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Title: Decolonizing Historical Archaeology in Southern Oaxaca, Mexico: Late Formative to Republican Periods
Author: Zborover, Dan
Advisor: McCafferty, Geoffrey
Keywords: Archaeology
Issue Date: 29-Jan-2014
Abstract: The cultural area roughly corresponding to the modern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, was a dynamic cultural arena which saw the rise and development of multiple complex societies and their respective historiographic traditions. This dissertation focuses on the development and application of integrative approaches to the archaeological, documentary, and oral records from the Chontal highlands in southern Oaxaca, with a particular emphasis on the Chontal community of Santa Maria Zapotitlan. Following a critique and reconfiguration of the methodological and theoretical tenets of ‘historical archaeology’, I propose to acknowledge and incorporate Mesoamerican indigenous literate societies within a more inclusive paradigm. Based on data collected in the ‘Chontalpa Historical Archaeology Project’, I draw my data from a rich documentary corpus of indigenous ‘territorial-narratives’, archaeological surveys and excavations, visual and archaeometric analysis of artifacts, ethnoarchaeology, and a systematic collection of oral traditions. By subjecting these epistemically independent sources to corroborative, complementary, and contrastive modes of inquiry, I explore low-level spatial and temporal correlates followed by high-level correlates of interregional interaction, colonialism, factionalism, and resistance. These integrative correlates are examined through five diachronic case-studies: 1) Monte Alban’s imperialism in the Formative period and interregional interactions in the Classic period; 2) Mixtec, Zapotec, and Pochutec conquests and domination of the Chontalpa in the Early-Late Postclassic; 3) The Aztec incursion and multi-polity/inter-ethnic factionalism in the Late-Terminal Postclassic; 4) Chontal and Spanish interregional competition, colonialism, and resistance in the Colonial Period; and 5) The Chontal historical image, from the Colonial through the Modern Period. By calling attention to the contrasts between the material and documentary records, this inclusive approach further challenges derogatory colonizer narratives of the Chontal people. To this end, a particular emphasis is placed on community-based participatory approaches and the relevance of this research to the contemporary Chontal ethnic group. As such, this study is rooted in debates on decolonization and the Postcolonial critique, indigenous agency, and re-writing alternative histories. It further aims to contribute to our understanding of southern Oaxacan history and archaeology, the formulation of heuristic guidelines to Mesoamerican integrative studies, and the development of an inclusive historical archaeology in Oaxaca, and beyond.
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