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Becoming Inca: Landscape Construction and Subject Creation in Ancient Cuzco

Steve Kosiba, University of Minnesota, Fellow 2017–2018

I conducted research on the places and things, many of which were treated as animate beings, that embodied traditional authority in the Inca Empire and the Pre-Columbian Americas. I looked at how authority was constituted when places and things can speak, influence decisions, and demand recognition; and how our definitions and views of politics change if we take seriously that, in many Pre-Columbian American contexts, places and things were perceived and treated as bases of moral authority or as authorities themselves. The political concepts of many Pre-Columbian and indigenous Americans hinged on the perceived animacy of materials or places, but far less clear are the terms by which contemporary scholars understand a kind of politics in which both humans and materials can play social and authoritative roles. This is largely because the concepts they employ (borrowed from Western philosophy and history) define places and things solely as symbols of power, materializations of worldviews, or props for political action. My research yielded crucial resources to critically reevaluate how scholars have written about Pre-Columbian politics and to build a perspective based on Native American principles of authority. This research has yielded three article submissions and a book manuscript.