Formative Experiences: Everyday Life and Political Violence in Yucatan, 1847-1866

Author(s): Tiffany Cain

Year: 2017


How can we study political violence in the archaeological record? How does it impact civilian spaces and how can we rethink its consequences for everyday life? This paper argues for the interpretive value of civilian landscapes for the study of violent conflict. The tendency to treat political violence as an event (e.g. the Caste War of Yucatan) in archaeology, rather than a prolonged sociopolitical episode or process, impoverishes our archaeological theorization of violence: violence is forced to enter a sphere of exceptionalism, positioned outside of the ‘everyday.’ Yet, such violence is not confined to the battlefield or other archetypal conflict spaces. It enters into the domestic sphere and assaults civilian population centers. Here, I present the preliminary findings of an archaeological study of the postconflict landscapes of Quintana Roo, Mexico. I focus specifically on evidence likely representative of the early years of the Caste War or Maya Social War (1847-1901). I show that when we reconsider the common material proxies of war – fortification and abandonment – in a way that recenters ordinary people, we position ourselves to understand not only the mechanics of war but the transformative effect of political violence on people’s lives and the landscape.

Cite this Record

Formative Experiences: Everyday Life and Political Violence in Yucatan, 1847-1866. Tiffany Cain. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431971)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15889