University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Exploring Contemporary Indigenous Spritualities Through Material Culture


I will be working in central Colombia (the Cundinamarca and Boyaca areas), from 22nd June to 22nd August, exploring how indigeneity is constructed and experienced in urban contexts. I will look at how spiritual practices are authenticated through their materialization in pre-hispanic archaeological artifacts and landscapes. This research will provide us important data to analyze how the relationship between governments and citizens in postcolonial settings alter the politics of identity construction.

Two recently self-recognized indigenous groups from the high flatlands of central Colombia are contesting the government’s approach to indianness by seeking people´s approval and engagement instead of governmental concessions. They have revitalized the Muisca prehipanic spiritual traditions and publicized them through the performance of ritual practices around lakes, mountains, archaeological sites and museum objects that, according to them, are infused with ancestral meanings.

This summer, I will evaluate the viability of two case-studies, establishing contact with community leaders and setting up a plan for fieldwork in 2014 with their approval. I will also obtain the permissions to undertake research required by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology.

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