Home Institution

Northwestern University

Publication Date

Fall 2021

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


As research on the urban indigenous experience continues to expand, considerations of how indigenous populations understand, express and introspect upon their being indigenous in the city still proves an underexplored topic. The generalizing notion that indigenous persons are staticーin temporal, migratory and identity termsーcategorically conflicts with the growing trends of rural to urban migration patterns. Even more, deep-rooted indigenous-rural associations engender identity disorientations among indigenous women living in the city. The city becomes a space of self-confrontation and re-construction as indigenous women encounter questions of authenticity and shame.

Based in literature on identity, performance, authenticity and shame, this research considers how indigenous women understand and express themselves in urban spaces. Explicitly, the guiding questions are (1) How do urban indigenous women understand and perform their identities? and (2) How may shame inform such understandings and performances? The research follows an ethnographic standard to recount and explicate qualitative data collected from interviews with participants living in cities across Ecuador. While the article reveals that the women endure adolescent experiences of shame over their difference in the city, they ultimately undermine reductionist logics regarding identity and authenticity in their self-definitions. The women’s claims to legitimate indigeneity in the city re-writes terms of authenticity to reach more honest and comprehensive understandings of how the indigenous experience may look.


Indigenous Studies | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Studies | Migration Studies | Multicultural Psychology | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Urban Studies | Women's Studies


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