Indigenous Archaeological Field Technicians at Tiwanaku, Bolivia: A Hybrid Form of Scientific Labor

Mary Leighton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Archaeology is a science with an intimate investment in the bodies that labor to produce its objects of knowledge. Data comes into being through tactile skills: eyes that see, hands that touch, voices that name and debate. It matters, therefore, who constitutes and controls the labor force; yet little has been written about archaeological workers. Here I outline the relationship between archaeologists and indigenous workers at Tiwanaku, Bolivia, showing that archaeologists did not have direct control over labor on their sites, including who was hired, how much they were paid, and how jobs were defined. These decisions are made by the community's Mallkus in active (sometimes protracted) negotiation with the archaeologists. While active and constant, the process of bargaining was not necessarily conflicted; moreover, it led to a form of labor organization and scientific practice that was neither entirely “Aymara/indigenous” nor entirely “archaeological/scientific.” It thus forms an intriguing example of a form of hybrid scientific practice that incorporates two very different conceptualizations of labor, both as it relates to specific individuals (who is capable of occupying specific jobs) and how it is valued (what the underlying purpose of scientific work should be).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-754
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Andeanist archaeology
  • anthropology of work
  • field sciences
  • postcolonial science studies
  • technicians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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