Sarah Bennison

Research Fellow in Social Anthropology
St. Andrews University
United Kingdom

sarah bennison portraitI am an interdisciplinary scholar working on archives relating to ancestral community water laws in the Peruvian Andes. I am working on a series of publications which, in disciplinary terms, sit between philology and linguistic anthropology.

My current research focuses on the persistence of pre-Hispanic water laws in the Lima highlands in the 20th century and today. Specifically, I explore the incommensurability of languages, namely of Spanish and indigenous Andean languages, in domains where ideas about the indispensability of ancestral laws geared at honoring the past are expressed, regulated and performed.

These include:

My background is in languages, having completed a PhD in Spanish and Latin American studies at Newcastle University. My doctoral thesis explored language transformation, ancestral laws and (non) indigenous identity in the Peruvian province of Huarochirí (Lima).

Communities in this province tend to be described as monolingual Spanish-speaking. Nevertheless, indigenous language words are often used to express the qualities of the animate landscape and the value systems rooted in the sacred past. Through this approach, my thesis argued that the identification and categorization of indigenous peoples in Peru in legislative contexts should not conflate (indigenous) language and identity. Doing so fails to account for the long history of linguistic hegemony and discrimination in the country, and may have justice implications for ancestral "Spanish-speaking" groups seeking to access indigenous rights.