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Signs of the AmericasA Poetics of Pictography, Hieroglyphs, and Khipu$
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Edgar Garcia

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226658971

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226659169.001.0001

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Khipu, Analepsis,and Other Natural Signs

Khipu, Analepsis,and Other Natural Signs

Cecilia Vicuña’s Poetics of Weaving and JoaquínTorres-García’s La Ciudad sin Nombre

(p.185) 6 Khipu, Analepsis,and Other Natural Signs
Signs of the Americas

Edgar Garcia

University of Chicago Press

This chapter responds to the problem of erased signs by delving into the case of a sign system whose logic is known but whose meanings are still lost because of the violent destruction, prohibitions, and enforced disappearances of colonial order. While scholars understand how khipu or Andean knot-writing works, they are still unable to say what the signs say exactly. This is a semiotics without a semantics; a sign without its Rosetta Stone. In examining the contemporary uses of khipu by Chilean poet and artist Cecilia Vicuña, this chapter develops a theory of the sign that does not rely on original or authentic meanings to convey its authority. Elaborating a semiotics of khipu by investigating concepts of language, materiality, and fabulation in Marisol de la Cadena’s ethnography of contemporary Andean indigenous cultures, this chapter erodes the conceptual hierarchy that separates materials from meaning, earth from world, signs from their significations—in order to further an indigenous conception of the natural sign. Tracing the life of signs beyond their archival entombment, in ways that implicate contemporary makings in the native worlds of the Americas, this chapter brings the book back to the story of visual artist Joaquín Torres-García.

Keywords:   khipu, Quipu, Andes, Inca, Quechua, textiles, witnessing, analysis, natural sign, performance

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