Legibility and Empire: Mediating the Inka Presence in Huarochirí Province, Peru
Hernández Garavito, Carla Cecilia
This dissertation investigates local community experiences of Inka imperialism between the 15th and 16th centuries t in the central highlands of Peru. It builds on studies of Inka imperialism in the province, with a focus on social practices and rituals of a community among the Yauyos people of Huarochirí Province (modern Lima Department). My theoretical framework builds on the concept of legibility from James Scott’s book, “Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed” (1998). In this view, states need to eliminate diversity and variability among their subjects in order to establish successful standardized polices. As one aspect of Scott’s model, legibility is the process through which states build an overarching and simplifying view of their subjects. The politics between empire and local subjects thus rest on the quality and depth of knowledge that states have of local practices, which in turn determine the degree of investment and cost-efficiency of the state in a specific area, and the negotiation of power dynamics between both parties. In Huarochirí, I examine a continuous process of mediation of the Inka state’s prerogative to bureaucratize and reduce local variation in social practices and institutions with the deeply embedded practices of local peoples. My central argument is that the use of familiar cultural practices by the Inka to mediate, if not control, their expanding empire also created the social spaces for local polities to maintain, formalize, and, at times, expand their own cultural practices and traditions. Through a detailed analysis of Huarochirí’s unique colonial documentary corpus, combined with archaeological reconnaissance and excavation, my dissertation provides a history of the Inka and their subjects from a local perspective rather than through the lenses of official state history as filtered through the perspectives of Spanish colonial actors.