Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Agency, ‘Til Death Do Us Part? Inquiring about the Agency of Dead Bodies from the Ancient Andes

  • Tiffiny A. Tung (a1)

Abstract

This study argues that people and things, through their interactions with each other, embody different agential capacities and that scholars should evaluate how they are variably effective at structuring the actions of others and at shaping society. This is attempted here through a study of dismembered body parts that, as I argue, remained socially and politically active even in their dismembered state. As such, we can begin to analyse them as embodying a categorically different kind of agency — post-mortem or secondary agency — while remaining cautious of overzealous attempts to claim that everyone and everything has agency of equivalence. Definitions of agency are examined and its definition within this article is explicitly formulated, drawing especially on ideas from Gell (1998), Robb (2004), Sewell (2005) and Latour (2005). Through a case study from the Peruvian Andes in which approximately 240 individuals were dismembered, I suggest that the primary agency once embodied in those living persons was transformed into secondary agency (Gell 1998) as the person-cum-corpse was remade into smaller body parts. These body parts and their placement in a ritually significant locale, had profound effects on the living, particularly as it related to the ways that those dead-body objects extended social relations and social hierarchies, making them more durable.

Copyright

Agency, ‘Til Death Do Us Part? Inquiring about the Agency of Dead Bodies from the Ancient Andes

  • Tiffiny A. Tung (a1)

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.