Biological Anthropology Section
Society for Anthropological Sciences
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Social identity theory subtly influences academic and nonacademic attempts to understand human sociality. From efforts to understand the emergence of communities of interest within U.S. national politics to considerations of the importance of “tribalism” in the evolution of human sociality, it is taken for granted that humans can be naturally assigned identity-based categories (such as age and gender) and allocated into groups (families, communities, ethnic groups, and nations) based on certain essential features. In this way, we naturalize Western ontologies of personhood, sociality, and belonging and transpose them to temporal and cultural contexts where they may be alien. In bioarchaeology, there has been little consideration of how the uncritical application of a Western, typological mode of belonging silences and erases alternative modes of belonging and community organization.
Ethnographic research in diverse contexts describes modes of belonging that challenge the naturalness of identity-based belonging. For example, relational modes of belonging emphasize actual connections and interactions among persons rather than assuming affiliation and association are dependent on categorical sameness. Thus, relational modes of belonging better accommodate social, cultural, and biological diversity. Informed by the ethnographic literature, I investigate social organization and community composition in the pre-Hispanic Tiwanaku colonies in the Moquegua Valley, Peru. I integrate diverse lines of bioarchaeological data from mortuary contexts to evaluate alternative models of belonging and community composition to destabilize the dominant paradigm of human sociality and better reconstruct the lived experiences of past peoples.