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Mama Pacha: Creator and Sustainer Spirit of God

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Abstract

What makes Mama Pacha so dear to self-identified Indigenous Christian-Andean communities and so unpalatable to many theologians and Christian churches' officials? This article explores Mama Pacha as God's Spirit present in the world. Through a decolonial indigenous feminist epistemology, I approach Mama Pacha interculturally, encountering Her within her cultural and philosophical framework. I creatively engage Andean philosophy or Pachasofía and its logic, interpreting reality as ontologically relational and fluid, challenging Western theological and philosophical categories. In this process, I retrieve an ancient female understanding of God, one that upholds the dignity and intrinsic value of indigenous women and creation. Keywords: Andean logic, Pachasofía, Decoloniality, Indigenous feminist epistemology, Interculturality.
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Resumen
¿Qué es lo que hace tan querida a la Mama Pacha entre las comunidades
Indígenas Cristianas de los Andes y tan desagradable entre los teólogos y
representantes de las iglesias cristianas? Este artículo explora a la Mama
Pacha como el Espíritu de Dios presente en el mundo. A través de una
epistemología indígena descolonizadora y feminista, me acerco a la Mama
Pacha interculturalmente, dentro de su entorno cultural y filosófico.
Creativamente interpreto la filosofía Andina o Pachasofía y su lógica que
describen la realidad como fluida y ontológicamente relacional,
desafiando la teología y filosofía occidentales. Finalmente, recupero la
concepción ancestral de Dios femenino que sostiene la dignidad y el valor
intrínseco de las mujeres indígenas y la creación.
Palabras clave: Lógica Andina, Pachasofía, Decolonialidad, Epistemología
indígena feminista, Interculturalidad.
Resumo
O que o torna tão cara a Mama Pacha entre as comunidades indígenas
cristãs nos Andes e tão desagradável entre os teólogos e representantes
das igrejas cristãs? Este artigo explora a Mama Pacha como o Espírito de
Deus presente no mundo. Através de uma epistemologia indígena e
fe m i ni s t a de s c ol o n i z a d o ra , m e a p r o x i m o d a Mama Pacha
interculturalmente dentro de seu ambiente cultural e filosófico.
Criativamente interpreto a filosofia Andina ou Pachasofía e a sua lógica
que descrevem a realidade como sendo fluída e ontologicamente
relacional, desafiando a teologia e a filosofia ocidentais. Finalmente,
recupero a concepção ancestral de Deus feminino que sustenta a
dignidade e o valor intrínseco das mulheres indígenas e da criação.
Palavras-chave: gica andina, Pac has o a, Descolonialid ade ,
Epistemologia feminista indígena, Multiculturalismo.
Horizontes Decoloniales 3 (2017): pp. 127-159
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Mama Pacha
Creator and Sustainer Spirit of God
Cecilia Titizano
Graduate Theological Union
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Cita recomendada de este artículo!
Cecilia Titizano (2017). «Mama Pacha: Creator and Sustainer Spirit of
God». Horizontes Decoloniales 3: pp. 127–159. [Revista digital]. Disponible
en: <http://horizontesdecoloniales.gemrip.org/> [consultado el dd de
mm de aaaa].
Este obra está bajo una Licencia Creative Commons!
Atribución-NoComercial-NoDerivadas 3.0
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Introduction
Mama Pacha or Pachamama is the Spirit of God. Mama Pacha is
constantly creating and recreating the world. Mama means
«Mother» or «Lady» and Pacha is a complex term that in its
most general form could be translated as «all that there is.»
When a pproa c h ed th r o ugh i n d igen o u s, fe m i nist ,
intercultural, and decolonial lenses, Mama Pacha uncovers an
1
Andean divinity that unfolds, sustains, and then enfolds
Pacha back into God’s dark, depth womb, where S/He
transforms it. The Andean Divinity is mysterious, relational,
multiple, fluid, open, and present in Pacha; challenging
Western substantive ontology and a central traditional
Christian tenant, creation ex-nihilo [out of nothing].
Ye t, Mama Pacha is popularly known as Mother Earth, a
living organism with a female spirit or personality and
motherly functions. Popular imagination envisions Mama
Pacha as the female personification of Mother Nature. She is
not God, for God is seen as a transcendent male Spirit and
She is a female spirit with a body. In academic circles,
especially theological ones, Mama Pacha has been presented
as an agricultural or fertility deity, a protector spirit and even
as Virgin Mary. Amid Andean people, especially among
indigenous communities, Mama Pacha is a beloved and
encompassing presence, «the source of life» (Mamani
Throughout this article, «interculturality» is understood as taking the
1
position of a
conscious way of life in which an ethical position favors
living together [convivencia] where difference takes place. As
a framework for thought and action, interculturality is
understood fundamentally as an alternative political-cultural
project that seeks the reorganization of current international
relations…[and] the corrections of the asymmetry of power
that exist today in the world of international politics
(Fornet-Betancourt, 2004: 12-13).
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Bernabé, 2000: 30). She is by far the most important divine
female Spirit in the Andes, a fact that all Andean scholars
would agree upon.
A theological discussion about Mama Pacha from a
decolonial indigenous feminist epistemology begins by
asking why Mama Pacha —the most important divine female
S p i r i t i n t he A n d e s h a s n ot b e e n s t ud i e d
pneumatologically. To answer this question, in this article I
will first draw from Elizabeth Johnson’s (1993) argument
that it is the dualism between spirit and matter present in
Western traditional theology that has caused Holy Wisdom,
the Spirit of God, to be set aside and forgotten, along with
women and earth. Second, I will lay out the complexity of
pneumatological studies in the Andean world, a world full of
S/spirit/s that until recently has been eluded by Andean
theologians. Thirdly, I will provide a brief analysis of the
major Andean pnematological studies. Lastly, using a
decolonial indigenous feminist epistemology of God’s self-
revelation, I will deploy Pachasofia and its tretralogics to
construct a Trinitarian pneumatological reading of Mama
Pacha, uncovering Her as God’s Spirit.
Towards a Decolonial Indigenous Feminist
Epistemology
Early in the colonial period in Latin America, missionaries
banned the worship to Mama Pacha, a prohibition that lasted
until the twentieth-century. It was after Vatican II that
Andean theologians became more interested in clarifying
Mama Pacha’s role within Christianity. The initial intention
was to somehow domesticate what Manuel Marzal (1996)
calls «a tenacious persistence of the cult of the earth that
after 500 years of Christianization does not go away» (p. 79).
The main concern was neither to understand Mama Pacha
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within Andean cosmology nor what makes Her so dear to
self-identified Christian-Andean communities. Instead,
Christian Andean theologians were interested in helping
indigenous communities to abandon the native worship of
Mama Pacha and transform it in order to place it within an
orthodox Christian praxis.
Ben e at h the e a rli e r d e m on i zat i on a n d l a te r
domestication— of Mama Pacha resides colonialism and its
modern offspring, coloniality. Both have justified the
dismissal of indigenous and Afro-Latin Americans’
epistemologies and philosophical endeavors in order to
impose instead hegemonic principles of knowledge. In this
sense, my work is a contribution to decolonial struggles, for
it opens up the domain of the epistemic, hermeneutics, and
logic sustaining traditional theological projects. It
contributes to build un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos [a
world where many worlds can coexist] in harmonic and
reciprocal ways. Reciprocity [Ayni] and harmony are both
Andean indigenous metaphysical principles. Walter Mignolo
(2005) deploys them in order to call for the decolonization of
the epistemic foundation of the colonial matrix of power. At
the same time, he seeks to build decolonial epistemologies
that legitimize and embody praxis of Suma Qamaña —or
Sweet Living—, the Andean way of life and utopian vision.
Methodologically, decolonial epistemologies mean tapping
interculturally into the universes of Afro-American, Latina/o
and indigenous philosophies, cosmologies, and theogonies
(Medina, 2009: 137). These ancient knowledges have, in
their own merit, the right to describe reality —metaphysics—
using a non–Western logic and ethical implications.
Intercultural theology considers humans as cultural beings,
who experience God’s Spirit in our cultural humanness
—sacramentally— through cultural symbols. These cultural
symbols are always ambiguous and can be used to liberate or
oppress. After all, Orlando Espin (1999: 124) reminds us
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that we can only speak of God analogically, and that our
analogies come from the cultures and historical periods we
live in.
To approach Mama Pacha interculturally requires
encountering Her within the cultural and philosophical
framework that informs who She is, moving away from
preconceived occidental notions about God, nature, and
humanity. Henceforward, I am engaging Andean philosophy
or Pachasofia and its tretralogic to explore commonalities and
contrasts between Pachasofía and prevalent Andean
theological interpretations of Mama Pacha. Pachasofía is a
Quechua/Aymara–Greek neologism to describe the Andean
conception of reality that results from the everyday
experiences and the search for understanding in order to live
an ethical life. It is the study of Andean thought as
philosophical hybridity.
Javier Medina (Del Carpio Natcheff, 2000: 55) y Josef
Estermann (2012) understand Andean philosophy as an
intercultural philosophy, based on an acknowledgement and
respect for the presence of cultural diversity and polyphony
in the Andes. Hence, it is an ongoing hybrid and complex
process in the midst of evolution. It is the result of
combining elements of different prehispanic [Andean]
cultures and foreign elements incorporated within the
guiding matrix of the Andean cultural paradigm (Miranda
Luizaga and del Carpio Natcheff, 2000: 55; Estermann, 2008:
24).
In the process, I am retrieving an ancient female
understanding of God, one that upholds the dignity and
intrinsic value of indigenous women and creation.
Indigenous women have suffered and survived tremendous
violence under the colonial civilizing mission, a «euphemistic
mask of brutal access of peoples bodies through
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unimaginable exploitation, violent sexual violations, control
of reproduction and systematic terror» (Lugones, 2012: 74).
Today these indigenous women continue to resist abuse
and exploitation, and are proposing what I call a «decolonial
indigenous feminism.» This decolonial indigenous feminism
is anchored in 1) an ancestral wisdom, 2) a communal
worldv i e w t h at is expressed in the Aymara term
JIWASANAKA/nosotros tod@s/we all of us, and 3) the
defence of the subject «Mother Earth» (Marcos, 2013: 146).
Theologic a l l y, a de c o l onial indigenous feminist
epistemological approach means, first, to challenge the
personification of God as the Father, which Mary Daly (1973)
has identified as the foremost symbol of [hetero]patriarchy.
Second, it means to endorse Elizabeth Johnson’s (1993)
claim that «both [women and earth] are commonly excluded
from the sphere of the sacred; both are routinely taken for
granted and ignored, used and discarded, even battered and
raped, while nevertheless continue to give birth and sustain
life» (p. 2).
Third, it means to uphold Catherine Keller’s (2003)
exposure of a deep-rooted Christian «tehomophobia.» Tehom
—or primordial sea— is associated with chaos, fluidity,
darkness and wetness. Theodor H. Gaster (2007) states:
The ancient Hebrews believed that the earth lay across an
all-encompassing ocean, which they called tehom [the deep].
In the Babylonian Epic of Creation the primordial ocean is
personified as the monstrous Tiamat, who launches battle
against the supreme god Anu, but is eventually subdued by
Marduk and split lengthwise “like an oyster,” the two parts
of her body forming, respectively, the vault of heaven and
the bedrock of the earth. This myth is echoed in several
passages of the Bible (Isa. 51:9–10; Hab. 3:8; Ps. 74:13–14;
89:9–10) which speak of a primeval combat between God
an d a monster variously styl ed L eviathan, Rahab
(“Blusterer”), Tannin (“Dragon”), Yam (“Sea”), and Nahar
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(“Stream”).The personification of the primordial ocean as a
monster is further echoed in Genesis 49:25, where tehom is
described as “crouching below,” like a beast (p. 530).
«Tehomophobia» draws from the understanding of Tehom
as the female figure that God defeats and ultimately
eliminates. Keller (2003) asserts that «tehomophobia» or
«fear of death and femininity cooked into a serene habit of
abjection» (p. 64) is present at the foundations of Christian
orthodoxy.
Fourth, a decolonial indigenous feminist epistemology
means to theologize from the mercado [marketplace],
understood as a hybrid place where the sacred and profane,
clean and unclean, high and low intertwine into a rich fabric
of life (Stallybrass and White, 1986).
Fifth, it means that the concrete material reality of
indigenous women’s lives and bodies is the locus through
which they constantly and sacramentally interact with the
Divine and the cosmic reality. This siente-pensante
epistemology experiences and relates to the Divine through
an open corporality, where a thinking heart and a dark and
wet womb is the place where life is constantly created and
recreated. A siente-pensante epistemology prehends —in the
Whiteheand sense— Pacha through a thinking heart and a
dark and wet womb. It begins with a deep shared awareness
of the divine manifestation in matter. The cosmos pulses
towards harmony and balance and, the human community,
immersed in this relational and muddy reality, participates in
the pulse towards harmony. Knowledge is embodied through
an open corporality that prehends and then affects Pacha.
Women in their communities, through their open corporality
and thinking-hearts and wombs, actively collaborate in the
on-goingness of the universe or creative advance of Pacha.
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Sylvia Marcos (2013) explains that for indigenous women
«the skin does not separate the exterior from the interior or
the material from the immaterial. Instead there is a
permanent and constant interchange, where the skin is
constantly crossed by all types of fluxes» (p. 155). Marcos
(2013: 155) is correct when she affirms that indigenous
women’s understanding of the body describes an open
corporality towards energetic fluxes of the cosmos. This
profound interconnectivity between the female bodies and
the Divine points towards an intrinsically mysterious,
interrelated and fluid Divinity that is present in creation,
constantly creating and recreating. By the same token, the
female permeable body is symbolically seen as the locus
where the Spirit, spirits, vapors, humors, and matter are in
permanent flux. Hence, the life that gestates either inside
their wombs or inside God’s womb acquires an intrinsic
value that ought to be intuitively perceived and respected.
Beyond Western Colonial Dichotomies
Desencuentros with S/spirit/s
The desencuentros [disencounters] with the S/spirit/s has its
roots in the dualism between spirit and matter in Greek
thought. Spirit is the transcendent principle that brings into
play activity, autonomy, reason, the mind, the intellect, the
soul, the permanent, and the infinite. On the other hand,
matter is the immanence principle, which shows itself in
passivity, dependence, emotions, the body, the physical,
nature, the transitory, and the finite (Johnson, 1993: 11).
Plato equates the body to a prison in which the soul is
confined. Therefore, God can only be understood as pure
form and no matter, pure actuality and no potentiality. God is
perfect and therefore changeless. He is also pure intelligence
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and pure activity. The Holy Spirit is understood as the loving
relationship between the Father and the Son and together
providentially rule the universe.
The Patristic and Scripturally based understanding of the
creative mission of the Holy Spirit is set aside. Theologians
no longer associated the creative Spirit with animating and
giving life, as the mother hen brooding over and nurturing
her young or hoovering over the waters of creation bringing
order out of the chaos. The Spirit is forgotten because of its
close association with women’s role as creating, indwelling,
sustaining, resisting, recreating, challenging, guiding,
liberating, completing, loving, gifting, befriending, giving
birth, nourishing and rearing. Furthermore, creation has
been symbolically described using female imagery. This
analogy is based on the fact that women are life-givers to
every human child, and like earth itself, keep bringing forth
fruits, even in the most precarious situations. Both are
assigned instrumental value, with little or no intrinsic worth
apart from their potential to serve the needs and desires of
men:
Both women and earth have a symbolic and literary
affinity with the creator Spirit, Giver of life, who is
similarly ignored in western religion consciousness as a
result of restricting the sacred to a transcendent,
monarchical deity outside nature. These three
relationships — human beings to earth, among each
other, and to God — are profoundly interconnected.
The way one is cast affects the other two. In the
heritage of western thought, of which theology is a
part, all three have been conceived primarily according
to the values of patriarchy (Johnson, 1993: 3).
The material reductionism present in modern thought
leaves no space for S/spirit/s. The earth is raw material to be
used and exploited, and women are ratified in subservient
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roles within the heteropatriarchal system. Theology did not
escape modern machinery; and in the Andes, things were no
different. Josef Esterman (2012: 233) argues that there are
not homeomorphic equivalents for the terms anima or «soul»
and «spirit» in the Aymara and Quechua language. This
means that one has to go beyond a linguistic equivalent to
find one that functions within a different cultural context, in
similar way to the role that the equivalent plays in the
compared culture. Thus, Andean cosmology was labeled
«animistic,» that is to say, «pagan» and «primitive». This
common interpretation remains current, especially among
Western anthropologists. The colonial impositions of alien
concepts such us «paganism» or «animism» onto local
cultures has led missionary efforts in the Andes to eradicate
indigenous religions. An approach that began with the decree
of the Second Council of Lima (1567-1568) calling for «the
extirpation of idolatries,» and persisted into the twentieth-
century with the call to bring the Word of God to immature
Christians, idolaters, superstitious, and pagans who continue
syncretic practices.
The use of «animism» as analytic framework has
overshadowed theological studies on the Spirit in the Andes.
Mama Pacha was analyzed through glasses colored by a sharp
dualism between spirit and matter. She has been described as
a female fertility goddess, an embodied and capricious deity.
As such, she suffered the same fate as other females and
female-like things such as planet Earth. On the other hand,
this animistic scheme also dismisses indigenous spiritualities
as «primitive» and discourages pneumatological studies in
the Andes. Only in the last twenty years there have been
studies about the Holy Spirit in the Andes and the role of
Mama Pacha.
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Decolonizing Mama Pacha
One of the theologians taking up the cudgels in favor of
decolonial understanding of Mama Pacha is María José Caram
Padilla (2012), who argues that «the sacred relationship with
Pachamama has helped Andean communities to resist and to
recover self-confidence; as well as to indict the idols of
modernity, current depredators of creation and human
life»(p. 242). Pachamama is Mother Earth, Holy Earth, and
Spirit of Life. She is an earthly spirit that along with Apus and
other minor spirits inhabits Kay Pacha, the world here that
surrounds us. Caram Padilla (2012: 243-247) corroborates
the common view that —like other created spirits— Mama
Pacha serves God.
Thus, Caram Padilla (2012) uses Estermann’s early efforts
to describe Pacha as space-time or material creation, and
argues that
For Andeans everything that exists is in time and
occupies a place. Andean spiritual beings are not out of
the space-time coordinates. In this sense, they are not
segregated from the universe and they relate to it,
particularly to the human being. They are located in
the different layers of reality (p. 244).
In the A n d e a n cosmology, Pacha is a co mplex
anthropological, philosophical, and theological concept. In
his early works, Estermann (2006, 2007a, 2007b) defines
Pacha philosophically as universe organized in time-space
categories, but not as simply as something physical and
astronomical. Going back to Heraclitus who said «this world-
order [kosmos], the same of all, no god or [hu]man did create,
but it ever was and is and will be» (Graham, 2015),
Estermann (2007a) affirms that «the terms kosmos and the
medieval Latin term ordo essendi may have a closer meaning to
what Pacha means» (p. 157). Furthermore,
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Pacha may be an equivalent to the Latin term esse (to
be): pacha is ‘what it is,’ the whole existence in the
universe, ‘the reality’. It is an expression that refers to
something more than a bifurcation between the visible
and invisible, material and immaterial, earthly and
heavenly, profane and sacred, and external and internal
(Estermann, 2007a: 157).
Estermann is right when he affirms that Pacha may be
understood as ordered reality. He is also right when he
stresses that Pacha transcends the dualistic unity of opposites
present in Heraclitus’s flux doctrine of being. Yet, terms such
as ordo essendi and esse (being) emphasize ontology of
substance and a hierarchical order of being that falls short in
explaining the intrinsic ontological relationality present in
the Pacha. Estermann (2007b) is aware of the limitations that
an ontology of substance exercises upon pachasofia and the
difficulties encountered when one tries to explain the
complex meaning of Pacha. Accordingly, he insists on
presenting «relationality» as the key hermeneutical lens and
en co mp as si n g l o g i c a l pr i n c i p l e fu n d a m e n t a l to
understanding the concept Pacha. For him, time, space, order,
and stratification are essential elements of Andean
relationality. After conjoining the meaning of cosmos with
relationality, Estermann (2007a: 158) translates Pacha as «the
interrelated cosmos» or «cosmic relationality.»
In one of his later works, Estermann (2012) qualifies
Pacha by concentrating on the fundamental Andean principle
of relationality and its theological implications. Estermann’s
(2008) analysis has also lead him to affirm the following:
God is in a certain manner part of the cosmos, not as
an entity among others, but as the universal network
of relationships: everything is in God. This Andean
panentheism perhaps has more affinity with the
monism of Spinoza, who one substance as a totality of
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all interrelated entities, which is at the same time God
and Nature (Deus sive Natura) (p. 183).
In this works, Estermann is exploring ways to translate the
Andean understanding of God-world relationship. Key terms
are relationality and panentheism. Within the Thomistic
theological system, God is the only ontologically relational
infinite substance. Everything else outside God is a being in
itself, while relations or accidents are secondary. The Andean
principle of relationality pushes against this metaphysics,
espousing a relational ontology that Wesley J. Wildman
(2010) defines as such: «the relations between entities are
ontologically more fundamental than the entities themselves.
This contrasts with substantive ontology in which entities
are ontologically primary and relations ontologically
derivative» (p. 55). Consequently, it would be problematic to
assume that Pacha locates the three different spheres of
reality Alax Pacha, Aka Pacha, and Manka Pacha— within the
created order. This assumption interprets Pacha through
Christian philosophical categories colliding Pacha [everything
that exists] with God, into a monistic system.
Another reading is possible. For example, theologians
Vicenta Mamani Bernabé and Calixto Quispe Huanca (2007)
explain that Pacha may also be understood as infinity, outside
space and time. In this sense, Pacha seems to point toward an
open possibility, «a vital cosmic force that announces the
mystery of life and projects hope towards the future for
humanity» (Mamani Bernabé and Quispe Huanca, 2007:19).
Panentheism has become, in recent times, a third way of
discussing the relationship between God and creation. John
Culp (2013) affirms that «Panentheism considers God and
the world to be inter-related with the world being in God and
God being in the world,» without conflating God with the
world into one single identity. Andean panentheism
promotes an understanding of God which is «foremost a
relationship and a relacionador,’» or one who brings
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everything into relationships, which makes Him an «‘ens
realissimum,’ or the most real being» (Estermann, 2006: 287).
Caram Padilla (2012) intuits this complexity when she
states: «Somehow she [Mama Pacha] also contains the divinity
and manifests it» (p. 253). Yet, Caram Padilla’s metaphysical
assumptions lead her to interpret Pacha as an embodied
reality, outside a transcendent God; Pacha becomes the
dwelling place of all created spirits. Consequently,
«Pachamama is an earthly spirit, because [she] is experienced
and conceived as belonging to this world (Kay Pacha)»(Caram
Padilla, 2012: 250). Yet, she adds, «[Pachamama] somehow
belongs to the worlds above and below, for she plays the
symbolic role of relating the three layers of the universe
through its fecundity […]. Her presence interweaves the
universe, in space and in time» (Caram Padilla, 2012:
175-176). At the end, Caram Padilla (2012) argues that for
Christian communities, «Mother Earth represents a
permanent manifestation of God’s face» (p. 272). She is a
sign pointing towards the Holy Spirit, the feminine face of
God, but she depends completely on God:
She is not God, Andean rituals do not invoke her first,
she is considered less than Him, since she cannot act
without his permission. The author of life is the Lord.
Even though sometimes it is said that she is creator of
life, in reality she takes care of life and allows life to
grow. She is criadora [breeder] of life (Caram Padilla,
2012: 188)
The most interesting theological treatment of Mama Pacha
comes from Narciso Valencia Parisaca (1998), an Aymara
theologian and Roman Catholic priest. Parisaca’s main goal is
to vindicate the rite of Mama Pacha and inculturate her
worship into Christianity. He presents Mama Pacha as a
privileged locus for God’s self-revelation. She is Taipy or vital
center, the place where the human community enters into a
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continual dialogical co-existence and reciprocity with the
divinity and the three pachas. Valencia Parisaca’s main
contribution consists in deploying the Andean concept of
Taipy to explain Mama Pacha and her rituals. Taipy, a vital
pachasophic principle that, briefly stated, refers to the first
principle, represents the primordial wholeness of the
Divinity and its transformative capacities. It is the
mysterious place where the unfathomable Divinity enfolds
everything that exists (Pacha), back into itself in order to
reorder it, to balance it anew.
Valencia Parisaca (1998) argues that Aymara rituals
respond to the constant search of equilibrium between
humanity and the three spheres of Pacha. Equilibrium means
to accept the tension between two complementary forces
playing in creation. Accordingly, the Taipy, the primordial
center of all religious rituals, is the central place of worship.
Likewise, Mama Pacha serves as the center, the channel
through which the Divinity community and the human
community communicate. As creation, Mama Pacha «is the
open temple where nature and everything surrounding us
becomes a sacrament of God’s infinite presence» (Valencia
Parisaca, 1998: 83) Creation talks and humans respond
through rituals. In the view of Valencia Parisaca (1998), She
is a symbolic representation of Pacha; «the sacred and
privileged place where the Spirit of God encounters the
Aymara people in history» (p. 77). He further asserts:
Pachamama is the maximum symbolical representation
of all creation, because its meaning is not only limited
to physical space, but transcends space and time
denoting all existence. In other words, Pachamama is
like the mother of the same vital existence (Valencia
Parisaca, 1998: 97).
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Mama Pacha is the place where the human community
gives thanks to the Divinity, reciprocating and thanksgiving
God’s gifts of life. She is «the objectified earth, and this is
why Aym a ra p e opl e reco g niz e her a s a fru i t ful
mother» (Valencia Parisaca, 1998: 83). At the same time,
Valencia Parisaca (1998) states that, «She symbolizes the
universal maternal face of God, closely linked to the
agricultural production. She is a feminine figure, maternal
and loving» (p. 43). However, She is not God, nor is She a
spirit, Mama Pacha is a symbol of the transcendent Father, and
creator —ex nihilo— of all. Mama Pacha is nature objectified as
the earth, God’s first gift to humanity. This is why the
Aymara people recognize Mama Pacha as a fertile mother.
(Valencia Parisaca, 1998: 100).
Yet, many indigenous communities have challenged this
patriarchal worldview. They have upheld an ancient
cosmology that presents Mama Pacha as a generative matrix
and Mother of all that exists, neither a merely symbol nor,
worst, an assistant of a transcendent God. In this ancient
cosmology, She is the immanent presence of God, who
creates out of Her depths and is present in Pacha, constantly
recreating, indwelling, liberating, and unfolding.
An indigenous fem inist pneumatologi cal
Trinitarian reading of Mama Pacha
Upholding Pachasofía
In order to retrieve this ancient female Spirit led divinity we
need to go back to the Andean cosmogenesis. The Andean
primordial totality begins to unfold and creates out of her
depths:
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The Andean genesis is not a simple single act of
creation; instead it is a progressive emanation or an
infinite generation of life from a primary unity. The
sacred numbers from one to five are foundational steps
of the emanation, and each of them manifests a plane
of concrete realization (Miranda Luizaga, 1996: 30)
Unlike the classic Christian story of creation, where God
creates ex-nihilo in a single act, Andean cosmogony is based
on a primordial totality or First Quality, where everything
already exists but it is not fully realized. The First Quality is
not a number per se, for it is uncountable, indeterminable
and unrecognizable. Similar to non-substantial and non-
dualistic Eastern traditions, the Andean One can only be
recognized if another exists. Before the One has aroused
itself, it is in an indeterminate and quiescent state, in a kind
of unlimited or infinite chaotic plenitude; for as long as the
primary unit does not divide, it will be the negation of
everything, hence the negation of life. This negation is not an
existential one, it is not a pure emptiness or nothingness;
instead it represents the unlimited, chaotic, and non-concrete
nature of the First Quality, where everything is already
present. In this sense, the First Quality or primordial totality
is the first cause (not in the Aristotelian sense), and
beginning of the universe. The importance of the One resides
in its being the energetic motor for the process of emanation
that generates from the unfolding of the numerical qualities
that follow (Miranda Luizaga and Del Carpio Natcheff, 2000:
37). The First Quality begins to exist or becomes conscious,
in a matter of speaking, when it unfolds itself in a reciprocal
and inverted reflection. This is the first step towards creation
and multiplicity.
The «Second Quality is the manifested generator impulse
that originates in the primordial totality of the First
Quality» (Miranda Luizaga, 1996: 34). The Second Quality
represents the beginning of the internal unfolding within the
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totality. This Second Quality is not yet a plurality, since it
takes place within the totality, introducing movement. This is
what I call a «plurisingularity» because it takes place outside
spacetime. While the First Quality expresses the totality in a
passive and inertial state, the Second Quality conveys the
pre-manifestation and the primordial impulse that generates
an internal unfolding of complementary or non-antagonistic
opposites. This is possible because the totality recognizes
itself in its inverse reflection, as if looking into a convex
mirror. The reciprocal and inverse reflection generates two
elemen t s t h a t a r e i n d ependent and different bu t
complementary to each other. The Second Quality, as the
reciprocal and inverse reflection, provides the relationship
that the First Quality ontologically needs in order to pass
from emptiness into a neutral nexus between being and non-
being, or as more but also less than the whole.
This reflection, or the unfolding of the Totality into itself,
is the result of an auto-sacrificial act on the part of the
Totality, returning to a type of bottomless darkness or death.
This state kindles the duality of non-antagonistic opposites:
light/non-light; positive/non-positive; negative/non-
negative; to be/not-to be; being/not being, and so forth.
Once the whole returns to a state of emptiness, a state
without content or determination, this state becomes a
crossing point between being [estar] and non-being [no-estar];
it is a neutral nexus between two complementary opposites
[tinku].
The plurisingularity lacks generative power because it is
the consequence of the unfolding Totality as a preamble for
cosm i c r eflection, an d n ot the conseque n ce of a
differentiation of the image (Schneider, 2008: 40). The
plurisingularity is full of potentiality; it is the potential
prelude to creation (multiplicity) that needs to be actualized
in order to produce life. What it needs is the Third Quality,
the actualization of potentiality.
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Mama Pacha as Creative and Agentic
Out of the chaotic dark depth, the Third Quality unfolds,
introducing into the plurisingularity, the separation that is
needed to maintain the difference between the Totality and
its reflected image. The Third Quality makes it possible for
the plurisingularity to sustain the differentiation. It brings
movement and actualization. It allows the Andean trinity to
become a generative matrix of creation that provides an
ontological logic of multiplicity within a constantly becoming
cosmos (Miranda Luizaga, 1996: 38). It introduces the
principle of life and the agency to generate life. It is life. The
Totality is now understood as a being of unity, one in three
and three in one; not as three separate individuated beings,
but as three different capacities, that now and only in a
Trinitarian state, can move from ser, or being, into estar siendo,
or becoming.
This Trinitarian becoming generates life because it allows
the plurisingularity to self-reflect, in complementary non-
antagonistic opposites, creating the space and desire or
agency to unfold creation. The Third Quality sustains and
makes the Andean Divinity possible. This ontological logic of
multiplicity or triadic be/coming is a moment of order,
balance or equilibrium between the first plurisingularity and
the Fourth Quality or the cosmic manifestation of life. In the
Third Quality, the transcendent plurisingularity —or
incipient self-recognition or consciousness becomes
immanent in Pacha (Miranda Luizaga and Del Carpio
Natcheff, 2000: 44). The Third Quality, immanently present
in Pacha, operationalizes or actualizes the principle of life. It
becomes dynamic, creative, agenic, and all-powerful. The
Andean Trinitarian Divinity unfolds out of its oceanic divinity
creation, or be/comes incarnate. Yet, it transcends creation,
for despite reflecting the non-antagonistic opposites present
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in the p lurisin g u l arity, c r eation a l o ne lack s the
transformative capacity of constant becoming.
Joan de Santa Cruz Pachacuti Salacamaygua an
indigenous chronicler who lived in the first part of the
seventeenth century— attempted to explain his Andean
cosmology in the framework of the Christianity brought by
the Spaniards. Despite his knowledge of Christian theology
and the rules of Spaniard discourse, he needed to employ
visual images in order to express the complexity of Andean
thought (Harrison, 1982: 69-74). At the upper center of his
drawing, a large oval represented the Totality.
For Santa Cruz Pachacuti, the Andean divinity is an
unfathomable mystery. Borrowing Aristotelian terminology,
it could be said that the divine essence remains hidden. What
is revealed is what Santa Cruz Pachacuti calls, APU-KON-TITI-
WIRA-KOCHA [Lord–Fire–All/Source/Creation– Primordial
impulse–Water], and it is neither male nor female (Jordá
Arias, 2003: 64). Valencia Parisaca (1998), Jordá Arias
(2003), and Nicanor Sarmiento Yupanqui (2011) interpret
the Andean divinity as the Christian God the Father, who
creates ex-nihilo. This has been a very common interpretation
for centuries. Yet, another interpretation is possible.
APU-KON-TITI-WIRA-KOCHA is known by a variety of
names: Illa Tecsi Wiraqocha [Light of the Universe], Ticsi
Wiraqocha [Lord of the Universe], Hatun Apu [Great Elder],
Apu Qollana Auqui (Great Captain of Captains), Inti Awatiri
[Sun Shepherd], Pachakamaq [Creator or Organizer of the
Universe], and Pachayachachiq [Teacher of the Universe]
(Bascopé Caero, 2008: 122-123). However, there is not
enough evidence to support the claim that this Andean
Divinity is God the Father.
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From Santa Cruz Pachacuti, we learned that the Andean
divine self-manifestation or Primordial impulse involves
water, a female symbol. To express divine female images,
Andeans use several names such as Mama Qucha [Mother of
the primordial impulse or Lady of the oceans], Quya Ati
[Polar mystery of divine energy], Quta Mama [Matrix or
Womb of energetic fluid] and Quya Phaxsi [Reflection of
energy itself], and they are symbolically represented by the
water and the moon. (Miranda Luizaga, 1991: 305) For
example, the name Wiraqocha is made of two nouns, wira [fat]
and qocha [lake or ocean] that Sarmiento translates literally as
«lake of grease» or «grease or foam of the sea.» (Sarmiento
Yupanqui, 2011: 117) He then assigns the meaning of the
«place of power» because wira is a sign of vital power in the
Andes. But, more than being a place of power, it means a
place of origin. Out of the watery depths or womb of Qucha
Mama or Mother of the primordial impulse, unfolds the first
impulse or plurisingularity.
From the unknowable, bottomless, watery depths emerges
the Andean deity Pachakamaq Wiraqocha. The womb or ocean
of divinity is the depths of God, where everything folds
together in God. Out of this Totality or ocean of divinity
unfolds the plusingularity or Pachakamac Wiraqocha. This
Second Quality, not separate but different from the first, is
explained as «that which unfolds what otherwise remains
‘folded together’» (Keller, 2003: x) Using Catherine Keller’s
(2003: 218-219) words it could be said that Pachakamaq
Wiraqocha is like bara elohim (a created God) unfolding out of
her own depth or ocean of divinity (tehom).
The unfolding begins in this precarious relation. What is
more, «within the first plurisingularity there is an incipient
incarnation, at the edge of the dept (Keller, 2003:
232-233). At this early stage, Pachakamaq Wiraqocha is
without life and unable to produce life. It represents a
preamble state between being and not-being. It could almost
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be said that it does not quite exist on its own; he is just the
inverse self-reflection of the Totality or Dark bottomless
womb (tehom). What is needed is something to help establish
and hold the difference between the Totality and its own
reflection.
At this point, the Third Quality unfolds and holds in
relationship the plurisingularity. The Third Quality
represents divine differentiation. Keller (2003) points to
Ruach as the one who opens a third space so «Tehom could
flow into language and that Elohim, by a certain chiastic
effect, might listen» (p. 232). In the Andes, the third
unfolding holds and fosters the self-reflection, bringing the
plurisingularity together, pulsing forward the power of life. It
could be said that «without the Spirit, the Totality remains a
sterile possibility and God remains mere Word, fleshless
abstraction and power code» (Keller, 2003: 233). Keller calls
the Spirit the implicatio or differentiator that allows
Pachakamaq Wiraqocha to reflect in its complementary
opposite. By reflecting the plurisingularity, the Third Quality
separates the opposites in their complementary and
interdependent difference, pulsing into an infinite becoming.
The Third Quality transforms the plurisingularity into a
Trinitarian generatrix that brings the principle of life.
Mythically, this generatrix is represented by the Inti/Willka
(Sun), the Qilla/ Koati [Moon] and Mama Pacha. As Willca
rises in the horizon, he sees the Koati’s image reflected on the
water. He stops and for a moment, and his image and the
Koati’s image merge, generating the vital energy that
originates and sustains life. (Miranda Luizaga and Del Carpio
Natcheff, 2000: 29-30; Miranda Luizaga, 1996: 29)
Pachakamaq Wiraqocha, the first light and first impulse, is only
generative if Koati is present, not as a separate being, just
different. They are two aspects of the same true that now
thanks to the Third Quality move from the state of pure
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potentiality to one of active cosmogenesis. It is the principle
of Life holding the two opposites together.
Mama Pacha unfolds from the watery Divine womb
(Totality/Enfolded/Tehom) as the third reflection. She is
power of creative action, she is the immanent God, the
Mother or Spirit that first binds the Totality and the
plurisingularity together into equilibrium between being and
non-being, and then moves them into estar siendo or
becoming. At this time —although this takes place outside
time—, the Spirit of Life moves to the surface of the waters.
This water is no longer Tehom, but a type of fluidity, the
waves, and the membranes of energy from which matter
forms and stabilizes. This water is mythically called Quta
Mama [reflection of divine energy]. Hovering, almost
touching Quta Mama’s surface, Mama Pacha, the Spirit of Life,
unfolds creation. In the process, she is implicated in the
relationship between the Trinitarian God and creation.
The interface of creator and creation is thus implicated in
the material energy: «God’s spirit is life’s vibrating, vitalizing
field of energy. We are in God, and God is in us […]. God’s
Spirit is our space for living» (Keller, 2003: 232). For Keller
(2003), the Spirit is the implicatio, «the differentiator which
relates one to another» (p. 232). In the Andes, the
differentiator that relates one to another, and is implicated in
the story of Willqa and Koati, is Mama Pacha, Mother/Lady of
All that is. In Mama Pacha, the principle of life becomes
active. She is agency, will and knowing. Thus Mama Pacha is
not only the morphogenic matrix of creation; she is creation,
both the process and the product. She has self-agency and
complete autonomy, hence is not merely the power of the
Absolute, She is the Absolute.
Within the Andean Trinity, she is the included Third
Quality, making the Andean divine trinity fertile, capable of
creating out of the Womb. Mama Pacha is that which
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separates and holds together the unknowable and not fully
realized plurisingularity. Thanks to her and in her, this
otherwise anonymous God gives birth to another, not
separate but different (Pachakamaq Wiraqocha). Mama Pacha is
the differentiator that relates one to another. She is the
connector that does not transcend or obliterate difference;
rather she intensifies the difference precisely because it’s
being brought into relation.
Mama Pacha signifies the relationality and the moving
power of life. «As the relation of relations, she relates the
divine interdependency to the interdependencies of the
world» (Keller, 2003: 232). The Spirit of God or Mama Pacha
becomes the immanent life force of God and the economic
interdependence of creator and creation. Keller (2003) calls it
a «pneumatological materiality»; I call it a «mystical
materialism», where Pacha be/comes the sacred body of God.
The Spirit is what maintains the relationship and does not
allow the Trinitarian God to be conflated with the world. The
Spirit once again, this time in Pacha, creates and sustains the
differentiation, making it impossible to draw a line between
them.
Mama Pacha is vitalizing Pacha, therefore her worship
epitomized the veneration of God as life giver, and rituals
take place in a natural temple, creation. Mama Pacha is the
mother of the Quechua and Aymara and of all living beings
in the cosmos (Sarmiento Yupanqui, 2011: 135). This
reverence for Mama Pacha can be read in the incantation
reported by Cristoval de Molina in 1535: «Pachamma Qasillaqta
qespilla. Qhapag Inka wawaykipta marq’ariu, hat’alliy. (Oh
Mother Earth, Your fortunate blessed, the Inka, your son,
embrace me in your arms, take me by the hand)» (quoted in
Damian, 1994: 28). Another myth recovered in 1979 says:
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From the dawn of the universe, Pachamama said: I am
the Holy Earth; I am she who raises you, she who
suckles you. I am Pacha Tierra (Earth), Pacha Ñusta
(princess), Pacha Virgin. (Therefore from the creation
2
of the world I am worthy of respect)…Like our mother,
she is suckling us and raising us. But our mother, in
any case, dies; the earth never dies. At death we
disappear into the earth, she absorbs us. Like her own
child she is rearing us. Her hair grows: it is the pasture
land; it is wool for the animals. With this pasture she
feed the animals (Gow and Condori, 1976: 10).
According to Víctor Bascopé Caero (1998), «Akay Pacha is
the place where Mama Pacha expresses herself or becomes
visible and tangible. It is the place where [S]he gives and
sus t ain s life ; gene r ous l y pr o vid i ng f o od f o r a l l
inhabitants» (p. 8). In the Pacha, Mama Pacha «is the carrier or
the womb where She engenders life» (Miranda Luizaga,
1991: 305). She is what makes creation ex profundis possible,
by establishing a difference in relation. Mama Pacha as the
relation of relations relates the divine interdependency to the
interdependencies of the Pacha. She is immanently present in
creation as the Mother of the Pacha or Lady of the Pacha.
Symbolically, Mama Pacha is the energy of life. She is life
itself, which is why the Andean human community loves her,
cares for her and protects her. She is sacred because she
represents life (Valencia Parisaca, 1998: 42). She makes
possible that Pacha reflects the Divinity, and it is imbued with
an fluid ontological relationality.
Ñustas were virgins who lived together in a setting that has been
2
translated as a nunnery. Yet, they were religious and political leaders.
These were chosen women that existed as a social, political and religious
network throughout the empire, headed by the Qoya, the Inka’s wife. As
religious leaders, Ñustas had specific ritualistic roles, especially in
reference to the main deity, Wiraqocha, for they were the wives of the Sun.
They were looked to as saints who had intimate dealings and
communication with the gods (Damian, 1994: 22).
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Finally, Mama Pacha as the implicated or differentiator that
relates one to another, present in the world here, enjoys the
privileged position of mediator between the world above and
the world below. It is in Her and through Her that the
Andean Trinity is present in creation, constantly bringing
back the many into the One, where multiplicity is reordered,
balanced and renewed. Then, God unfolds creation once
again, in a continuing flux of becoming. Mama Pacha mediates
between the three aspects of Pacha, in order to secure
abundant life in this world. «She is a sacred entity, at the
same time, a mediator and a harmonizer of life energies
above and below» (Quispe, 2006: 10). She is also the place
from which the human community can relate to God as co-
creators. Mama Pacha s i g n i f i e s a n « e c o n o m i c »
interdependence of creator and creation, and as such the
interrelation of all creatures (Keller, 2003: 232).
The love and veneration of the great Andean Mother is
tangible in the following prayer:
Dear Pachamama, you who reign in the universe with
the intelligence of the healthy balance, listen to your
children, intercede for us […]. Give us the grace of
your eternal breath […]. Today we ask you to
accompany us in the healing of our body and spirit.
You, who are wise, make us your children, an
instrument of salvation (Quispe, 2011).
Conclusion
Despite the inequality and oppression that has marked the
presence of Christianity in the Andes, Aymara and Quechua
have integrated Christianity into their worldview; creating
ongoing Andean Christian communities. Mama Pacha as
God’s Spirit is present in the world. When engaged
interculturally, Andean cosmology clearly identifies Mama
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Pacha as the God’s Spirit and not merely a feminine aspect of
God. She is God the Mother out of which multiplicity
unfolds. In the unfolding, She is implicated in the materiality
of creation, holding together transcendence and immanence.
Her role as the implicated, becomes first evident ad-intra,
where she holds the space, so to speak, where the divine
plurisingularity reflects itself becoming conscious of itself.
Then, thanks to Her again, the tehomic creation unfolds into
the flux of ongoing creation.
A decolonial indigenous feminist epistemology challenges
androcentric readings of ancient Andean knowledge and
proposes an Andean philosophy that honors the relational
ontology of Andean thought, where the female principle is
active, creative, powerful and immanent in materiality.
Therefore, it could be said that embodiment is divine, and
human community functions as chakana or bridge between
the divine and creation, as co-creators. She also transcends
and transforms Pacha in it’s continue devenir or becoming.
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Full-text available
Article
In the article, I explore different motorcar blessing rituals undertaken by drivers from the Bolivian region of Chuquisaca, while centering primary my description on the side of the doing of the rituals and only linking them on a second stage to individual meaning and theological reflections. In that way, I show that the interviewed drivers differentiate the performed rituals first of all by their components (and not by their addressees) and consider all three of them as necessary parts of Catholic faith regardless of the positioning of the clerics. The interviewed drivers attribute effects of safe driving and economic successes to the rituals, but also experience them as partly linked to accidents and incidents and by consequence increase in the aftermath of misfortunes their ritual offerings. Therefore, I conclude that drivers of automobile Bolivia through the performed rituals are reproducing a social system of reciprocity that goes beyond human counterparts and that religious synthesis in their reflections is to be understood as a reaction from below (rather than a cause) to anti-syncretistic discourses amid religious elites.
Book
Laurel Schneider takes the reader on a vivid journey from the origins of "the logic of the One" - only recently dubbed monotheism - through to the modern day, where monotheism has increasingly failed to adequately address spiritual, scientific, and ethical experiences in the changing world. In Part I, Schneider traces a trajectory from the ancient history of monotheism and multiplicity in Greece, Israel, and Africa through the Constantinian valorization of the logic of the One, to medieval and modern challenges to that logic in poetry and science. She pursues an alternative and constructive approach in Part II: a "logic of multiplicity" already resident in Christian traditions in which the complexity of life and the presence of God may be better articulated. Part III takes up the open-ended question of ethics from within that multiplicity, exploring the implications of this radical and realistic new theology for the questions that lie underneath theological construction: questions of belonging and nationalism, of the possibility of love, and of unity. In this groundbreaking work of contemporary theology, Schneider shows that the One is not lost in divine multiplicity, and that in spite of its abstractions, divine multiplicity is realistic and worldly, impossible ultimately to abstract.
Article
Acknowledgments. Preface: Uncoupling the Name and the Reference. 1 The Americas, Christian Expansion, and the Modern/Colonial Foundation of Racism. 2 "Latin" America and the First Reordering of the Modern/Colonial World. 3 After "Latin" America: The Colonial Wound and the Geo-Political/Body-Political Shift. Postface: After "America". Notes. Index
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