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Of Informants and Archaeologists: Knowledge and Power in 19th-Century Explorations of the Peruvian pre-Hispanic Past

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This paper examines the emerging discipline of archaeology in nineteenth-century Peru. Histories of Peruvian archaeology tend to relegate nineteenth-century Peruvian intellectuals, scholars and collectors working on the pre-Hispanic past to the status of ‘informants’, to agents merely providing European ‘archaeologists’ with information, artefacts and contacts. This paper looks at the interactions between the emerging academic discourse, produced by European and US-American agents, and native and Creole traditions of commemorating, studying and preserving the pre-Hispanic past. By breaking up categories such as ‘antiquarianism’, ‘dilettantism’ and ‘collecting’ as opposed to ‘archaeology’ and ‘science’ it becomes clear that the boundaries are not as clear as we often assume. The prestige associated with archaeology as a modern science by the time influenced who would be called an archaeologist – and who an informant. This presentation sheds light on power-knowledge relations between ‘periphery’ and ‘centre’, and their impact on historical representations of knowledge production.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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