The first humanistic portrait of life among the Saraguros of southern Ecuador is woven with a meditative self-reflection on the author’s role as anthropologist and the role of cross-cultural understanding itself in the Andean Highlands and beyond.
Highlighting globalization’s effects on humanity through the lens of Ecuador’s indigenous Saraguro people, With the Saraguros marks a compelling departure from conventional approaches to ethnography. While documenting and exploring the social patterns among the Saraguro, with an emphasis on the role of women beadworkers, David Syring blends storytelling, dialogue, poetry, and memoir to describe his own realm as a fieldworker in anthropology. As he considers the influence of women’s labor in a community in which the artistry of beadwork is richly symbolic, he also considers how the Saraguro view their observers—the anthropologists.
Probing the role of researchers in a time when basic humanistic questions now often reflect a critical balance between commerce and sustainability, With the Saraguros asks, “What does it mean to live ‘the good life’ in different cultural contexts, and how does our work life relate to this pursuit?” For those who have chosen a work life of anthropology, Syring captures the impact of fieldwork—which uproots the researcher from his or her daily routine—and its potential to deliver new levels of consciousness. The result constitutes more than just the first English-language book dedicated to the dynamic creativity of the Saraguro, contextualized by their social and political history; Syring’s work, which ranges from the ecological imagination to the metaphors of trade, is also a profound meditation on the ways we experience boundaries now that borders no longer create sharply drawn divides between cultural worlds, and “distant” no longer means “separate.”
Prologue: Advice to a Technopelli
1. Attuning and the Development of an Approach to Fieldwork
Interlude 1. Three Images of Technopelli
2. A Necklace, a Metaphor, and the Saraguro Context
3. La Vida Matizada and Work Life in a Globalizing Society
Interlude 2. A House in Three Different Times
4. Weaving la Vida Matizada: Beadwork and Cooperatives in Saraguro Women’s Lives
Interlude 3. Los Caracoles: Travels and Transformations of Aesthetic Ideas
5. Sweet Water and Exotic Fish: Ecological Imaginations in a World of Traveling Creatures
Interlude 4. Empty Doorways and Shadowy Figures: Anthropologist as Accidental Business Consultant
6. On the Development and Value of an Anthropological Consciousness
Epilogue: A Story for a Technopelli’s Last Hour in Town
David Syring is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His previous book, Places in the World a Person Could Walk: Family, Stories, Home, and Place in the Texas Hill Country, was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. The documentary film he created with Manuel Benigno Cango and the Saraguro women’s craft cooperative La Teresa de Calcuta, released in 2014, is part of a series of participatory media projects with Saraguro collaborators.
"Excellent academic content laced with reflexivity, humor, and experiential fieldwork anecdotes. . . . Should be required reading in an ‘ethnographic tool kit’ students take with them." ―Dr. Andrea Heckman, University of New Mexico, and author of Woven Stories: Andean Textiles and Rituals
Grupo Rumiñahui is a youth cultural group in Tuncarta, Saraguro, Ecuador. Video by David Syring and Manuel Benigno Cango. Edited in collaboration with Freddy Guillas, Leidy Pricila Cango, and Ana Victoria Sarango.