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Unraveling Time

Unraveling Time
Thirty Years of Ethnography in Cuenca, Ecuador

A compelling chronicle of economic, political, and social development in Cuenca.

Series: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowment in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

December 2022
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232 pages | 6 x 9 |

Ann Miles has been chronicling life in the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca for more than thirty years. In that time, she has witnessed change after change. A large regional capital where modern trains whisk residents past historic plazas, Cuenca has invited in the world and watched as its own citizens risk undocumented migration abroad. Families have arrived from rural towns only to then be displaced from the gentrifying city center. Over time, children have been educated, streetlights have made neighborhoods safer, and remittances from overseas have helped build new homes and sometimes torn people apart. Roads now connect people who once were far away, and talking or texting on cell phones has replaced hanging out at the corner store.

Unraveling Time traces the enduring consequences of political and social movements, transnational migration, and economic development in Cuenca. Miles reckons with details that often escape less committed observers, suggesting that we learn a good deal more when we look back on whole lives. Practicing what she calls an ethnography of accrual, Miles takes a long view, where decades of seemingly disparate experiences coalesce into cultural transformation. Her approach not only reveals what change has meant in a major Latin American city but also serves as a reflection on ethnography itself.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. The Ethnography of Accrual: 1988–2020
    • Dateline 1990: Remembering and Forgetting
  • Chapter 2. Making a Cosmopolitan City
    • Dateline 1988–1989: The Virgin of Cajas
  • Chapter 3. Single Women in the City
    • Dateline 1988–2020: Alejandra
  • Chapter 4. Ni de Aqui, Ni de Allá
    • Dateline 1988–2020: Blanca
  • Chapter 5. The Gringo Invasion
    • Dateline 2015–2019: Soon the Tourists Will Have the Place to Themselves
  • Chapter 6. Thinking about Endings
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

Ann Miles is a professor of anthropology and the director of the University Center for the Humanities at Western Michigan University. She is the author of From Cuenca to Queens and Living with Lupus.