Inca Girls and Women: Interdisciplinary Approaches

AHA Session 23
Conference on Latin American History 1
Friday, January 3, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Riverside Ballroom (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Jeremy Ravi Mumford, Brown University
José Carlos de la Puente, Texas State University

Session Abstract

Gender in the Inca state is a classic topic for ethnohistory, but we know very little about the lived experience of Inca girls and women. Many of the basic questions that historians of other times and places grapple with – women’s life trajectories, rights to property and personal autonomy, political agency, and sexuality – are difficult to answer for Inca women, even the most elite. This panel uses the methods of three disciplines to uncover the lives of women and girls in three periods of Inca history: the mature Inca state, the neo-Inca state of Vilcabamba built by refugees from the Spanish invasion, and the accommodationist Inca elite in early colonial Cuzco. Art historian Stella Nair explores the ways in which girls were educated by the Inca state in the acllauasi, or “house of the chosen women”. She argues that this architectural complex reveals the ways in which female authority was both valued as well as feared and suppressed by imperial male authorities. Literary and cultural studies scholar Sara Guengerich uncovers the female actors of the Neo-Inca State of Vilcabamba to build a historical narrative that includes them in the cultural transformations that took place during forty years of European-Indigenous relations in early colonial Peru. Her paper also glances into the inner workings of the Incas of Vilcabamba vis-à-vis their Cuzco’s counterparts. Historian Jeremy Mumford examines the aborted marriage and rape of one of the heiresses of Vilcabamba, seven-year-old Beatriz Coya, to an adult Spanish man in Cuzco in 1565, showing how child marriage was both transgressive and a marker of high status in both Castilian and Inca noble cultures, and a point of ethnographic cultural negotiation. The three papers use legal transcripts, reconstructed genealogies, and archaeological history to open up the experience of Inca girls and women as historical actors.
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