Considering temporalities in Andean childhoods

Traced stories of the ongoing life of milk

Cow-Cañari relations juxtapose and interrupt practices of slow procedural attention that cultivating and harvesting a portion of land entail. Daily rhythms are driven by a cow that has been formed and genetically modified (see Vizcarra et al., 2015) for capital growth and triumph. Valued by how much milk they can produce, cows participate in reshaping Andean temporalities. Milking demands immediate, rapid labour that cannot be ignored or postponed, and its returns are quick but meagre. The efficiency and immediacy of the dairy industry produce material/subjective configurations that shape and structure the rhythms of Cañari daily life. Ironically, these capitalist temporalities that govern milk production are also expansive. For example, the women mentioned that they now have a lot of “free time” between milking sessions to do other jobs in a nearby town. What is relevant here is that, as Sagan describes, “each individual life is normatively envisioned as teleological, and its telos is conceived as a goal of production and reproduction—as (re)producing a specific economy of power that imagines itself as the only natural and valuable one” (2019: 146).

Children actively participate in milk production and are deeply entangled in these neocapitalist temporalities that are constantly shaped and reshaped by “progress” in the Andes. Immediacy, speed and efficiency were the dominant narratives children expressed during our conversations. Like Gabriel and Daniel, other Cañari children spoke over and over again about how they are learning to become more effective in milk production to increase quick returns. Over the course of several drawing sessions, children traced stories of the ongoing life of milk once it leaves el campo (the field), emphasizing how the lechero takes it to la planta (the production plant), machines put the milk into bags, and then trucks drive it to the store where they can then purchase it back.


Vizcarra R, Lasso R and Tapia D (2015) La leche del Ecuador. Historia de la lechería ecuatoriana. Quito, Ecuador: Centro de Industria Lactea CIL. Available at: (accessed 13 August 2019).

Sagan C (2019) Capitalist temporalities as uchronia. Theory & Event 22(1): 143–174.