Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Asif Agha


Considering migration to be an act of reimagining the self, this dissertation intervenes into the discursive means by which post-colonials negotiate and circulate socio-historical imaginaries in everyday social encounters. It grounds literature on post-colonialism by emphasizing interactions between individuals as sites for the reproduction of historical consciousness. I conducted ethnographic research over 16 months in Madrid, Barcelona, and Lima, partially funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Latin American Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. The dissertation follows the settling of Spanish migrants in Lima after the Spanish economic crisis of 2008, and demonstrates that their incursion into upwardly mobile, middle class spaces has come to animate Peruvian anxieties about the colonial past and its relevance to contemporaries issues of race, class, and gender.

The analysis draws from semiotic and linguistic anthropology in order to analyze colonial encounters as negotiations of identity formation. Furthermore, it brings together approaches to contemporary transnational studies with perspectives on the transmission of history (as a discourse). Readings of “developed world” migrant bodies in the “developing world” through semiotics provides a means to understand the production of historically informed identities. More significantly, this semiotic approach shows that these roles take shape precisely at the site where they seem to disappear: the everyday. Thus I identify links between interactional data and macro-social and political phenomena.

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