Performing Identity: A Comparative Study of Two Peruvian Immigrant Communities and the Practice of Peruvian Dances

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 13:00
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Erika BUSSE, UP, Peru
This paper focuses on Peruvian ethnic identity construction in two cities in the U.S., namely Paterson, New Jersey and the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Theoretically, I argue that in order to understand the ethnic identity of a group, we need to pay equal attention to the notions of ethnicity (intertwined with race, gender, and class) that immigrants bring from their home country as well as to the racial and ethnic context in the country of reception.  Considering these two sides is more relevant in these times given the technological development of communications that allow immigrants to be in permanent contact with their family members back home.  Which in turn, will reinvigorate the notions of ethnicity from home.

In order to illustrate this case, I study the practice of a traditional Peruvian dance that is very popular among Peruvian immigrants in a well-established Peruvian community in the U.S. (Paterson, NJ), and in a less prominent destination for Peruvian migrants (Twin Cities, MN). Empirically, what are the notions of ethnicity do Peruvian immigrants bring to the States? What does their engagement (or not) with the Marinera tell us about the Peruvian ethnic identity construction?  To what extent does the context of reception shape how immigrants construct their ethnic identity? I argue that by choosing the Marinera among other cultural practices to assert Peruvian ethnic identity, Peruvian immigrants reinvent their ethnic identity in a racialized country by highlighting their mestizo identity.  This speaks to the U.S. context but can only be fully understood by bringing in the notions of ethnicity that operate in Peru.  In so doing, dancing is a window to study how Peruvians construct their ethnic identity vis-à-vis the ethnic communities, the larger community, and their families back home.