U.Va. Anthropology Professor Receives Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship

April 24, 2009 — Elizabeth Arkush, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Virginia, has received a 2009-10 residential fellowship from the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library for her project on "War, Violent Spectacle and Political Authority in the Pre-Hispanic Andes." 

Dumbarton Oaks Library and Collection in Washington, D.C. holds a world-class collection on Pre-Columbian studies.

Over the course of four millennia in the pre-Hispanic Andes, collective violence unfolded in a striking variety of forms. More populous and hierarchical societies became increasingly militaristic as they developed larger armies, sophisticated logistics and new ways to govern conquered subjects. Evolving alongside was an ancient system of beliefs about predation, fertility and fierce supernatural beings, Andean leaders extended their power through both military victories and violent ritual performances that referenced and reworked these old beliefs in new ways: the sacrifice of war captives, the display of human trophies, staged battles and warlike images.

Arkush's project draws on a wealth of information reported piecemeal in the archaeological, historic and ethnographic literature to delineate the development of Andean collective violence, and she crafts an explanatory framework for its variety based on the changing nature of Andean political authority. In the process, the project makes a broader comparative argument that forms of collective violence are rooted in the changing balance of coercion and attraction in political interaction, even as they simultaneously transform the nature of political interaction.