Chapter

Power, Agency, and Identity

Christopher S. Beekman and Alexander F. Christensen

in Rethinking Anthropological Perspectives on Migration

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780813036076
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041780 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813036076.003.0008
Power, Agency, and Identity

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The study of migration among complex societies, even ancient ones, requires careful consideration of how power relationships impact on migrant identity and its expression through material culture. The vulnerability of migrants or their social persecution can result in a lack of concordance among biological, linguistic, and archaeological datasets by intensifying the use of material culture to express or downplay social difference. This chapter thus uses linguistic and ethnohistoric data at the regional scale to identify a migration by Nahuatl speakers and their subsequent interactions with Otomi speakers in first millennium ad Mesoamerica, and the material culture is then interpreted in light of its role in affirming or obscuring social affiliation. The initial migrants were only briefly visible archaeologically before an accommodation was reached that obscured separate identities at the local level. Nahuatl speakers later achieved a position of prominence in a politically based ethnic hierarchy that lasted several hundred years.

Keywords: power; identity; migration; complex societies; Mesoamerica; Nahuatl; archaeology; language; ethnohistory

Chapter.  8483 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology

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