Issue 20.1, February 2005

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Essay Excerpt

"Discipline and the Arts of Domination: Rituals of Respect in Chimborazo, Ecuador," Barry J. Lyons

In 1992, Alberto Yumbo recalled how he learned to greet local officials as a child growing up on a hacienda in Chimborazo (highland Ecuador) in the 1940s:

We had to greet them formally from afar, saying, “Blessed and praised, Sir alcalde, Sir regidor, Sir fundador.” . . . If we didn’t greet them well, they said, “Insolent one, who taught you like that?” and they struck with the whip. They pulled on our ears, they admonished us. . . . Sometimes, we cried. Sometimes, we walked away laughing. If we laughed, they said, “He is not heeding,” and again they struck us.

Alberto Yumbo is a Quichua-speaking indigenous person (Runa), resident in the parish of Pangor. From the colonial period to the 1960s, many Runa lived on haciendas, farming and pasturing their animals on estate land in return for labor service to the mestizo landlord. Landlords managed these estates with the aid of a mestizo steward and indigenous overseers, who worked closely with indigenous religious authorities to maintain social order. My aim in this article is to develop an interpretation of concepts such as coercion, persuasion, discipline, and hegemony for understanding the type of in- teraction Taita Alberto described as well as broader relations of authority and resistance.3 I critique James Scott’s analysis of domination (1985, 1990) as a way of examining some common assumptions that I consider problematic. What I seek to add to the debates on Scott’s work (Gal 1995; Howe 1998; Levi 1999; Mitchell 1990; Ortner 1995; Tilly 1991; Woost 1993) is a different way of looking at coer- cion and its relationship to persuasion.