Colonial Agrarianism: A Historical Archaeology of Hacienda Land and Labor in Cusco, Peru

R. Alexander (Sandy) Hunter is an anthropological archaeologist interested in the historical interactions of imperialism and ecology, and in particular, the ecological and social consequences of colonial agriculture and resource extraction. Hunter’s current research focuses on the Cusco area of Peru, where he directs historical and archaeological research to better understand how the emergence of the hacienda system of land management under Spanish colonialism effected the focus of agricultural production and local agrarian ecologies. The project is particularly concerned with understanding how indigenous communities were transformed as haciendas became the dominant structure of rural life. Hunter’s broader research and teaching interests focus broadly on human-environment interactions, including; political ecology, histories of agricultural production, landscape studies, colonialism and extraction, and remote sensing and GIS applications in archaeology. Hunter previously obtained a MA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and a BA in History from Iona College, in New Rochelle, NY. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, and the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago.

Hunter’s dissertation draws on archaeological and historical datasets to investigate the ecological and social consequences of Spanish colonialism in the Andes, with a focus on the emergence of the hacienda system of agriculture in the Cusco region of Peru. He argues that the remaking of agrarian ecologies subsequent to the Spanish conquest and emergence of the hacienda system articulated new social and ecological contexts; assemblages of ‘new’ and ‘old’ plants, animals, and labor organization in a structurally refigured Agrarian landscape that simultaneously invoked Inka and Spanish power. Hunter’s dissertation argues that these processes occurred over centuries, and thus, that the Spanish conquest of the Andes is not legible simply as the transition from Inka to Spanish hegemony, but should be understood as one moment in long term processes of colonialism that continue to reverberate into the present. His dissertation explores these processes along three axes: diachronic changes in agricultural practice, manifested materially through shifts in land and infrastructure use; changes in the conceptualization and representation of agricultural land, as demonstrated by land tenure patterns and discourses about land ownership; and the movement within domestic economies that happened alongside these processes as privately held hacienda estates expanded across Andean landscapes, monopolizing agricultural land and labor.