The Clown Within: Becoming White and Mapuche Ritual Clowns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This essay takes the antics of ritual clowns, koyong, as an entry point into the ways in which rural Mapuche people in southern Chile come to understand and reflect upon the inevitability of urban migration and the “becoming white” which this migration is said to imply. Utilizing both my own ethnographic data and comparative data from elsewhere in the Americas, I explore the striking continuities in the associations of indigenous ritual clowns: associations with poverty, with uncontrolled bodily desires, with dual ritual performances, and perhaps most significantly, with white people. I suggest that the moral indictment of the “becoming white” instantiated by clowns in their ritual performances emerges from their identities as people who in everyday life are denigrated as “too Mapuche.” Thus, far from being yet another example of indigenous people's “agency” in mimetically co-opting the vitality of white others, I suggest that clowns are one of the means by which rural Mapuche people come to understand precisely their own lack of agency in the face of Chilean colonialism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-799
JournalComparative Studies in Society and History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Clown Within: Becoming White and Mapuche Ritual Clowns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this