Entangled archaeology, industry, and labor in El Tajín, Mexico, 1880-2018
- Samuel Thomas Holley-Kline.
- [Stanford, California] : [Stanford University], 2019.
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- In this dissertation, I analyze the indigenous histories silenced in the creation of a bounded and delimited archaeological site from a landscape of pre-Hispanic mounds. I center these questions on the Epiclassic (c. 350-1200 CE) urban center of El Tajín, Mexico. Using a community-grounded counter-mapping methodology, I explore three historical processes relevant to the area's Totonac residents that nevertheless remain undercovered in the literature: transformations in land use, changes in vanilla cultivation, and the effects of oil exploration. I further argue that these three processes constituted the modern archaeological site. In this analysis, government land surveyors, vanilla merchants, and foreign oil companies play foundational roles in the archaeological work of delimiting, managing, guarding, and reconstructing the pre-Hispanic past. Shifting my focus to the present, I then take an ethnographic approach to the archaeological site as a workplace. While the site's managers may have epistemological authority over the interpretation of the past, I take a political-economic focus that reveals that their ability to manage the site is limited by precarious working conditions. Meanwhile, the site's Totonac guards are more often able to carry out their political objectives, thanks to their long histories of labor at the site and organization as a union. For heritage ethnography, my research demonstrates the importance of engaging archaeology and archaeologists as interlocutors, rather than just discourses and subject-positions to be criticized. For archaeologists interested in the politics of the discipline, my dissertation argues for a broadly political-economic focus complimenting current emphases on identity and representation.
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- Submitted to the Department of Anthropology.
- Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2019.