CAS History 1969-2020

Beginnings: Douglas Juan Gifford 

Professor Douglas Juan Gifford (1924 – 1991) founded CAS in 1969 as the Centre for Latin American Linguistic Studies. The centre had been a long-standing dream of his, inspired by the St Andrews Survey Expeditions to Peru that he organised and led in 1965, 1967 and 1969.

As he wrote in his 1969 Expedition Report:

I have also been working towards the very tangible result of my work in Peru, and that is the setting up of a Centre for Latin American Linguistic Studies, which has now been approved by the Senate and University Court.  This, the first linguistic centre as such for the study of dialectology and Indian languages in South America, will aim at running courses for graduates coming from outside this University. Already we have increased our teaching staff on the Latin American linguistic side, and this year people will graduate with — I confidentally hope — a very good knowledge of Quechua. (Special Collections, Gifford papers, University of St Andrews). 

Born on 21 July 1924 in Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gifford lived in Argentina, Spain and England before going up to Oxford to read Spanish and French at Queen’s College.  In Oxford he met his future wife, Hazel Collingwood (Letters to Hazel 2005).  However, WWII interrupted his studies, and he served in the Intelligence Corps in Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany before he was able to resume his education at Oxford.  In 1950 he was appointed a Lecturer in Spanish at the University of St Andrews, where he gained prominence as a brilliant and charismatic lecturer with a diversity of interests.

In 1965, Gifford organised the first University of St Andrews Andean Expedition to Peru, stimulating a life-long interest in Quechua language and culture.  For his second Andean expedition in 1967, he was joined by Leslie Hoggarth, a Methodist missionary and Quechua linguist, who offered his services to Gifford after seeing a notice of the expedition in the newspaper.  Gifford would lead a total of seven research expeditions to the Andes and Central America, where he conducted linguistic and ethnographic research on a variety of topics, including Andean vernacular Spanish, religion, shamanism, mythology, craft production, food and hygiene.  This following excerpt from his 1969 Expedition Report provides a sense of the hard work involved, including an evening in the Cuzco police station:

This early part of the period under review was devoted to preparing questionaires, getting the tape recorder and equipment ready.  After that I left on the 28th July for Peru with my colleages. Travelling first to New York, and then straight to Lima, we spent a short time in the capital making contacts and so on.

            After a three days we took the train which goes over 15,600 feet high to the town of Huancayo in Central Peru.  From there we pushed on, going by Andean bus through the ups and downs of the Andes themselves.  After five days of very wearying journey, we fetched up at 2.30 of a morning in the main square in Cuzco. We immediately fell asleep on the benches in the central square, being too tired to think of anything else.  However, the police thought otherwise, and the rest of the night was spent in the police station.

            From Cuzco it was a matter of another few hours journey over a pass of some 13,000 feet down to the Vilcanota Valley, where our expedition was to be based.  The locality was Calca, or rather near Calca in a cottage (empty except for three trestle tables) on a mission farm.  The centre was perfect from many points of view.  As I was primarily interested in studying dialect, there was a market town nearby where an immense amount of material could be collected.  I was also in the most superstitious part of the Andes as far as magical beliefs were concerned, and there was ample material for my study on curative prayers and magic.

            The next few weeks were spent taping Indian speech in the morning when I went down to the market, and the grinding business of transcribing while the memory was fresh, in the afternoons.  The material collected was considerable.

            From Calca we could also make dialect forays in other directions — to the Lake Titicaca region, to the jungle and so on.  After a while, we had become very adept at travelling in all kinds of transport always without exception with a bunch of Indians in the back of the lorry or a pick-up truck.  The Indians themselves were very friendly indeed, and were very good at giving information of a general type, if rather reticent over magical prayers, etc. (Special Collections, Gifford papers, University of St Andrews). 

Gifford inaugurated CAS’s publication series on South American linguistics and culture, and he published the following books on Latin America, based on his research during the St Andrews Expeditions.

Serrano Speech: Notes on the Mestizo Dialect of S. E. Peru.  St Andrews: Centre for Latin American Linguistic Studies, 1969.

A Study of the Washing Habits of Two Locations in Latin America: Antigua, Guatemala and Huantura, Peru.  St Andrews: St Andrews Centre for Latin American Linguistic Studies, 1973.

Carnival and Coca Leaf: Some Traditions of the Peruvian Quechua Ayllu (co edited and translated with Pauline Hoggarth).  Chatto and Windus, 1976.

Warriors, gods and spirits from Central and South American mythology.  Illustrations by John Sibbick.  London: Lowe Press, 1983. (published in Spanish in 1986)

Tradition and change among the grass roots of Callawaya indigenous medicine (co-authored with Elizabeth Lancaster); St Andrews: St Andrews Centre for Latin American Linguistic Studies, 1988.

CAS History 1969-2020

In 1968, Gifford appointed Leslie Hoggarth to teach Quechua at St Andrews, which was the only university at the time where an Andean language could be studied. Hoggarth’s daughter Pauline became Gifford’s doctoral student, writing a thesis on Quechua/Spanish bilingualism in Calca, Peru and co-authoring Carnival and Coca Leaf with Gifford. After Hoggarth’s retirement from St Andrews in 1972, Joe Shelley and Lindsey Crickmay, both former students of Gifford, taught Quechua at St Andrews.

Professor Tristan Platt came to St Andrews in 1988 to ‘re-found’ CLALS as the Institute of Amerindian Studies (IAS). With the support of Ladislav Holy, the Head of the newly instituted Department of Social Anthropology, Platt moved IAS fully into Social Anthropology. As Director of IAS, Platt maintained a half time post in IAS, teaching Quechua and directing the publications, seminars, workshops and other events for the Centre, whilst fulfilling a half time post in Social Anthropology.

Platt had studied classical languages, history and philosophy for his MA, and then took a two year conversion course in Social Anthropology at the LSE before living among the Macha Ayllu in northern Bolivia from 1970 – 1971. He returned to the Andes for ten years between 1973 and 1983m writing, publishing and re-visiting the “field” and the “archive.” Before coming to St Andrews, Platt worked with the University of Tarapacá; the National Museum of Ethnography in La Paz; on a World Bank funded project on peasants and markets in La Paz; at the Institute of Peruvian Studies (Lima) and the National Archive of Bolivia on mining and economic space; and on an ESRC-CNRS Franco-British research project on the state in the Andes.

During his tenure at St Andrews, Platt directed dozens of doctoral students while conducting new research with funding from the British Academy, the Spanish Ministry of Education, the Guggenheim Foundation, and other organisations. In 2009, the Centre was renamed the Centre for Amerindian Studies (CAS); the remit of the Centre was expanded to include Latin American and Caribbean studies. For publications, here.

Professor Joanna Overing (1938 — present) came to St Andrews in 1995 as a member of the Department of Social Anthropology and as the Director of the Centre, which was renamed the Centre for Indigenous American Studies (CIAS). Overing is an American anthropologist, with a BA and MA in History from the University of Connecticut, and a PhD in Anthropology from Brandeis University. Her extensive fieldwork among the Piaroa people in the Orinoco basin of Venezuela marked an expansion of the Centre into lowland South America.

Beloved by generations of students, Overing has studied egalitarianism, indigenous cosmology, philosophical anthropology, aesthetics, the ludic and linguistics in Amazonia. One of her central interests in Amazonian anthropology is the relationship between egalitarianism and individualism in Amerindian societies. She pioneered the study of “the art of living” or the “aesthetics of everyday life”, revealing how the Western distinction between ethics and aesthetics is irrelevant in a world, such as that of the Piaroa, where people strive for beauty in their social relations with others. For publications here.

Professor Sabine Hyland (1964-present) was invited to replace Professor Tristan Platt as the Department Andeanist in 2013, becoming Director of CAS and teaching Quechua. An American, Hyland studied Quechua and Cultural Anthropology as an undergraduate at Cornell University, before earning her MPhil and PhD in Anthropology from Yale University, where she was a graduate fellow of the National Science Foundation. The recipient of grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, and the National Geographic Society, she has conducted archival and ethnographic research throughout the Peruvian Andes.

National Geographic’s documentary about her Andean research, “Decoding the Incas”, for their series, Ancient X Files, received the series’ highest rating. Her Andean research has been featured in the popular media, including the Times (UK), BBC Scotland, National Geographic (in English, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Dutch), Discover Magazine and the Discovery Channel.

Currently, she is working on a project, ‘Hidden Texts of the Andes: Deciphering the Khipus (Cord Writing) of Peru, funded by a three year Leverhulme Research Project

Grant. She is also host to a working group on Native American Philology. For publications here.

Dr Ana P. Gutierrez Garza became part of the Anthropology Department and Director of CAS in 2019. She studied her MSc and PhD in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics where she also worked as a lecturer and postdoctoral research fellow. She was also a departmental lecturer in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford before joining St. Andrews. She studies Latin American diasporas in the U.K., Spain and the U.S. As an economic anthropologist she is interested in approaching the study of Latin American migrants from an intersectional point of view. Her research focuses on the responses that migrants have in the face of structural inequality. She is interested in showing how various social, gendered, ethical and cultural practices inform those responses which often facilitate methods and strategies of coping and persevering. For publications here.