Migration, ethnic economy and precarious citizenship among urban indigenous people
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This thesis contributes to our understanding of the impacts of political, social and economic dynamics of contemporary “free-market cities” on indigenous people that leave their traditional territories to settle on Latin American metropolises. The thesis examines the case of indigenous Shipibo migrants from the Amazon that have occupied in Lima, Peru a landfill site owned by the municipal government, and developed there a shantytown. The analyzes of the case sheds light on the innovative strategies that the Shipibo resort to in order to survive in the absence of formal jobs and social programs, and even despite recurrent threats to their social and cultural rights. Through the production of traditional handicraft, they collectively become ethnic entrepreneurs and enter the vast urban informal economy. Beside its interesting consequences for local politics and gender relations, this ethnic economic practice also becomes a way of group making and community building. After prolonged waits –during which the state appeared intermittently and with ambiguous messages–, the Shipibo finally face they most dreaded fear: eviction. Upon confronting this situation, and lacking the clientelistic networks in which Andean migrant peasants could count on in past decades, the Shipibo utilize a innovative repertoire of contained contention to appeal to the leftist municipal authority and thus articulate functional alliances with the goal of gaining land tenure.