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McGill Anthropology Speaker Series: Dr. Christina T. Halperin
McGill Anthropology Speaker Series: Dr. Christina T. Halperin

Mon, Oct 02


Peterson Hall, room 116

McGill Anthropology Speaker Series: Dr. Christina T. Halperin

Foreigners Among Us: Captivity and Enslavement in Ancient Maya Society

Time & Location

Oct 02, 2023, 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Peterson Hall, room 116, 3460 Rue McTavish, Montréal, QC H3A 0E6, Canada

About the event

Alterity in ancient Maya society was not necessarily an intrinsic element of difference. Rather it could be made so and repetitively reinforced through warfare, the performances of captivity, and the enslavement of individuals through displacement and physical force.  This talk highlights two different ways in which cruelty and physical violence were a part of the making of foreign identities – an elite masculine one that was highly visible in the historic record and put on public display as part of spectacles of power and submission – and a lower-status and highly feminized one that was relatively invisible in the historical record but highly visible in the everyday routines of work and labor. Nonetheless, both practices highlight a contradictory process. While victorious groups rejected and denigrated certain peoples through the process of sacrifice, captivity, and possibly enslavement, they also brought the Other into their realm, they fed them, their deities were fed by them, and they brought them to live in their homes and settlements. In turn, enslaved peoples living in the homes of their captors undoubtedly influenced the composition and practices of these households, and they were able to assert their agency, albeit in asymmetric ways, as cultural brokers. ​

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