768 - Making things: technology and colonial material culture

20.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30

Coordinator 1: Candiani, Vera (Princeton University , Princeton, Ud States of Am / USA)

In the last two decades historians have privileged the written text as a source of historical information, and productive as it has been, this trend has neglected the role of material objects, the people who made them, and the physical constraints of everyday life in shaping the evolution of societies. This symposium features different approaches from different disciplines to understanding the colonial past through the things that made up its actors' physical surrounding and the choices that these actors made in creating it. It offers a place to discuss broad issues such as how humans interacted with and shaped nature with objects in context of a colonizing process, what objects can tell us about tensions in that process, and whether there was a logic to the manner in which materials and techniques were combined in these objects. The dialogues it hopes to encourage are across the fields of history, arcaheology, anthropology and environmental and materials science, as well as across regions and populations.

Palabras claves: nature, technology, artisans, archaeology, history

768 - Making things: technology and colonial material culture

Divide and Conquer: When Ditches Ruled the Earth.

In 1607, Spanish settlers and crown officials in Mexico began to drain the seasonal wetlands and lakes that surrounded and frequently flooded their new capital. Besides gradually draining, the tunnel, dams, sluices and canals that made up this project -- known as the Desagüe de Huehuetoca -- divided land from water. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, alliances of courtiers, financiers and the crowns of England and France began to do exactly the same to fenlands and marais. What do these simultaneous desiccation projects have in common and what is the significance of their differences? This paper treats these drainage “public works,” as they were conceived and portrayed, as large-scale objects whose meaning and social function are as readable as those of the small-scale objects that students of material culture and technology often focus on. Using archival documentation and existing archaeological research, the paper explores how the deployment of the ditches, enclosures, dams, reservoirs and other large scale structures that made up these public works reshaped not just the landscapes and ecosystems where they were deployed, but also the social relations of power within them and between their locales and the capital cities, seeking also to clarify how the colonial context made a difference on the ground. By focusing on objects made of unglamorous materials such as dirt and brush, and examining them in their social and ecosystemic context, the paper supports the reintegration of the historical study of material culture, technology and the environment.

Palabras claves: tecnologia, ambiente, agua, Mexico, colonial

Autores: Candiani, Vera S. (Princeton University, Ud States of Am / USA)


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