Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUCLA

Universality and Utopia in 20th Century Peruvian Indigenismo


My dissertation explores the intersection between philosophical and literary universalism in Latin America, tracing its configuration within the 20th Century Peruvian socialist indigenista tradition, following from the work of José Carlos Mariátegui, and elaborated in the literary works of César Vallejo and José María Arguedas. Departing from conventional accounts that interpret indigenismo as part of a regionalist literature seeking to describe and vindicate the rural Indian in particular, I argue that Peruvian indigenista literature formed part of a historical sequence through which urban mestizo intellectuals sought to imagine a future for Peruvian society as a whole. Going beyond the destiny of acculturation imagined by liberal writers, such as Manuel Gonzales Prada, in the late 19th Century, I show how the socialist indigenista tradition imagined a bilateral process of appropriation and mediation between the rural indian and mestizo, integrating pre-Hispanic, as well as Western cultural and economic forms, so as to give shape to a process of alternate modernity apposite to the Andean world. In doing so, I argue, indigenista authors interrogated the foundations of European Marxism in light of the distinctiveness of Peruvian society and its history, expressing ever more nuanced figurations of the emancipatory process and the forms of its revolutionary agency.

Following an assessment of Mariátegui's heterodox 'Peruvian socialism' and its proposed articulation between a nascent indigenista aesthetics and an emancipatory politics informed by rural cooperativism under a process of 'creative antagonism' (Chapter I), I trace the way in which César Vallejo's 'materialist poetics' (Chapter II) and José María Arguedas' novels (Chapter III) extend the ideal of a productive mediation between the rural indian and mestizo to produce new figures of the revolutionary subject and the destiny of the socialist dream. I finally propose a general retrospective of the aims and limitations of the aspirations guiding the socialist indigenista tradition, considering the development of Peruvian indigenismo literature after Arguedas and until today (Chapter IV).

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View