Linda Seligmann

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

George Mason U.

Grant number

Gr. 9433

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Seligmann, Dr. Linda J., George Mason U., Fairfax, VA - To aid research on 'Women and Quinoa Foodways: Making Soup and Super-Food in the Peruvian Andean Highlands'

Preliminary abstract: Quinoa (chenopodium quinoa) is a high protein, native cultigen of the Andean highlands that has long been a minor crop, mainly used by indigenous communities for subsistence purposes as a food and beverage and in reciprocal exchanges. Women have played significant roles in quinoa foodways–assisting with seed selection, processing quinoa so that is edible, and preparing a variety of meal components from it. International recognition of quinoa as a healthy food and national interest in it for purposes of development has turned quinoa into an important commodity and source of foreign exchange. Given that Peru is now the world’s top exporter of quinoa, this research examines if and how women’s roles, activities, and associations with quinoa in a Quechua- and Spanish-speaking district of Andean highland Peru are undergoing changes as a result of the value that quinoa has acquired. Although many have argued that the change in quinoa’s status has been deleterious to indigenous inhabitants, it is not clear that this is the case. This research project is based on close ethnographic research in order to determine whether or not the rise in the value of quinoa has been deleterious for women, what kind of agency they may be exerting in strengthening not only their own standing through their involvement with quinoa foodways, but also the well-being of their households and communities. It also asks how the assumptions, policies, and practices of non-governmental and state agencies that are promoting quinoa in the district are affecting women’s gender relationships. Rather than giving primacy to the economic value of quinoa, it assumes that quinoa’s economic, cultural, and political values are intertwined. The project aims to contribute to the anthropology of gender, the anthropology of culture and food, and to critical development theory.