The semi-social mountain: Metapersonhood and political ontology in the Andes

Peter Gose


This paper debates how Andean mountains become persons with political ontology, a post-humanist orientation that has recently highlighted this phenomenon. Mountains’ physical bodies synthesize various life processes andprecipitate as metapersons when people engage them socially as willful agents, hoping to regulate mountains’ extra-human powers morally. This socialization remains incomplete, however. Aloof to human vulnerability, mountains frequently appear as q’alas, Andean people’s barely human racial persecutors and class enemies. By taking this form, mountains suggest that people’s relation with the land is similarly troubled, not the benign matter of kinship that political ontology proposes.


Personhood, practice, ontology, post-humanism, actor network theory, realism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/701067