This article examines vision and cultural authority among the leadership of the Inca Empire of Andean South America. In Inca political society, seeing was cultural being. The essay addresses the spaces in which Inca acts of perception took place, as well as the architectural frameworks that defined the wider mise-en-scène of visual experience there. On 15 November 1532, the the Inca ruler Atawallpa received a group of about twenty Spanish soldiers at a residential complex outside Cajamarca, Perú. When he first saw the Inca king, one soldier recalled, the native ruler was seated “behind a sheet which completely covered him.” Raising a thin veil before the Europeans’ eyes, the Inca marked the sensory faculty of vision, giving it a cultural mode. The Inca ruler’s European antagonists were woven into the fabric of the Inca cultural order, caught looking.

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