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Andean indigeneity from precontact times to the present has been generally predicated on the survival of the agropastoral commons. Peru’s colonial and postcolonial histories are particularly linked to the ebb and flow of the “indigenous,” later “peasant” community, a powerful symbol of Peru’s native roots domestically and abroad. In this work-in-progress, I revisit the history of colonial Andean commons through the question of land and tenure. In the pages that follow, I return to the village by zeroing in on one such story, a 1644 municipal court case involving a seemingly destitute widow that, it is worth mentioning, is one of only four known exemplars of Andean municipalities acting as courts of justice prior to 1700. Even though the original proceedings were preserved as part of a larger judicial dossier aired before Lima’s high court, I am interested in how “communal” holdings worked when native Andeans and their attorneys were not crafting legal arguments for their day in court. It is impossible to settle the matter of whether forms of exclusive (I.e., private or individual) domain or exclusive use over land or its product existed in prehispanic times with the documentation at hand, although the evidence suggests that the twin set of fundamental oppositions on which the current debate rests (individual vs. collective and property vs. use) might present us with a false dilemma. One might need not subordinate the individual to the group, or vice versa. In this essay, I follow John Murra’s suggestion to focus on energy and movement as a means to unlock the Andean commons. I too build on the idea of ayllu as a mutually constitutive relation between the individual and the group, refraining on imposing too drastic a distinction between part and whole. In reassessing the available evidence, I highlight processes of commoning and uncommoning through individual and collective action. I take the analysis beyond legal definitions of property and dominion, appropriation of native lands, and the recognition of the entangled nature of land tenure systems in villages and towns throughout the colonial world. This type of processual approach to land tenure disputes, and to commoning and uncommoning in general, brings the shifting realities of Andean collectives to the fore, validating, perhaps even requiring, its historical analysis.
José Carlos de la Puente Luna is an associate professor of History at Texas State University. He received his Ph.D. in History from Texas Christian University in 2010. His teaching and research interests include native accounting technologies, indigenous chroniclers and litigants, the colonial Inka nobility, and indigenous systems of land tenure and territorial representation. His latest book, Andean Cosmopolitans: Seeking Justice and Reward at the Spanish Royal Court (University of Texas Press, 2018), received the Flora Tristán Award from the Latin American Studies Association. He is a Fellow at the Institute for Historical Studies in 2019-20.
R. Alan Covey
Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Free and open to the public. RSVP required to firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 8, at 10am, to sign-up to attend. Light lunch provided to all who RSVP. The Institute for Historical Studies is committed to sustainable practices and minimizing waste. To that end, we ask that you inform us in your RSVP if you will not require lunch. In addition, we have eliminated all bottled water and encourage attendees to bring their own reusable canteens to fill at our first-floor bottle-refilling station.
Sponsored by the Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History, and LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Monday, November 11 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Garrison Hall (GAR), 4.100
128 INNER CAMPUS DR , Austin, Texas 78705