Following la Papa Nativa: A Visual Ethnography of a Food Commodity Chain in Peru

  • Jose Fajardo Escoffie

Student thesis: Phd


Peru has been the centre of origin and diversity of more than 3,000 varieties of native potato, although only a few varieties were typically consumed beyond the Andean region. Of little value outside the Andes, these tubers were long considered the food of the poor and the indigenous and thus intimately bounded to the Andean towns. However, since the Peruvian Gastronomic Boom took off in the mid-2000s, some native potato varieties together with other tubers like ocas, ollucos, and mashuas have started to be commercialised and became more widely consumed in the capital Lima. This ethnographic work relies on fourteen months of fieldwork conducted across different urban and rural locations. It follows the activities of a Peruvian entrepreneur, Edilberto, and the creation of what I call the potato chain. Moving back and forth between restaurants in Lima, a farm in Condorccocha where potatoes were grown and collected, and Huamanga, the capital city of the region of Ayacucho which the potatoes must pass through, this thesis ethnographically attends to, and photographically reveals how different values are created and re-created in order to make new circuits available for the native potato. Accordingly, I looked at that the different ways in which native potatoes and the other tubers are 'made' and 'crafted' visible into valuable products along the chain, and across different paths of circulation and novel routes of consumption. Through the five chapters of this thesis, I describe how my informants - farmers, precarious workers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and consumers - differently engage with the tubers. Therefore, this thesis sets off to unravel how potatoes acquire different values in relation to ethics, aesthetics, standards regulations, and the temporal coordination of the many parts and of the diverse rhythms of production peculiar to the potato chain. As with any capitalist enterprise, the potato chain is never smooth, and certainly not linear. I suggest that the formation and endurance of the potato chain are actually rendered possible by the conditions of the Gastronomic Boom, which must be understood within Peru's unique political, economic, and cultural histories.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPenelope Harvey (Supervisor) & Andrew Irving (Supervisor)


  • Standards
  • Colour
  • Chef
  • Gastronomic Boom
  • Supply Chain
  • Restaurant
  • Peru
  • Andes
  • Tuber
  • Terroir
  • Native
  • Potato

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