University of Cambridge > > Department of Archaeology - Garrod seminar series > Toward an acknowledgement of the invisible social metabolism of prestige-goods exchange in the Prehispanic Andes

Toward an acknowledgement of the invisible social metabolism of prestige-goods exchange in the Prehispanic Andes

Add to your list(s) Download to your calendar using vCal

  • UserProf Alf Hornborg, Lunds Universitet
  • ClockThursday 28 April 2022, 16:00-17:30
  • HouseZoom.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Lydia Clough.

The presentation will deal with questions of political economy raised by an application of world-systems perspectives to the kingdoms of the prehispanic Andes. Pivotal to their social hierarchies were artifacts such as ornaments made from distantly derived marine shells and tropical bird feathers. Beyond their symbolic significance, we must acknowledge the great quantities of labour that were expended in the extraction and transports of such artifacts, as well as their formidable potential in catalyzing massive mobilisation of labour and resources at the receiving end. World-system theorists tend to underestimate the material, socio-metabolic role of such premodern ’preciosities’ (or prestige goods). The essential conditions for procuring them may have been almost as invisible to their owners as to modern historians and archaeologists. In emphasizing the tangibility and cultural semiotics of ancient artifacts, economic historians and archaeologists risk duplicating the commodity fetishism of mainstream economists, who focus on the exchange values of trade goods while systematically neglecting the transfers of embodied labour, land, energy, and materials that they represent. Socially decontextualized artifacts thus pervasively obscure the extensive networks of relations of which they are expressions. Estimating the scale of such invisible resource flows enables us to theorize ecologically unequal exchange in both premodern and modern world-systems.


This talk is part of the Department of Archaeology - Garrod seminar series series.

Tell a friend about this talk:

This talk is included in these lists:

Note that ex-directory lists are not shown.


© 2006-2024, University of Cambridge. Contact Us | Help and Documentation | Privacy and Publicity