General Anthropology Division
Oral Presentation Session
Drawing on 22 months of ethnographic fieldwork I examine the communicative resources with which coaches and athletes in the Peruvian Institute of Sport (IPD) disentangle the biological and cultural dimensions of movement in daily athletic training sessions in Cusco, Peru. This disambiguation is imperative for coaches who envision and extract the physical potential of Quechua children. The IPD recruits Quechua children from the Andean countryside for their genetic and developmental adaptations to high altitude and also for the deep cardiovascular endurance they develop after commuting on foot for years to remote public schools. During recruitment coaches glean the potential of these untrained children as it manifests materially in bodily dispositions and habits. To cultivate this physical aptitude the IPD combats what it describes as a rural cosmovision, one it claims predisposes Andean youth to stubborn fatalism, defeatism and self-effacement. Cut off from the ebb and flow of civilian life in a residential training center in Cusco, coaches modify the musculature, coordination, diet, and daily routines of new recruits while eradicating their perceived bad habits and tendencies. In this manner coaches provoke athletes to transition from one movement culture to another to, in their terms, extricate the physical potential of these budding stars from a purportedly stymieing cultural heritage. I bring the methods of semiotic and linguistic anthropology to bear on this moralizing sports regimen to shed new insights on the manner in which reflective projects of bodily modification mediate the relation between indigenous peoples and the governments of nation states.