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Conquistadors, Tin Barons, and Silver Thieves: An Anthropological History of Small-Scale Metal Production in Porco, Bolivia
Mary Van Buren, Professor of Anthropology
Colorado State University

The mines of Porco, in south-central Bolivia, have been exploited by the Inka state, Spanish conquistadors, a Bolivian tin baron, and a series of multinational corporations. Archaeological, ethnographic, and historical data show, however, that indigenous artisanal and small-scale mineral production (ASM) has persisted in the shadow of these large mining enterprises. This talk examines the reasons for the persistence and change in small-scale production by applying Bertell Ollman’s method of “doing history backwards” to the long-term trajectory of small-scale mining in Porco and then considering it in terms of ASM in other parts of the world. Such an approach provides an understanding of “traditional” silver production that acknowledges both continuities in indigenous practice as well as changes due to transformations of the political economy.

Mary Van Buren is a Professor of Anthropology at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins. Her research interests include the historical archaeology of the Andes and Rocky Mountains, colonialism, labor, and mining and metallurgy. She directed a long-term field project on labor and mining in Bolivia that was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for Humanities, and has published articles in American Anthropologist, International Journal of Historical Archaeology, Latin American Antiquity, and Historical Archaeology, among other journals. She was recently awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in support of a book she is writing about indigenous labor and the long-term trajectory of small-scale metal production in Bolivia.

For further information, please contact anthprog@hawaii.edu

Feb 18, 2021 03:00 PM in Hawaii

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