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Nurturance: An Andean Amerindian way of life as an alternative construct to *development theory and practice

Cole D Genge, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The field of international development has long been criticized for its insensitivity towards the traditions, dignity and honor of indigenous people. This study uses a grounded theory approach for identifying patterns in an Andean Amerindian way of life so as to provide an alternative construct to development theory and practice as perceived in the central Andes of Bolivia. Initial research lead to the surfacing of the concept of “nurturance,” understood to be a system of reciprocity that is grounded in open, frank, and willing conversation with another—be this human or otherwise—as a means of communicating feelings, needs, and longings that can lead towards change. It is a process that is integral to an Andean Amerindian way of life that is neither imposed or alien to the way of thinking and doing; it is part of life itself. Four aspects of nurturance are explored in some depth in order to provide a firm understanding of: the spiritual perspective, community spirit, environmental ethic, and economic cooperation that makes living in the traditional Andes possible. The dissertation is meant to inform a western audience—particularly a western audience working in the field of development in the Andean region—and provide a fresh outlook on what is lived and experienced by Andean Amerindians; to exemplify the notion that Andean Amerindians are not the vulnerable other in need of hand holding that governments and development projects would sometimes lead the public to believe. Rather, I propose that the concept of “nurturance” is a powerful construct for development to embrace. In order for this embrace to take place, I propose “engagement” as a concept for the operationalization of nurturance into communities of scale. What I propose is a process of engagement that is informed by nurturance and its four elements (spirituality, community, nature, economy) in order to foster and strengthen community life. This process of nurturance allows for members of the human species to interact with one another non-aggressively and has the potential to move Andean Amerindians and non-Andean Amerindians toward a genuine understanding of another.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Cultural anthropology|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Genge, Cole D, "Nurturance: An Andean Amerindian way of life as an alternative construct to *development theory and practice" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110489.