Publication Date

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Dustin Mulvaney


Andes, cosmos, decolonization, epistemology, nature, Qullasuyu

Subject Areas

Ethnic studies; Environmental studies


Modern life may offer certain benefits for humanity, but it can also create a barrier between humans and the natural world. In contrast, the millenarian Aymara culture of the Bolivian Andes exhibits a harmonic interrelation with nature, ecology, and the cosmos, and it also represents a living system of indigenous knowledge and knowledge production/transformation. The Aymara system of knowing and knowledge production, like other indigenous systems, should not be mistaken for antiquated elements of culture and folklore but should be seen as a distinct and dynamic epistemology. The Aymara cosmovisión is similar to the philosophy of ecology, sharing some general descriptions of interactions in the natural world and the cosmos. However, the two perspectives differ when they are analyzed in their proper systems of knowledge production. In this analysis, the epistemological difference between how ecology and the cosmovisión relate to the natural world is seen as a gap in the two distinct traditions of knowledge production. By first describing characteristics of the Aymara cosmovisión as envisioned by several ritual and spiritual masters (amawt'as), other involved Aymara people, and several Aymara academics, these findings are then analyzed in their relationship to ecology and the natural world. This analysis included many distinct voices, illustrating the non-dogmatic nature of the cosmovisión. Ultimately, each interviewee spoke towards the aspect of the cosmovisión which he/she is most interested in without being bound to a certain doctrine or creed by an authoritative body. Most of the ritual and spiritual specialists generally focus on interacting with the beings of the natural world through diverse ritual conversations. Other spiritual specialists focus on the study and interpretation of a cosmic order and code. Aymara academics are more interested in describing issues surrounding Andean culture and its interaction with the modern Bolivian society, especially in terms of decolonization. The different perspectives of the interviewees yield a data set that is descriptive of the Andean cosmovisión in general, and that offers insight into comparisons with occidental notions of nature and culture.