Relational Empire: The Non-modern Violence of the Inka State

Author(s): Darryl Wilkinson

Year: 2016


The use of “relational” approaches in archaeology seems much more prevalent in some contexts as compared to others. Particularly, it is most often invoked with respect to prehistoric hunter-foragers – that is, societies that are “politically non-complex” to use the classic archaeological terms. Perhaps as a result, violence is seldom discussed in the literature on relationality, unless to point out the contrasting violence of modernity itself. Yet for those of us who deal with indigenous empires, the issue of violence is much harder to ignore. So while it may be true that the Inkas also attributed personhood to many nonhumans, if those nonhumans failed to march to the imperial beat, they could be executed for treason or subjected to corporal punishment. In principle then, relationality might be no less amenable to realizing violence and domination than is modernity. In this paper I examine the violent nature of the relational ontologies of the Inkas, and argue that this highlights a significant “blind spot” for the ethical commitments of the relational turn. We are often enjoined to “take seriously” the alternative realities posited by non-Western ontologies, but in practice have avoided doing so where it conflicts with deeply held humanist values.

Cite this Record

Relational Empire: The Non-modern Violence of the Inka State. Darryl Wilkinson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403335)


Inkas ontology Violence

Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;