The politics and aesthetics of attraction in the Gran Poder festival: reflections on a 'methodology of affect'


  • Nico Tassi University College London



For indigenous residents in Bolivia's capital city, La Paz, the religious festival of Gran Poder represents a fierce and proud expression of cultural resistance to the practices of the dominant creole sectors, and also an endeavour to entice the privileged other to the attractive dynamics of the festival. In this intercultural context, the interplay of resistance and inclusion attempts to redress the oppressive discriminating practices experienced by the urbanised indigenous. Such a delicate operation is ultimately performed not so much at a discursive level but rather through a series of aesthetic and performative practices where sensorial 'attraction' holds a pre-eminent value. After highlighting the functioning of such 'practices of attraction', I will move on to describe my involvement in them and analyse the challenges they pose to the ethnographic work and to the practices and demeanours of anthropology. If emotional involvement and sensorial engagement are qualities often discouraged in our academic upbringing, in this specific context they enabled me to bridge theory and practice and to 'understand in the flesh' field dynamics without considering the native's world as holding an epistemological disadvantage in relation to the anthropologist's. This personal physical involvement allowed me to take 'native conceptions' seriously, therefore using them and sensing the constraints our own disciplinary principles may exert on them.

Author Biography

Nico Tassi, University College London

Nico Tassi is currently working on his PhD in Social Anthropology at University College London. He conducted fieldwork with Andean indigenous and mestizo settlers in the Bolivian capital city of La Paz, and his research addresses Andean representations with particular focus on their aesthetic and formal properties. His other interests include the epistemology of anthropology, religion and ritual, and Latin American literature.