Resistance, Appropriation and Sustainability: Cross-Cultural Encounters with the Native Mapuche People

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Resistance, Appropriation and Sustainability: Cross-Cultural Encounters with the Native Mapuche People

  • Host University

    Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso

  • Location

    Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile

  • Area of Study

    History, Indigenous Studies, Intercultural Communications

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course Description

    This course offers a way to learn by engaging in direct contact with the native Mapuche population living in Chile. The center of this learning experience is based on four whole day engagements with Mapuche urban communities centered in the cities of Santiago, Vina del Mar and Valparaíso. This practical didactic will be integrated with the academic content of the course and will require that the students observe and learn in their encounters in order to integrate this knowledge with their academic activities.

    The urban communities in question originated in the late 20th century but began their history in a process during which many Mapuche migrated from the rural communities in the south of Chile. The forming of the communities represents a process of ‘old’ identities re-emerged in a space co-habited by Chileans and the dominant Chilean way of life. Given this intercultural situation, the Mapuche communities have had to constantly adapt and transform, both in terms of an appropriation of Chilean forms as well as in terms of resisting them. Many different relations guide the situation of these communities, relations to Chileans, relations to nature as well as relations to the divine and the spiritual aspects of their lives. Communities have had to develop sustainable ways in all of these three areas to sustain the delicate balance in which their communities often live.

    The academic content of the course is intended to reflect the intercultural reality in all of these three areas and in terms of all three relationships, resistance, appropriation as well as sustainability. This content will give the students something to relate to when they visit the communities, and vice versa, when they return to class with their experiences. This will allow students to connect the academic content with the reality of the communities, linked and bridged through the experiences of the students themselves.

    Course Objectives

    1. Students will become familiar with how Mapuche reality can be understood from a variety of different relations.

    2. Students will visit and so be able to experience for themselves intercultural processes in the Mapuche communities.

    Course Outline

    1. Introduction to and contextualization of Mapuche culture, language and history.

    2. Problems and perspectives in studying the indigenous. History and Anthropology. Did we actually discover them?

    3. Mapuche worldview and origin narrative. Where am I situated in the universe? Reciprocity and Sustainability: Links between nature and the divine.

    4. Mapuche personhood, sociality and personal reciprocity. Who are the others, who am I, and how do they relate?

    5. Mapuche rituals: burial, palin and fertility. Worldview, personhood and reciprocity situated and socialized.

    6. Shamans of the foye tree. Natural medicine or divine intervention? Doctors, priests and resistance fighters.

    7. The Mapuche movement and the relationships with Chilean institutions. Appropriation, resistance and sustainable re-emergence.

    Expected Learning Outcome and student competences

    Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to…

    1. Understand and analyze the complexity of Mapuche realities.

    2. Recognize a link between the situated and pragmatic reality and the reflexive reality of academia.

    3. Be able to use the Mapuche case to compare to similar situations elsewhere.


    The methodology of this course is twofold. In the field it is based on four visits to Mapuche communities, visits that will be integrated in the academic content of the course. In class it follows a student-centered orientation where the emphasis will be on learning through discussions. The discussions are driven either from presentations done by the teacher or from presentations done by the students and in both cases will have an important gravity on the relationship between the academic content and the Mapuche reality as experienced by the students.

    The language of the course will be English.


    The assessment will consist of participation in class and in community visits (25%) as well as three oral presentations by the students (groups or individual). The oral presentations will be twofold, the first part presenting the academic content and the second part consisting of a pedagogical element whereby the student(s) have to engage the class in a discussion including both the academic content as well as the visits to the communities (75%).


    Course, M. Mapuche Person, Mapuche People, Individual and Society in Indigenous Southern Chile, PhD in Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, 2005.

    Boccara, G. The brighter side of the indigenous, Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos,( 2006.

    Dussel, E. (1995) The Invention of the Americas, Eclipse of "the other" and the Myth of Modernity, Continuum, New York.

    Fabian, J. (2003) Time and the other, how anthropology makes its object, Columbia University Press. New York.

    Eim, S. (2010) The Conceptualization of Mapuche Religion in Colonial Chile (1545-1787), PhD in Philosophy. Faculty of Philosophy, Heidelberg,

    Bacigalupo, M. (2007) Shamans of the foye tree, gender, power, and healing among Chilean mapuche, University of Texas press, Austin.

    Paillaleff, R. I. R. (Mallon, F. Ed/TR). (2002) When a flower is reborn, the life and times of a mapuche feminist, Duke, Durham.

    Haughney D. (2006) Neoliberal economics, Democratic Transition, and Mapuche Demands for rights in Chile, University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

    Mallon, F, ( 2005 ) , “Courage Tastes of Blood: The Mapuche Community of Nicolás Ailío and the Chilean State, 1906–2001”, Radical Perspectives,

    Crow, J. (2013). The Mapuche in Modern Chile. A cultural History. University press of Florida, Gainesville.)

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.


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