Locations of envy : an ethnography of Aguabuena potters
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This thesis is an anthropological exploration of the envy of Aguabuena people, a small rural community of potters in the village of Ráquira, in the Boyacá region of Andean Colombia. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork among these potters, I propose an understanding of envy in Aguabuena as an existential experience, shaping relationships between the self and others in the world, crosscutting metaphysical and physical spheres, and balancing between corrosive and more empathetic ways of co-existence. Disclosing the multipresence of envy in Aguabuena’s world, its effects on people (including the ethnographer), and the way envy is embodied, performed, reciprocated and circumvented by the potters, I locate envy in various contexts where it is said to be manifested. Furthermore, I discuss the complex spectrum of envy and its multivalent meanings, or oscillations, in the life of Aguabuena people. I also present interactions with people surrounding potters, such as Augustinian monks, crafts middlemen, and municipal authorities, all of whom recount the envy of potters. My research challenges previous anthropological interpretations on envy and provides an alternative reading of this phenomenon. Moving away from labelling and regulatory explanations of envy, performative models, or pathological interpretations of the subject, I analyse the lived experience of envy and how it encompasses different realms of experience as well as flows of social relations. While focusing on the tensions and entanglements that envy brings to potters, as it constrains social life but also activates and reinforces social bonds, I examine the channels through which envy circulates and how it is put into motion by potters. Additionally, my thesis intends to contribute to anthropological studies of rural pottery communities in Andean Colombia. I present my unfolding understanding of envy by using both the potters’ concept and material detail, punto, location, referring to a spot from where Aguabuena people enter different vistas of the world, or denoting a precise time when things or materials change their physical qualities. Through this device, I disclose realms of envy, while seeking to immerse the reader in the lived experience of envy.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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