Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Family Resilience and Social Change

Project: Research project

Project Details


Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Family Resilience and Social Change Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: A Bioarchaeological Investigation of Family During Periods of Sociopolitical Decentralization Overview Family is a fundamental human institution. Although conceptions of"family" vary among societies past and present, families form the basic social units of collective action beyond the individual agent. Families instill social roles and values in children, influence marriage choices, and organize subsistence activities. What happens to families in times of political turmoil when governments fail and economies collapse? Do families redefine themselves to adapt to large-scale adversity, or are they powerless against larger social forces such as prevailing notions of ethnicity and class? Do they respond by becoming more insular and self-sustaining or do they make new alliances and create novel opportunities? At a more basic level, do the criteria for being related change? The proposed research will investigate the interplay of family, ethnicity, and state among pre-Hispanic communities in the south central Andes using evidence from human skeletal remains and their associated burial contexts. After the decline of the Tiwanaku state around AD 1000, Tiwanaku-affiliated communities in the lower Osmore Drainage of southern Peru moved from large, multicultural settlements to smaller, isolated villages and turned to household-centered economic production after the surplus-based export economy collapsed when long distance exchange networks disintegrated. Recent findings from the Tiwanakuaffiliated site of Tumilaca la Chimba suggest that kin-based affiliations were expressed more strongly in post-collapse communities than they had been prior to state decline, when expressions of communitywide ethnic affiliation were prominent. At other sites, Tiwanaku social groups, perhaps corporate kin groups, seem to have responded to the socioeconomic turmoil that followed state decline by allying with communities affiliated with the neighboring Chiribaya polity. The proposed research will assess whether these responses were more broadly characteristic of life in the lower Osmore Drainage after Tiwanaku state decline. Skeletal and dental markers of genetic relatedness will be combined with evidence of cranial modification practices and funerary rituals to investigate the role families played in shaping responses to political decentralization and the collapse of long-distance exchange networks. Intellectual Merit The proposed study will generate new information about a fundamental human institution: families. This project will attempt to transform bioarchaeological approaches to kinship. Rather than simply identifying kin groups within the archaeological record, this study will explore the diverse ways that families are constructed and how they influence individual and small group responses to political turmoil and economic collapse. The impact of political decentralization on Tiwanaku and Chiribaya families has implications for the decline of complex polities in the Andes and for our understanding of cultural evolutionary processes worldwide. Broader Impacts The project will advance discovery and understanding by producing educational brochure that describe the studys findings and promote the museums that provided access to research collections. The study will broaden the participation of underrepresented groups through the training of two or more research assistants from South America in bioarchaeological research methods. The project will enhance the infrastructure for research and education by fostering dialogue and collaboration among the institutions to be visited and the Co-PIs home institution. Study results will be disseminated through the aforementioned brochures, professional publications, public presentations, and the online digital archive for archaeological data, the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR). The proposed study will benefit society by providing temporal depth to our understanding of how human families have been constructed. The variable nature of family composition through time and space has important social and legal implications in the present in terms of who has the right to marry whom and within the context of repatriation of human remains and artifacts under the purview of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
Effective start/end date8/15/147/31/16


  • NSF-ENG: Division of Biological & Critical Systems (BCS): $26,966.00


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