Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Nancy H. Hornberger


Quechua language education and research has long been relegated to rural areas and elementary schools of the Andes. Nonetheless, current language policy in the southern Peruvian region of Cusco has opened new opportunities for Quechua, a minoritized Indigenous language, to be taught in cities and towns and in high schools. In this sociolinguistic context, this dissertation explores what it means for youth in the contemporary urban Andes to be speakers and learners of Quechua, as well as how youth influence the maintenance of Quechua in contexts of ongoing language shift to Spanish. Through a 20-month long ethnographic and participatory study in Urubamba, a provincial capital of the region of Cusco, and its surrounding areas, I examine youth bilingualism and identity positionings spanning school and out-of- school experiences. Using a sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropological framework, this study contributes to educational research and practice on language planning and policy (LPP) in the Andes and other Indigenous contexts.

Throughout the dissertation, I describe youth Quechua language learning trajectories and repertoires, highlighting similarities and differences among three groups of youth: altura, valley and non-Quechua speaker youth. Youth repertoires are heterogeneous and dynamic and their language trajectories are intimately linked to social relationships, identity positionings, racialized trajectories, language ideologies and institutions. Varying access to language learning opportunities, raciolinguistic hierarchies, and ideologies which question and invisibilize youth proficiency and interest in Quechua, as evidenced in school and family practices, are some of the forces which youth at times reproduce, question and above all negotiate on an everyday basis. How youth understand themselves as learners and/or speakers of Quechua is characterized by complexity and ambivalence, grounded in a context of (growing) Quechua LPP activities, symbolic and utilitarian recognition of Quechua, as well as ongoing inequality and discrimination.

There are, and will probably continue to be, many painful and deep-seated societal and local forces which work against many of youth’s interests in Quechua language maintenance. Considering youth perspectives reminds us of the importance of continuing to imagine and create better conditions for current and future Indigenous language speakers and learners to pursue their dreams, hopes and aspirations.

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