Event: Friday Seminar: "Partnering with Pots: The Work of Objects in the Imperial Inca Project"
Speaker: Dr. Tamara L. Bray, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University
New understandings of matter and materiality are being driven by recent theoretical developments in the realm of science, particularly physics and ecology. These evolving orientations are, in turn, contributing to new philosophical thinking on the nature of being and reality. The trickle-down effects of these developments are, in part, responsible for what has been termed “the ontological turn,” a trend clearly visible in recent archaeological discourse. In combination with new relational and symmetrical approaches guiding investigations into constitution of “the social,” the door has been opened to imagining logics and ontologies different from our own in our studies of past peoples. In this paper, I work from the basis of the imperial Inca ceramic assemblage to consider how these distinctive objects were deployed in the task of
empire-building and what insights they provide into native Andean and Inca ontology during the late pre-Columbian period. I develop the argument that imperial pots were construed as animate bodies and agents of the State based on an analysis of vessel morphology and iconography. The study brings to the fore the mutually constituted nature of the imperial Inca project, which I contend involved armies of both people and things working collectively in the construction of a new social order