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Mixed metaphors and mixed media: using commodity chains and commodity circuits to better understand Aztec textile production

Author(s): John Millhauser ; Lisa Overholtzer

Year: 2017

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Archaeological and ethnohistoric investigations of Aztec textile production have shown how women’s labor and domestic economies were interwoven with the imperial political economy. However, remarkably little attention has been paid to the people involved in affiliated industries—like cotton growers, dyers, and spindle-whorl-makers. Material evidence of these people is often ephemeral or isolated, but it is available. In this paper, we draw on theories of commodity chains and commodity circuits to unite these data and show why attention to these affiliated industries matters. The metaphor of the chain draws attention to the social and economic dependencies linking people along a production sequence: links that often correspond to physical places like markets, workshops, and farmlands. Commodity circuits draw attention to flows of goods that are non-linear and multi-directional, to goods that intersect and are bundled together in these flows, and to the flexibility of the meaning and value of these goods. Applying these ideas to Aztec textile production expands our view beyond one segment of society, singular relationships, and finished products. These ideas also direct our attention to variation in terms of work and dependence among the individuals, households, communities, and regions that were linked together by textiles.

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Mixed metaphors and mixed media: using commodity chains and commodity circuits to better understand Aztec textile production. John Millhauser, Lisa Overholtzer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431175)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15016

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America