Community and the Contours of Empire: The Hacienda System in the Northern Highlands of Ecuador

  • Zev A. CossinEmail author


Relationships between humans and material goods are key in the emergences of social identity and status under imperial projects. I argue that a critical focus on the concept of “community” provides a salient frame by which to assess status and identity and that everyday materiality is a key mechanism by which such collective forms of identity are forged. I draw on historical documents, oral histories, and archaeological evidence of a late nineteenth-century indigenous hacienda laborer household from Hacienda Guachalá, highlands of Ecuador, and show that status and identity may be generated through what you do rather than what you own.


Community Materiality Hacienda system Household Huasipungo Ecuador 



Funding for portions of this research were provided by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a Joseph L. Love Fellowship from the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UIUC. Ideas for this paper were first presented at a session of the SAA 2017 annual meetings. I am thankful to the co-organizers of that session, Scotti Norman and Sarah Kennedy, as well as to peer reviewers, Brendan Weaver and Alex Menaker for constructive comments and ideas on earlier drafts. Special thanks as well to Helaine Silverman, Chris Fennell, Chad Gifford, Samuel Connell, Amber Anderson, Siobhan Boyd, and Daniela Balanzátegui for generous feedback and support throughout this research and writing process. Additionally, this work would not have been possible without the help of countless scholars, students and community members who are a part of the Pambamarca Archaeology Project and the communities of Cangahua.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Washington DCUSA

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