Markets and Capitalisms in Indigenous Societies in the Colonial Americas

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Archaeological studies of colonial encounters in the Americas have increasingly focused on the role of capitalism within European imperial projects. However, this growing attention on capitalism is vulnerable to endless debates over definitions and transitions, potentially resulting in interpretations that tell us more about Eurocentric notions of capitalism than the complexities of colonial economic arrangements. This session asks participants to move beyond trait-based definitions of capitalism in an effort to understand the actual economic practices that emerged from the friction of local colonial encounters. Specifically, we seek to unpack the tangled web of economic relationships that characterized colonial societies, refocusing our analysis on the ways in which indigenous groups perceived, managed, and ultimately captured colonial markets for their own political and economic goals. We examine the diversity of colonial encounters in the Americas (Spanish, English, Russian, French, etc.) as well as studies of continuities and disruptions across prehistoric/historic boundaries. By centering indigenous societies, the case studies in this session move beyond considerations of capitalism as an ideal type, and instead explore the laborers, traders, and consumers directly responsible for the creation of colonial political economies.

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  • Documents (9)

  • An Analysis of Calluna Hill (59-73): Pequot Cultural Entanglement and Complex Consumption During the Pequot War (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only William Farley.

    This paper includes an overview of the Calluna Hill site (59-73) in Mystic, Connecticut, a 1637 Pequot village burned down immediately after the English siege of Mystic Fort. The site offers the opportunity to explore important methodological and theoretical questions. Here I focus on the village as the location of intense intercultural exchange and cultural entanglement. Calluna Hill offers insights into the complex ways that the Pequot consumed European-made goods and participated in...

  • Charki and Red Currant Jam: Provisioning Extractive Industries in Republican Highland Peru (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Noa Corcoran Tadd.

    With the current boom in the archaeology of the colonial period in the central Andes, we risk losing sight of the potential for archaeological investigation of the colonial aftermath. Following important work further afield in the Southern Cone, I argue for the particular relevance archaeology could have in exploring trade liberalization, emancipation, and the new commodity booms of the 19th century. Drawing on the recent investigation of a series of Republican tambos (roadside inns) in the...

  • Cherokee Participation in the Southern Slave Society (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lance Greene.

    On the eve of the Removal during the Early Republic era, most Cherokees still practiced traditional modes of subsistence farming and participated in local economies. At the same time, a small but influential segment of the Cherokee Nation was completely entrenched in the capitalist economy, operating largescale plantations, businesses, and other ventures. These Cherokees were participants in the slave society of the southeastern United States in two ways; they owned African-American slaves, and...

  • An Exploration of Indigenous Participation in Spanish Economic Activities in 17th-century New Mexico (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Heather Trigg.

    When the viceroy of New Spain gave permission for the establishment the colony of New Mexico in the late 16th century, he acknowledged the importance of indigenous people to the colonial enterprise, urging the governor to treat indigenous Pueblo people kindly so that they would work for the colonists. The Spanish colonists’ economy largely consisted of the barter of subsistence goods. Throughout the 17th century, Pueblos and other indigenous peoples both engaged and were integrated into the...

  • Indigenous Miners and the Making of the Andean Markets in Colonial Huancavelica (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Douglas Smit.

    The mercury mines of Huancavelica have often been described through two familiar discourses in the colonial narrative, the European pursuit of wealth through extractive industries, and the simultaneous destruction of indigenous Andean communities through brutal forced labor and the corrosive effects of the colonial market. While these two historiographical traditions contain a great deal of truth, they can minimize the role of indigenous Andeans in the creation of new economic networks that...

  • Law, private property, and the construction of the family in the archaeological record of colonial Moquegua (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Pilar Escontrias.

    In 1884, Friedrich Engels attributed the development of the nuclear family unit to the rise of the capitalist state and the subsequent emergence of private property in 16th century Europe. In The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, he posited that private property resulted in the restructuring of kinship practices where women gradually lost authority over their own activities, spaces, and their lives, and where the division of labor became gendered and spatialized. In this...

  • ‘Little Hope of Much Trade This Year’: Merchant Capitalism and Community-making in the Late Eighteenth-Century Western Great Lakes Fur Trade (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amelie Allard.

    While the North American Fur Trade has often been examined through economic lenses, scholarship from the 1980s onward has striven to demonstrate that this colonial phenomenon was more than mere trade and merchant capitalism: it also embodied a complex web of social relationships and practices that went beyond daily transactions. In this paper, I unpack the ways in which exchanges, of myriad shapes and forms, between Euro-Canadian fur traders and local Indigenous groups in the Western Great Lakes...

  • Resisting Capitalocentrism: Heterogenous Assemblages of Market and Antimarket Practices in Colonial Guatemala (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Guido Pezzarossi.

    The consequences of Spanish colonial/capitalist intrusions into highland Guatemala is an emerging focus of archaeological investigation. While providing insight into the entanglements between colonialism and capitalism and their effects on Maya communities, it is critical to not fixate on finding capitalism and its effects to the exclusion of other patterns of practice and life central to the experience of people in the past. Overemphasizing capitalism in our analyses reifies the suffocating...

  • A Tale of Two Pueblos: Varying Consumption Practices and Market Dependence Within the Margins of the Spanish Colonial Empire in Mexico (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lisa Overholtzer. John Millhauser.

    Studies of Spanish colonial capitalism often exclude Mesoamerica or relegate it to a peripheral and dependent role in the emerging global economy. Despite pre-Hispanic antecedents for many capitalist practices, such as market-based circulation and market dependence, the economy that emerged in New Spain is often portrayed as a function of the European economy. In contrast, we follow Pezzarossi in considering how colonial shifts in consumption were informed by pre-Hispanic practices and were not...