In this brief work—180 pages of text complemented by two previously unpublished documents and an extensive and useful bibliography—the veteran historian Franklin Pease provides synthetic treatments of some tried-and-true Andeanist hobbyhorses. Alternately panoramic and detailed, Pease’s ethnohistory interweaves a fresh analysis of the evidence on the presence or absence of tribute, trade, and markets with a reconsideration of the nature of curacazgo and the role of Andean authorities in coordinating systems of reciprocity and redistribution.
If the book reads at times like a paean to the seminal works of the preeminent scholar of Andean political economy, John Murra, this is not a case of back-scratching. Murra’s well-known characterizations of the expansive and efficient Tawantinsuyu (to use the term Inkas applied to their own empire) as exclusively based on reciprocities and redistribution—and the negative formulation of the same thesis, that the empire developed in the absence of commerce, markets, money, or tribute—were convincing, intelligibly functionalist, and provocative enough to have become touchstones of Andean ethnohistory. Thus a reconsideration of the ethnohistorical sources for Murra’s theses, via a review of the challenges to them by such scholars as Frank Salomon, Roswith Hartmann, and María Rost-worowski, enables Pease synthetically to review issues at the core of the discipline.
Pease ably demonstrates that arguments seeking to prove the existence of trade, markets, money, and tribute are neither simply reactions against Murra nor the result of any common-sense economic sensibilities. (It is such sensibilities, of course, that make a complex society without such features so difficult to grasp for students in Latin American survey courses). The primary sources themselves have provided numerous counterexamples.
In order to tease out a more Andean interpretation, Pease takes up the task of filtering out the sixteenth-century Spanish ethnocentrism and colonial “contamination” of Andean custom, which distorted documentary description and produced the revisionists data. Where Spanish observers saw the movement of goods as tribute or trade, Pease traces the role of labor service in the process of redistribution. Where chroniclers identify the managers of such shipments as merchants, Pease finds yet another form of specialist within the reciprocity-redistribution framework, akin to the potters, weavers, and farmers in ecologically varied zones whose labor service to kurakas and Inkas produced the redistributable goods. Although in most cases Pease’s arguments are convincing and his interpretations plausible, some scholars are certain to take issue with the sweeping nature of Pease’s denial of pre-Colombian trade, and even of possible “horizontal” (interethnic) exchanges independent of Inka state management.
Perhaps the most intriguing of Pease’s arguments hinges on a close examination of the sources for Murra’s foundational theses about the nature of Andean authority. Where Spaniards conveniently found in the Andean authorities called kurakas analogues of the Iberian seigneuries that they themselves hoped to found (or supplant) in Peru, Pease elects to view both Inka and regional kurakas—through whom indirect rule was carried out—as specialists in the coordination of labor and distribution, who managed (rather than ruled) by the consent of the “subjects” to whom they owed the form of institutionalized generosity that was “redistribution.” Without entering deeply into Andean religion, Pease rightly insists here on the ritual nature of this conjunction of economy and politics: both the requests for labor services and the delivery of such services were initiated and carried out via festive ceremony.
In his final chapter Pease shifts from mainly pre-Columbian to predominantly colonial themes, exploring the transformation of native authority under the Spanish yoke. Through a series of case studies of colonial kurakas, to whose deep participation in long-distance trade and the market economy the archives well attest, Pease brings the economic and political threads of his text together to explore how colonial lords managed to maintain a degree of legitimacy in new forms of reciprocity. For example, they used marketeering profits to underwrite their peoples’ new tribute obligations in goods and silver.
Even those who find fault with aspects of Pease’s argument will find the book useful as a brief, synthetic overview of ongoing debates in Andean studies. Written in a clear, concise, and didactic style, the book will be rewarding to specialists and newcomers to the field alike. Were it available in English, it might well become a standard teaching text in upper-division courses on Andean ethnohistory.