Theses Doctoral

Politics, infrastructure and non-human subjects: The Inka occupation of the Amaybamba cloud forests

Wilkinson, Darryl A.

This dissertation presents the results of an archaeological study of the Inka occupation and transformation of the Amaybamba Valley, Peru, during the Late Horizon, just prior to the Spanish Conquest. This region lies among the dense cloud forests of the eastern Andes, and was situated at the northwestern edges of the Inka heartland centered around the former imperial capital of Cuzco. The main interest for the Inkas in the Amaybamba lay in its capacity to produce large amounts of coca, a plant which was the foundation of a great many exchange relationships across the Andes. Not only was it central to exchanges between humans, but also with the most important non-human powers of the Inka world.

These powers included major landscape entities, such as the mountains (apukuna) and other kinds of earth beings (often in the form of rock outcrops, or lakes, known as wak'as). The main focus of this dissertation is the question of how these entities were made subjects of the Inka polity. The broader theoretical framework that underpins my thesis is what I refer to as `political ontology', from which I argue for taking a `step-back' from more traditional (post-Enlightenment) accounts of politics which assume the state is a set of relationships between human actors only, and thereby consider the possibility of non-modern states in which other-than-human beings could be made into political subjects.

The Amaybamba is thus presented as a case-study through which we can examine the empirical, archaeological traces of just such processes of subjectification. The Inka presence in the Amaybamba mainly took the form of a series of royal landholdings, which were associated with a number of aristocratic lineages within the empire. My arguments therefore have broader implications for how we understand the royal estate system more generally. In particular, I suggest that the royal estates - which appear from our Western perspective to resemble a series of elite-owned plantations - were in Inka eyes seen more as a means to discipline and control the productive capacities of a potent community of non-humans.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Wilkinson_columbia_0054D_11517.pdf Wilkinson_columbia_0054D_11517.pdf application/pdf 22.9 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
D'altroy, Terence N.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 19, 2013