the flag”), in which the need for reflection on and as a stance against the problem of corruption was signified through an everyday action (washing); or the anti-mine campaign in Tambogrande, where part of the campaign was organized around slogans that, through the reclaiming of cultural rights, put forth a debate about models of development, one based on agro-exploitative economy (lemons, to be specific) and another other based on exploitation of miners.

To build upon what has been discussed up to this point in the context of celebrating multiculturalism, it would be necessary to study a variety of cultural phenomena. These would include the newfound popularity of tropical music, gastronomical innovation, ethnic fashion, television series featuring characters from urban popular culture, and the incorporation of folkloric figures in advertising and marketing proposals with the aim of exploring processes and terms of recognition of cultural diversity that are at play. These would also include the multiple interpretations, appropriations, and re-contextualizations of culturally specific repertories, along with the political economy that organizes the production and distribution of culture.

In relation to specific and thoroughly contextualized cases, it is crucial to understand the complex ways in which politics, the market, and culture intersect in order to design cultural policies that instrumentalize the market’s possibilities, while avoiding the incorporation of cultural diversity in purely commercial terms.

Final reflections

As a way of concluding, I would like to enumerate a few points with respect to the more general topic of cultural rights and the public sphere, as well on the more specific subject of memory. With respect to cultural rights, it is important that the demand for the right to difference not be framed solely as a matter of representation, but also focus on guaranteeing each group’s right to produce and manage its difference, which means participation. Secondly, I propose a less idealized view of the public sphere, which requires us to acknowledge that its spectacularization and commercialization do not necessarily imply its debilitation; rather, they imply its eventual broadening to include culturally diverse forms of deliberation and opinion creation, as well as its adaptation to specific economic and technological conditions that determine the current production and distribution of discursive interaction. Thirdly, it is my opinion that a democratic agenda should not be limited to introducing new issues and agents, but also directed toward the implementation of cultural policies that promote inclusion as an everyday practice and experience. The idea is to intervene in the configuration of a public culture—and this entails intervening upon the conditions and resources of the production and distribution of the repertories that constitute it—in such a way that each individual and collective is able to put into action its civic, local, gender, ethnic, religious, or generational identity, continuously and consistently, and in dialogue with the discursive and practical frameworks that govern the instituted order. This would enable participation in the generation of new contexts and meanings, as well as the reorientation of this order toward democratic consolidation. A true democratization of politics entails the creation of conditions for the everyday exercise of politics such that power is not only in the hands of politicians nor in the exclusive field of formal politics. Finally, and along the same lines of what I argued above, memory is an ongoing process and, as such, it should be understood as a truth that is culturally specific and contextually constituted. In this sense, a museum of memory should be thought of as more than a mere building to be erected in Lima and a museographic concept in line with the most current tendencies. Rather, it should be seen as an opportunity to put the memories of the years of violence into action in a decentralized and inclusive manner. This would require the creation of an inventory of the diverse and culturally specific ways of dealing with pain and fear that are currently at play, as well as a critical reflection on the range and the limitations of these forms in specific social contexts, in order to design an inclusive strategy that guarantees the viability and replicability of successful strategies and experiences.

Translated by Sarah Thomas

This essay was originally published in Memoria: Revista sobre cultura, democracia y derechos humanos, No. 5,

Gísela Cánepa-Koch is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Program in Visual Anthropology in the Department of Social Sciences at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima.

Sarah Thomas is a Ph.D. candidate in the NYU Department of Spanish and Portuguese, where she is writing a dissertation on child protagonists in film and literature dealing with the Franco dictatorship in Spain.  She came to NYU in 2005 after completing an A.B. magna cum laude in Literature at Harvard University.  She works as a freelance translator of academic and literary works.


1 In this respect, it would be necessary to strike a critical balance of reflection around the different sites of memory that are built without any use and therefore lose performative power to make effective the objectives for which they were built. For example, one could mention the Abancay Memory Park, promoted by regional non-governmental organizations; or the peace statue erected by the TRC and the Office of Defense of the People in Huamanga. In both cases we are dealing with dilapidated buildings not used by the population. (Personal conversation with Ricardo Caro.)

2 translator’s note: we have chosen not to translate lo público in the body of the text due to the lack of a precise word in English that unambiguously denotes “that which is public.” “The public” in English suggests audiences or constituencies (as in “publics”) and “publicity” can also suggest advertising, both of which obfuscate the author’s argument and intention.

3 “‘If I have people who want to go to the museum, but they don’t eat, they will die of starvation […] There are priorities,’ commented the Minister of Defense (in an article on the website of Radio Programas de Perú). He also stated that if he were face to face with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, ‘he would thank her’ for her offer but make a counter-proposal: ‘I would tell her, ‘what do you say we use this [money] in something more necessary for the country.’”

4 Chancellor José Antonio García Belaunde as cited in El Comercio Perú: “The position of the Peruvian government that the [Peruvian] State Department expressed (to the German government) is that we do not believe that the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has provided reconciliation, and therefore we believe this is not the moment nor the opportunity to create a museum that will keep wounds open.”

5 Mario Vargas Llosa in letter to El Comercio Perú, “Museums are now as necessary for nations as schools and hospitals. They educate as much and sometimes more than classrooms do, and above all in a more subtle, private, and permanent way than teachers do. They also cure, not bodies, but minds, of the darkness that is ignorance, prejudice, superstition, and all the defects that cut communication between human beings, embitter them and push them to kill one another. Museums replace a vision of life and things that is small, provincial, mean, unilateral, and closed-minded with a vision that is broad, generous, and plural. They sharpen sensibility, stimulate the imagination, refine sentiments, and awake in people a critical and self-critical spirit.”

6 In this respect, the way in which the film treats the issue of fear and pain is interesting. Quechua, songs, and cultural practices and rituals related to death function there as the appropriate languages to express fear and pain; they are also the means of demarcating the social environments within which they are discussed and shared.

7 In this respect, one can read the interview with Kimberly Theidon.

8 In this respect, we can mention the research of María Eugenia Ulfe regarding ayacuchan retablos, as well as Jonathan Ritter on the Pun Pin genre, and Ricardo Caro on the commemoration of the dead during the years of conflict in Sacsamarca.

9 Only recently in Peru has the efficacy of cultural practices begun to be explored, in relation to deliberating issues of public interest, the generation of memory, senses of collectivity and social responsibility, as well as in channeling public action. For more on this matter see Cánepa 2006, Alfaro 2005, Ritter 2002, and Feldman 2009.


Works Cited

Alfaro, Santiago. 2005. “Las industrias culturales e identidades étnicas del huayno” in Carmen María Pinilla (ed.). Arguedas y el Perú de hoy. Lima: SUR.

Appadurai, Arjun y Carol Breckenridge. 1995. “Introduction: Public Culture in India.” In Carol Breckendrige (ed.). Consuming Modernity. Public Culture in a South Asian World. New York: Mounton de Gruyter.

Cánepa, Gisela and María Eugenia ULFE (eds.). 2006. Mirando la esfera pública desde la cultura en el Perú. Lima: CONCYTEC.

Correa, Norma. 2006. “Asháninka online: ¿nuevas tecnologías, nuevas identidades, nuevos liderazgos? Una aproximación antropológica a la relación de la comunidad indígena Marankiari Bajo con las tecnologías de la información y de la comunicación.” Undergraduate thesis. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Espinosa, Óscar. 2005. “El collage de las identidades. Una comunidad asháninka en internet.” A paper given at the Primer Encuentro de Estudios Visuales held in Lima by the Anthropology Department, Faculty of Social Sciences of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, August 17-21.

Feldman, Heidi. 2009. Ritmos negros del Perú: reconstruyendo la herencia musical africana. Lima: Instituto de Etnomusicología de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú e Instituto de Estudios Peruanos.

“Flores Aráoz: Crear Museo de la Memoria no es prioridad para el Perú.” Radio Programas de Perú. 26 February 2009.

Fraser, Nancy. 1997. Iustitia interrupta: reflexiones desde la posición postsocialista. Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, p. 102.

García Canclini, Néstor. 1995. Consumidores y ciudadanos: conflictos multiculturales de la globalización. Mexico City: Grijalbo.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1989. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Mah, Harold. 2000. “Phantasies of the Public Sphere: Rethinking the Habermas of Historians”. The Journal of Modern History, 72:1.

“No es momento para museo de la memoria.” El Comercio Perú. 10 March 2009.

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