Published: Jan. 3, 2017

New archaeological findings have complicated the colonial history of the American Southwest, developments that anthropologist Severin Fowles will discuss in a public presentation on the University of Colorado Boulder campus this month.

Fowles, associate professor at Barnard College and Columbia University, notes that the history includes successive attempts at colonization by Europeans and, some research suggests, Native American “reversed colonialism.”

Severin Fowles

Severin Fowles

Fowles will discuss discoveries that complicate and extend this revisionist understanding of intercultural power dynamics in a lecture titled “Comanche Archaeology and the Theater of War.” The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. in Hale 270 on the CU Boulder campus.

In a statement summarizing his presentation, Fowles notes how much anthropologists’ understanding of the period has shifted: “We used to know who the empires were: the Spanish imperial project commenced in the 16th century and held back the advance of the French imperial project during the 18th century, before both succumbed to the American imperial project in the 19th century,” he stated.

“We used to know who the barbarians were as well: as the Germanic hordes were to Rome, so the bellicose equestrian tribes of the plains were to European and Euro-American civilizations.”

Now these “plot lines” have come undone, Fowles stated. “Now we are told that, for much of the colonial era, some of the most ambitious imperial actors were Native American—and that the Comanche in particular were involved in a strange form of ‘reversed colonialism,’ startling the European colonizers by attempting to colonize them in return.”

In this presentation, I report on new archaeological discoveries that complicate and extend this revisionist understanding of intercultural power dynamics in the colonial Southwest.

Fowles has spent the past two decades investigating the pre-colonial, colonial, and modern histories of the American Southwest. He is the author of An Archaeology of Doings: Secularism and the Study of Pueblo Religion (2013, SAR) and the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Southwest Archaeology (in press, Oxford). His current research focuses on the archaeology of Comanche imperialism in eighteenth century New Mexico.

Fowles’ appearance is sponsored by Western Cultural Resource Management, a consulting firm, and supported by the CU Boulder Department of Anthropology and the CU Boulder Museum of Natural History.

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