Public scrutiny, consciousness and resistance in an Ecuadorian highland village
Cabala is a small, rural village of mestizo and indigena people in the Ecuadorian Andes. Since the local haciendas were disbanded in 1962 the economy and population of the village have both declined and the remaining villagers have increased their engagement in the money economy. Nevertheless most contemporary villagers were suspicious of urban Ecuador which they perceived as being organised exclusively according to trade transactions and saw themselves as belonging to a distinct moral community characterised by participation in exchange relations. Cabalano society was largely ordered according to the logic of a 'good faith economy' and any breach of the obligations inherent in exchange relations threatened not just the relationships between participants but the social order of the whole village. Transgressions of the social order were minimised by the stress most villagers placed on the correct performance of social roles and the maintenance of personal reputations. Thus the social and political order of the village was weighted towards conservatism and I describe how awareness of public scrutiny of their behaviour influenced how most villagers behaved towards members of their own household, managed their responses to the world and treated illness. At the same time, however, many villagers were able to manipulate public opinion, at least sometimes, and were able to both initiate, and adapt to, changes in the social order. Furthermore increased engagement in the money economy suggests that villagers were aware they could choose to order their social relations according to a different logic but chose not to. In the conclusion to the work, therefore, I argue that most villagers made an active choice to stress the importance of exchange relations in order to resist the perceived anomie of the modern, Ecuadorian state.