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Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 4:45pm
McGraw Hall, 215
740-750 University Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
“Beyond” the Grid of Labor Control: Salvaged, Persisting and Leaky Assemblages in Colonial Guatemala
Spanish colonial incursions into highland Guatemala encountered a vibrant assemblage of people, places, plants and things, entangled in part via the ubiquitous markets that dotted the landscape. Rather than fully disrupt this assemblage, colonists sought to preserve it and salvage value from it by leveling tribute and labor demands on Maya communities. At the same time, they pursued these accumulation projects through strategies of colonial control that re-ordered the landscape and its settlements, enabling new forms of surveillance, tracking, subject making and exploitation of native communities and laborers. This “grid” of control proved effective in generating accountings of available labor, and knowledge of native subjects, and the resources of the landscapes they dwelled in, all of which informed the level and type of tribute, albeit tailored to the resources, crafts, and commercial practices extant to the regions and communities. However, an ambivalence emerged from this dependence on extant native infrastructure, and relations that were not new, but rather refractions of the established “taskscapes” of highland Guatemala; an assemblage that always remained outside of colonists full control that made the grid a thoroughly leaky one.
GIS based agrosuitability studies for high value crops, along with census data, social network analysis, and archaeological evidence of market exchange allow the tracing of these leaks that sprung from the Spanish colonial grid and undermined the atomization of the landscape and communities centered on towns, tribute and territorial boundaries. These analyses reveal the frictions between the strategies and tactics of colonial control, and the embedded assemblages of precolonial origin that leaked through, between and beyond its dividing lines.