Ending the silence: the Quipu Project


During the 1990s, the then president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori launched a family planning programme which led to the sterilisation of 272,028 women and 22,004 men without informed consent. Most of these individuals were indigenous people living in rural areas. In our latest blog post, Professor Matthew Brown, Professor in Latin American History at the University of Bristol, explains how the Quipu Project helps to shine a light on these unconsented sterilisations as well as the many important outputs that have arisen as a result of this project.

We’re delighted that the full archive of testimonies collected by The Quipu Project have now been published, which relates to the unconsented sterilisation of thousands of Peruvians in the 1990s, together with a Video Guide about the project’s methodology.

The Archive

The archive, which can be accessed via this­­ webpage, contains 178 testimonies attesting to the ways in which sterilisation was carried out, the health problems suffered by those people who were sterilised, and their ongoing fight for justice.

The testimonies are available in MP3 format, and have been transcribed into their original language (either Quechua, Shipibo or Spanish) and translated into Spanish and English. The files are published under a Creative Commons license, meaning that they are freely available for researchers to consult and use in an appropriate and respectful manner.

Quipu was a participatory collective story-telling research project, initially funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded React Hub, an organisation set up to bring academics, artists and creative businesses together, and so the testimonies are anonymised.

The Video Guide

The Quipu Project collected a host of commendations and support during its lifespan. Reflecting on this, we have produced a Video Guide explaining the ethos of the project and the participatory research methodology, which can be viewed in either English or Spanish.

The Quipu Project comprised a research and collaborative documentary project, created by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from UK and South America about cases of forced sterilisation in Peru. The project, whose academic leads included myself and Dr Karen Tucker at the University of Bristol, aimed to move beyond research that presented women and men involved in unconsented sterilisation as victims or as statistics.

One of our first creations was an interactive documentary which connects a free telephone line in Peru to this platform, enabling these voices to finally be heard.

You can also watch this 2017 film about the project Quipu: Calls for Justice directed by Maria Court and Rosemarie Lerner and published by The Guardian.

The Quipu Project was dedicated to the memory of Giulia Tamayo, activist, lawyer and human rights defender who first uncovered the forced sterilisation cases in Peru. As the Video Guide shows, it was a multi-sited, multi-lingual co-production from the beginning. It started off as a collaboration between the production company Chaka Studio, its producers Maria Court, Rosemarie Lerner, Sebastián Melo and Sandra Tabares-Duque, the creative technologist Ewan Cass-Kavanagh, and researchers at the University of Bristol. The UX Design and Development was by Mike Robbins and Helios Design Labs.

The Quipu Project worked with local organisations of people affected by forced sterilisations in Peru that had been fighting for justice for many years. They continue to struggle against the odds, and against the world’s indifference, over a quarter of a century later.

The Quipu Project involved people and groups across Peru and around the world, and a full list of credits can be found via the website. It was supported by the AHRC REACT-Hub and by an AHRC research grant ‘Tying Quipu’s Key Knots’.

For further information about this project, please contact Professor Matthew Brown.

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