Performing Welshness in the Chubut Province of Patagonia, Argentina

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In 1865, a group of 153 Welsh settlers emigrated to Argentina, following an offer from the Argentine government of 100 square miles of land on which to live, with the hope of creating a little Wales away from Wales, free from the influence of the English. The thesis explores the historical and present day implications of this emigration through an ethnographic account of how and why Welshness is created, sustained, and performed in the Chubut Province of Patagonia, Southern Argentina. The thesis is based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the village of Gaiman and surrounding areas with a community of Welsh Patagonians who live in the Chubut Province. It argues that individual and collective subjectivity (of both the Welsh self and the broader community as Welsh) was performatively constituted in the settler colony through the dynamics of seeing and being seen, and through the dynamics of hearing and being heard. In making this argument, it moves beyond the sole focus on linguistic and visual metaphors in work on subjectivation, to consider the possibility and implications of a musical subjectivation, seeking throughout to draw out the tensions between the personal relations of belonging created by this subjectivation and the broader political power dynamics in the performance of Welshness. The argument unfolds through an ethnographic analysis of several different encounters: encounters between Indigenous Tehuelche (who were the original inhabitants of the land that was colonised) and the Welsh settlers as depicted in media, literature, academia, and through stories told in present-day Patagonia, encounters between tourists from Wales and local Welsh Patagonians in choir rehearsals in Gaiman Music School, encounters between the Welsh Patagonians and their own performances as Welsh as they watch films of 5 themselves during film-nights in Gaiman, encounters between music and community in Gaiman Music School in terms of the role of music in creating a homogenous and coherent Welsh community, encounters between the self and the ideal musical ‘I’ during acts of musical self-cultivation, and finally the heightened performance of these encounters in the annual Eisteddfod (a Welsh festival of the arts) which was held in the province.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
SupervisorHarry Walker (Supervisor) & Mathijs Pelkmans (Supervisor)

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