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Marginalized Labor in Colonial Silver Refining: Reconstructing Power and Identity in Colonial Peru (1600-1800 AD)

Kennedy, Sarah A. (2021) Marginalized Labor in Colonial Silver Refining: Reconstructing Power and Identity in Colonial Peru (1600-1800 AD). Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation investigates the daily life of indigenous laborers at unregulated, colonial period silver refineries in the Puno Bay of Peru during the 17th and 18th centuries. I directed the Trapiche Archaeology Project to study one of these refineries, Trapiche Itapalluni, at the household level. Using both archaeological and historical data, I argue that rural silver refineries in the Puno Bay functioned as locations of economic opportunity for marginalized populations. Through an analysis of local, unregulated economic activities of the 17th and 18th centuries, I demonstrate how Puno Bay laborers were able to alter their living conditions and take a more active role in the colonial economy. Importantly, these activities occurred over a century before the development of organized trade and labor unions.

My dissertation results indicate that even though architecture and space at Trapiche Itapalluni was restrictive, access to diverse economic resources, local and imported, was accessible for multiple classes of workers. Spatially, Trapiche was less restrictive and controlled than some other refineries in the Puno Bay. Workers also used the same lithic tools and local culinary equipment that they did before the Spanish conquest and consumed a traditional Andean diet of camelid meat, quinoa, and soups and stews. The meat was generally from good quality cuts purchased from a market. However, living and working conditions were unequal at Trapiche. Workers were constantly exposed to toxic levels of lead and mercury. They also slept in small, temporary houses near a loud and dusty mill.
These contradictions reveal the fluidity of daily life within refineries. While unequal and often dangerous, refineries also provided economic opportunities for marginalized peoples, where other such opportunities were limited during this period. Laborers likely made informed, economic choices to enter the silver refining industry for a few months every year, increasing their access to wages and an array of market goods. They may have even brought their families and animals with them, offsetting many of the economic and social risks of this industry.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Kennedy, Sarah A.sak201@pitt.edusak2010000-0001-8695-3416
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairArkush,
Committee MemberAllen,
Committee MemberBermann,
Committee MemberLamana,
Date: 3 May 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 November 2020
Approval Date: 3 May 2021
Submission Date: 16 March 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 613
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Andes; colonial period; archaeology; silver refining; silver mining; labor; indigenous experience; daily life; trapiche; Trapiche Itapalluni; Puno; Peru
Additional Information: This is the revised version after edits.
Date Deposited: 03 May 2021 14:36
Last Modified: 03 May 2021 14:36


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