What If the Aztec Empire Never Existed? The Prerequisites of Empire and the Politics of Plausible Alternative Histories

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21 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article studies archaeological and local versions of the past at Xaltocan, Mexico. At Xaltocan, the past provides a vehicle for statements of ethnic, national, and community identity. Community organizations seek to glorify the town as the descendant of an ancient kingdom that, had a different constellation of historical processes transpired, could have become both the center of an empire and a nation. This process raises questions regarding archaeology's utility and points of convergence and divergence between archaeological and local versions of the past. Rather than disregard the local appropriation of archaeological knowledge, this article attempts both to recognize the relationship between the past and identity politics and to assess local claims by examining archaeological and historical data. This article also considers the problems of this project, particularly the unintended consequences of archaeological research connected to identity politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-281
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Volume114
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Aztec empire
  • Empire
  • Heritage
  • Identity
  • Mexico

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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