Anthropology and the Andes, 1910ā€“45: New Critical Histories

AHA Session 70
Conference on Latin American History 16
Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Room 403 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Christopher H. Heaney, Penn State University and Barra postdoctoral fellow, McNeil Center for Early American Studies
Caroylne Larson, University of Wyoming

Session Abstract

The Andes have long attracted the attention of anthropologists. Yet, only recently have scholars begun to critically examine the historical legacies of the activities of anthropological work on the region’s politics and culture. This panel features three papers that place the history of anthropology in the Andes in a new global and critical context. Each paper uncovers a new narrative of the historical development of anthropology in the region and the political and cultural legacies. Additionally, the panel participants examine how Andean actors interacted in often unequal, but important, relationships in response to changing global conditions and ideas regarding race and politics.

The first paper, presented by Adam Warren examines the activities of the Hiram Bingham-led Yale Peruvian Expedition in Peru between 1911 and 1915. Analyzing the photography and research notes of the expedition, Warren illustrates how indigenous Peruvians, the subjects of the anthropologists’ gaze, interacted with and responded to these studies. In an era when anthropologists hoped to use their techniques of photography to support dominant theories of scientific racism, Warren investigates how indigenous Peruvians both cooperated with and challenged such activities.

Matthew Gildner’s paper shifts our focus from North American expeditions in an era of imperialistic science to Creole anthropological responses and engagement with such theories. Gildner investigates the influence of Belisario Díaz Romero, a Bolivian thinker who, in the 1920s, advocated that the creole elite of his nation were the descendants of the lost civilization of Atlantis. Gildner examines the appeal of Díaz Romero’s work to a Bolivian elite sensitive to claims of ancient ethnic identity in an era of scientific racism.

Finally, Mark Rice’s paper on the Wenner-Gren Expedition to Cusco between 1940 and 1942 examines how hemispheric and local politics shaped anthropological research in Cusco during the 1940s. Organized to fulfil the philanthropic and scholarly vision of the influential Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren, the mission that took place between quickly became intertwined with locals to assert the cultural importance of Cusco and the Andes in Peru’s national identity while others, suspicious that Wenner-Gren sympathized with the Nazis, viewed the mission’s activities through the lens of global conflict.

In addition to these papers, the panel will be chaired by Christopher Heaney with commentary provided by Carolyne Larson. The viewpoints of these scholars, who both have researched and published on the history of archeology and anthropology in the Andes and South America, will contribute to the goals of the panel to raise new questions regarding the role the region has played in global understandings of race, culture, and ethnicity.

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