Apr. 29 Lecture Series: Dr. Stuart Rockefeller

Stuart Rockefeller.

"Lost Dialogue: Knowledge, Narrative, and the Andean Fat-Stealer"

Stuart Rockefeller, PhD

Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo, SUNY

DATE:                Friday, April 29
TIME:                 3:30-4:30pm
LOCATION:      351 Academic Center, Ellicott Complex

Throughout the highlands of Peru and Bolivia indigenous and many non-indigenous people fear that rural paths are haunted by the fat-stealer, a malevolent figure who lies in wait for nocturnal travelers, hypnotizes them, and steals the fat from their bodies. In most anthropological accounts, this figure is treated as a mythic character, who inhabits familiar stories, and as part of indigenous lore.

Dr. Rockefeller will argue, based on his own fieldwork in rural southern Bolivia and a re-reading of the fat-stealer literature, that the character does not exist in any canonical tales (except insofar as anthropologists evoke such tales through their questions), and is not regarded by indigenous people as part of their own traditions or knowledge at all. It is, instead, a figure of rumors, and has to be understood as a measure precisely of what those who fear the figure do not know. This misunderstanding of the fat-stealer’s discursive and epistemological nature has led many researchers to miss the ways it can be a means to contest the power of urban elites. 

In this talk Dr. Rockefeller will focus particularly on how that the fat-stealer lends itself to the creation of gripping and terrifying narratives that are significantly different in each instance, and which offer grounds for a moral critique of elite power, and a means to contest it.