Dispersing Power: The Contentious, Egalitarian Politics of the Salado Phenomenon in the Hohokam Region of the U.S Southwest


Mar. 7, 2022, 11:30am to 12:30pm

Office/Remote Location

C120 or join remotely via Webex.


Please join for the UNLV Anthropology Talk, given by Lewis Borck. Borck is assistant professor at New Mexico Highlands University. Join us in-person or register to join us online.

Abstract: One of the great tragedies of global archaeology is that the discipline was started by Europeans entrenched in the ideological detritus of attempts to author legitimacy for their expanding empires through their assumed cultural connections with the so-called Classical societies in and around the Mediterranean. Because of this, we continue to explain movements away from centralization and aggregation of power as anomalies, or collapses, or peripheries, or natural reactions to environmental change. In this talk, I'll start to answer one of archaeology's big what-ifs: What if "collapses" were the result of widespread, intentional actions to create change? To do so, I describe my research on how local communities reacted to the spread of a new ideology that archaeologists call the Salado Phenomenon and address how tensions stretching across political, social, and religious spheres created a pattern observed in the archaeological record that has previously been interpreted as a religious cult. I'll discuss how this pattern relates to acts of resistance and why these acts demonstrate that the Salado Phenomenon represents the remains of a spatially and culturally dispersed religious social movement that burst across the southern Southwest, aimed at contesting the centralization of power by regional elites and councils during the Hohokam Classic period (AD 1100/1200-1450) by using fissures in the ideo-political landscape of the Greater Southwest to contextualize this movement. This view of Salado will be placed alongside Akimel and Tohono O’Odham histories as well to argue that "collapses" should always be investigated first from a position that assumes that communities were intentional about reorganizations that dispersed power.

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Peter Gray