Claire Maass

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 9704

Approve Date

October 5, 2018

Project Title

Maass, Claire K., Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'Bioarchaeological Perspectives towards African Slavery on Catholic Estates in Colonial Peru,' supervised by Dr. Barbara Voss

Preliminary abstract: Studies of African slavery in colonial Peru frequently cite the ‘better’ or more ‘tolerant’ treatment of enslaved laborers by Catholic landowners in comparison to secular estates. Often argued in the absence of empirical evidence from Catholic slaveholding contexts, such claims are instead grounded in the belief that the religious ethics of Catholic slaveholders would have led them to be more benevolent in their treatment of enslaved laborers. The effect of such assumptions has been to perpetuate the narrative that a more benign form of enslavement might have existed in parts of colonial Peru–a narrative that not only flattens historical interpretation, but also minimizes personal experiences of subjugation and trauma. This project attempts to respond to this discourse on both empirical and conceptual grounds. As the first bioarchaeological investigation of an enslaved Afro-descendant population in Peru, it aims to provide empirical evidence that can be used to evaluate the conditions of enslavement on colonial plantations owned by the Catholic Church. Moreover, it critically reassesses analyses that comparatively evaluate experiences of enslavement as ethically problematic, particularly in their potential to minimize the still fundamentally punitive and exploitative practice of slavery itself, and the hardships endured by individuals within it. As an alternative, this project anchors its analysis in localized perspectives, with the objective of building a narrative that more closely represents the lived realities and experiences of enslaved communities themselves. In addressing these concerns, this project engages extensively with anthropological and archaeological studies of missionization, enslavement, and the body.