Andean Divas: Emotion, Ethics and Intimate Spectacle in Peruvian Huayno Music

James Butterworth

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the self-fashioning and public images of star divas that perform Peruvian huayno music. These divas are both multi-authored stories about a person as well as actually existing individuals, occupying a space between myth and reality. I consider how huayno divas inhabit and perform a range of subject positions as well as how fans and detractors fashion their own sense of self in relation to such categories of experience. I argue that the ways in which divas and fans inhabit and reject different subject positions carry strong emotional and ethical implications.

Combining multi-sited fieldwork in the music industry with analyses of songs, media representations and public discourses, I locate huayno divas in the context of Andean migration and attendant narratives about suffering, struggle, empowerment and success. I analyse huayno performances as intimate spectacles, which generate acts of both empathy and voyeurism towards the genre’s star performers (Chapter 2). The tales of romantic suffering and moral struggle contained in huayno songs, which provide a key source of audience engagement, are brought to life through the voices and bodies of huayno divas (Chapter 3). The ethical self-fashioning of these female stars simultaneously embodies Catholic-influenced images of long-suffering women as well as images of hard- working and entrepreneurial neoliberal subjects (Chapter 4). From certain perspectives, huayno divas contest dominant gender discourses through their images of hard work and their symbolic and affective dominance of public space. However, as figures that privilege sentiment over sexuality and inhabit images of ‘modernity’ and ‘success’ while continuing to affirm their status as native Andeans, I argue that huayno divas largely conform to notions of propriety (Chapter 5). Drawing on theories and methods from ethnomusicology, anthropology and critical theory, my thesis contributes an ethnographic and music-centred approach to interdisciplinary debates about stardom, neoliberalism and public intimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Award date1 Apr 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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