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Looking Ahead to the Past: An Ethnographer’s Perspective on Archaeology in the Andes

The Oak Room, Fellowship House
April 12, 2018
05:30 PM to 07:30 PM
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Pre-Columbian Studies Public Lecture, Catherine Allen, George Washington University

It is often said that “the past is present,” but to what extent is this true in a region like the Andes after centuries of invasion, upheaval, and cultural repression? Can a view from the present illuminate any aspects of the Pre-Columbian past—and vice versa? In this lecture, Catherine Allen explores the ways in which ethnographic, ethnohistorical, and archaeological research in the Andes might inform each other. Beginning with concrete examples of continuity in household ritual, Professor Allen goes on to discuss how certain attitudes and concepts are embodied in an interactive relationship with the environment and expressed in material practices such as weaving and agriculture.

Catherine J. Allen, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at George Washington University, is a sociocultural anthropologist with an interest in Andean expressive culture, present and past. She is the author of The Hold Life Has: Coca and Cultural Identity in an Andean Community, and brings insights from this ethnographic research to bear in her publications on Colonial and Pre-Columbian iconography. Her work also includes an ethnographic drama and extensive translation of Quechua narratives included in Foxboy: Intimacy and Aesthetics in Andean Stories. Current interests include Andean systems of knowledge and their material expressions.

A brother and sister contemplate Qesqay Qocha in the Department of Cusco, Peru. The lake is said to hold a key to their community’s history. Photo: Catherine Allen.