“Beyond” the Grid of Labor Control: Salvaged, Persisting, and Leaky Assemblages in Colonial Guatemala

  • Guido PezzarossiEmail author


Spanish colonial incursions into highland Guatemala encountered a vibrant assemblage of entangled people, places, plants, and things. Colonists sought to marshall this assemblage into various accumulation projects through strategies of colonial control that re-ordered the landscape and its settlements, enabling new forms of surveillance, tracking, subject making, and exploitation of Native communities and laborers. This “grid” of control proved effective in many regards, particularly due to the preservation of the extant assemblage of infrastructure, social relations, and relations of production encountered. Rather than fully disrupt it, colonists accommodated this assemblage and sought to salvage value from its persistence. However, an ambivalence emerged from this dependence on the refracted assemblage of highland Guatemala; an assemblage that remained outside of colonists full control and made the colonial grid a thoroughly leaky one as people and things became or remained entangled in ways that subverted the goals of colonial control and afforded the persistence of Native communities and relations through, between and beyond the violence of colonization.


Guatemala Colonialism Spatial control GIS Labor Cacao 



Many thanks to Alanna Warner-Smith and Sarah Platt for the opportunity to contribute to this issue and the SAA session it is based on (as well as for all the patience and feedback in getting it completed). Thanks to Kelton Sheridan for helping with the colonial census data collection that is the basis of the Social Network Analysis. Research at San Pedro Aguacatepeque was largely supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (Award ID: 1346286), National Geographic Waitt Society (#W10-107), and GeoEye Foundation, as well as by the Stanford University Department of Anthropology, and Graduate School. Finally, thanks to the multiple reviewers who helped improve this article on all fronts, however any errors lingering are all my own.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, Maxwell SchoolSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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