Historians have lately troubled the idea of empire, provincializing and dislocating the concept of a hegemonic or contained network of economic, political, and cultural ties. Tawantinsuyu, or the realm of four parts, was understood not so much as a contained place as a set of directions from Cuzco, its center, toward the spaces that the Inca sought to dominate. They created physical signs—palaces, roads, bridges—that made claims on land and peoples and told a story about their conquests. Spanish colonizers brought the term imperio to these claims, and the concept of an Inca hegemony was embraced by Inca descendants as well as the Spaniards who sought to inherit such an ideal. Non-Inca elites pressed counternarratives of local autonomy, found in colonial administrative documents. These counternarratives have been supported by regional archaeological studies, which demonstrate the heterogeneity of relationships between Cuzco and its...

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