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Archaeology of capitalism in South America 

Andres Zarankin 

Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Traditionally, the most orthodox positions in American historical archaeology have limited this field in a way that reinforces and naturalizes the colonial past and heritage. Since the 1990’s, and based on decolonial theories, archaeology started to be considered as a form of political action (McGuire 2008). As such, it confronts the metanarratives and homogenizing discourses to highlight the historic role of oppressed groups, report injustices and assume an active place in the struggle for a more democratic and pluralistic present (Funari 1997, Andrade Lima 1999, Gnecco 2012, Haber 2013, among others). 

If the construction of the “past” has been the source for the power system to expand in the present, its transformation in “other” pasts could be the foundation for the beginning of a change. Based on ideas from the archaeology of architecture, I discuss a new Latin American paradigm of historical archaeology in which I have been working during the last years (Stedman 1996, Zarankin 2002). This is aimed at giving visibility to the stories that have never been told, but also at understanding the strategies for the reproduction of the capitalist system. 

As Foucault points out, is common that within the realm of “everyday situations”, various devices constantly operate that reinforce or help to reproduce the dominant system. This “everyday” condition makes these situations generally unnoticeable for people. One of these strategies is connected with the control of the distribution of people and things through space (Foucault 1976). Because archaeology has a special capacity to understand the material world, it can contribute to reveal these invisible devices of the system. I believe that this type of archaeology of the recent past is a way to develop a “decolonizing” archaeology that allows generating changes in the present and contribute to the task of building a more democratic and fair society (Buchli & Lucas 2002, Ruibal 2014). 

I will present and discuss several cases I have worked in the last decade, such as Archaeology of dictatorship, spatial and architectural analysis of houses and schools in Buenos Aires, national heritage construction, among others 

November 12, 2015