Domination without Dominance: Inca-Spanish Encounters in Early Colonial Peru

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Offering an alternative narrative of the conquest of the Incas, Gonzalo Lamana both examines and shifts away from the colonial imprint that still permeates most accounts of the conquest. Lamana focuses on a key moment of transition: the years that bridged the first contact between Spanish conquistadores and Andean peoples in 1531 and the moment, around 1550, when a functioning colonial regime emerged. Using published accounts and array of archival sources, he focuses on questions of subalternization, meaning making, copying, and exotization, which proved crucial to both the Spaniards and the Incas. On the one hand, he re-inserts different epistemologies into the conquest narrative, making central to the plot often-dismissed, discrepant stories such as books that were expected to talk and year-long attacks that could only be launched under a full moon. On the other hand, he questions the dominant image of a clear distinction between Inca and Spaniard, showing instead that on the battlefield as much as in everyday arenas such as conversion, market exchanges, politics, and land tenure, the parties blurred into each other in repeated instances of mimicry.

Lamana’s redefinition of the order of things reveals that, contrary to the conquerors’ accounts, what the Spanairds achieved was a “domination without dominance.” This conclusion undermines common ideas of Spanish (and Western) superiority. It shows that casting order as a by-product of military action rests on a pervasive fallacy: the translation of military superiority into cultural superiority. In constant dialogue with critical thinking from different disciplines and traditions, Lamana illuminates how this new interpretation of the conquest of the Incas revises current understandings of Western colonialism and the emergence of still-current global configurations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Gonzalo Lamana boldly reinterprets the first twenty years of Spanish-Andean contact in an effort to understand how a Spanish colonial order in the former Inca Empire came into being. He does so with theoretical sophistication and through an innovative reading of standard Spanish and ex-post-facto native sources, as well as lesser known, locally produced sources. The result is a compelling recasting of the conquest of Peru that effectively dismantles the linear narrative of Spanish domination that has been standard fare since the sixteenth century.” - Yanna Yannakakis, American Historical Review

“Lamana has produced something original in this old story, something that serious scholars of colonialism must read. He successfully shows how his Andean subjects recognised ‘the arbitrariness of power’ in their day, and he engages in a compelling parallel effort to ‘unsettle’ the epistemological assumptions undergirding the history of early colonial Peru.” - Barry Robinson, Itinerario

Domination without Dominance is a remarkable and revealing analysis of Inca-Spanish relations in the Andes. In this work, Gonzalo Lamana unites the finest of discursive analysis with bold historical research in an argument that may fundamentally alter the way the first twenty years of Inca-Spanish relations are understood. . . . Domination without Dominance is deeply exciting and of fundamental importance to the field of colonial literary scholarship. Lamana’s work is careful, thorough, and persuasive. . . . Domination without Dominance is the kind of argument that stimulates a desire for interdisciplinary dialogue and is one of those rare works of scholarship that achieves a real depth of interdisciplinary integration.” - Kathryn J. McKnight, Colonial Latin American Historical Review

“Lamana’s book is a ground-breaking study that will have a profound impact not only because of the substantive contribution it makes to our understanding of the first decades of the conquest but also because of the interdisciplinary methodology and theoretical model that it employs. . . . Lamana’s highly compelling study will change the way researchers from all disciplines read colonial sources.” - Galen Brokaw, Hispanic Review

“This important book will fundamentally change how scholars look at proto-colonial Peru. . . . Theoretically, the book is well-informed and refreshingly anthropological for a project that so thoroughly overlaps with history and literary criticism. . . . [Lamana] has shown us how to read this notoriously opaque period of Andean history in a new and tremendously more productive way. This landmark book will be of lasting value for that contribution.” - Peter Gose, A Contracorriente

Domination without Dominance is a theoretically historical and historically theoretical argument. Through his valiant and successful effort to learn from the Incas, Gonzalo Lamana shifts the geopolitics of knowledge, stepping back and disengaging from the basic epistemic principles on which the humanities and the social sciences are founded. His detailed analysis of the first two decades of encounters between Incas and Spaniards unveils how from then to today, historical narratives managed to tell half of the story as if it were the totality.”—Walter D. Mignolo, author of The Idea of Latin America

“Far from contributing to the well-known story of European victories against overwhelming odds, this reinterpetation of the conquest of Peru portrays complex, human adversaries who each used their own cultural understandings in an effort to gain control over the other. Everyone who seeks to step outside the vision of the Spanish conquest imposed by the victors since the sixteenth century will find this study invaluable.”—Karen Spalding, author of Huarochirí: An Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule

“In this book—the very first ethnographic history of the so-called ‘Conquest of the Incas’—Inca and Christian protagonists negotiate not only who they are vis-à-vis one another but also, and centrally, the terms with which they would recognize their relationship. Combining literary criticism, anthropology, and history, Domination without Dominance extends the historical archive of the period to the present, and through ethnographic-textual analysis of modern historiography, shows ‘the Conquest’ as an event the conceptual politics of which linger today. This book is an important addition to archive studies, de-colonial scholarship, and cultural politics.”—Marisol de la Cadena, author of Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919–1991

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822343110
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2008
  • Series: Latin America Otherwise Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Gonzalo Lamana is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Read an Excerpt


Inca-Spanish Encounters in Early Colonial Peru
By Gonzalo Lamana

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2008 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4311-0

Chapter One

Beyond Exotization and Likeness Alterity and the Production of Sense in a Colonial Encounter

The scene that unfolded in the plaza of Cajamarca on Saturday, 16 November 1532, is one of the most baffling in the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. That day the Inca Atahualpa, head of an empire of several million extending from present-day Ecuador to Chile, surrounded by his powerful army, was captured by 168 men. The attack took place after the exchange of a book and words in the middle of the plaza, between the Inca and Fray Vicente de Valverde, head clergy-man of the conquest party lead by Francisco Pizarro. The scene has been the object of much debate, both in the sixteenth century, when it rapidly became part of Europeans' colonial imagination, and in the present. The goal of this chapter is to offer an alternative interpretation of Cajamarca, which addresses a simple, underexplored question: Why did the meeting occur in the way it did? (Why was Atahualpa there, exposing himself to some dangerous looters? Why did the Spanish not attack directly if the ambush was ready?) I will argue that Cajamarca happened as it did because it was the necessary final act of a long chain of improvised moves, which responded to culturally specific political dilemmas. Its dynamic reflected a radical uncertainty common to contact processes, but left aside by most scholarship. Recovering it, I suggest, speaks not only to the case in point, but to the mechanics of power and coloniality across space and time.

Cajamarca has been studied with different interests and approaches. Social historians focus on the socioeconomic dynamics of the conquering force (Lockhart 1972; Varón Gabai 1996), while traditional historiography, cleaving to an Enlightenment vision (e.g., Del Busto 2000; Porras Barrenechea 1978), focuses on the Spanish advance. In both cases what happens occurs only because the Spanish act, while native actors are in a secondary plane without agency. This image has been contested by works that reveal the complex native political landscape, relocate agency, and revise the dynamics of the conquest. These studies stress the alliances between ethnic lords and Spaniards from a Marxist perspective (e.g., Espinoza Soriano 1973), or the late moments of Inca resistance from a nationalist one (Guillén Guillén 1974, 1979, 1994). Similar goals drive John Hemming's (1993) detailed account of Cajamarca. In all cases, the scene is narrated by staging rational actors in full control of a clear politicomilitary interaction. This approach has a political agenda: to reject marks of native inferiority. Peruvian native peoples took the Spaniards for what they were: ordinary human beings, nothing else. They did not take them for a native god returning-Viracocha-as all nativelike sources mention. Difference is effaced and native sources purged for good ends. As a result, however, the political goal backfires: Agency is indeed restored to native peoples, correcting one effect of Spanish sources, but at the price of echoing another: everyone is endowed with the rationality proper to a Western subject-or rather, proper to how Westerners like to think of themselves.

Recent studies of how native peoples saw the Spaniards that do not engage an actual historical dynamic have introduced a related assertion: the idea that native people mistook the Spaniards for a native god is in fact a late Spanish invention and imposition (Pease 1991, 1995). That is why, it is said, early Spanish accounts do not mention it-the Incas had no writing system, while late native and Spanish authors do. Again, the political intent backfires: Indians appear to be dupes, while the Spanish have the capacity to shape their minds with odd ideas. These options lead to a paradoxical situation: while a large body of scholarship shows that cultural dimensions played a key role in the actual dynamics of colonial Peru (e.g., Wachtel 1971; Spalding 1974, 1984; Stern 1982; Duviols 1986; Silverblatt 1987; Ramírez 1996), they are almost totally absent from the twenty-year conquest period that made colonial Peru possible in the first place. Domination, understood as the effective pretension of a single order of things, is in place even before it began.

The coherence of the dominant, neat image of Cajamarca's scene has been questioned by MacCormack (1989) and Seed (1991). They show how the political goal and narrative strategy informing each source condition the way in which the exchange between Valverde and Atahualpa is portrayed. MacCormack argues that what had to be narrated changed across time: from the conquerors' portrayal of a just, transparent interaction, to its interrogation in the 1550s, to a "mythified" view in the 1570s, to the view of end-of-century native authors who accept the mythification but stress Atahualpa's proper behavior, questioning the moral standing of the parties. Seed questions "historical realism"-Hemming being an exponent of this genre-because by privileging eyewitnesses' accounts and standardizing differences it reifies one view of the story, that of the conquerors. She contrasts the 1534 account of Xérez (Pizarro's secretary) with native ones, and argues that the former expressed the Spanish claim of transparency and universality of its values (literacy and Christianity), which the latter challenge in several ways. Both works, which remain within the limits of a textual analysis, open dimensions of analysis that I will develop when I focus on the final scene.

But that scene does not stand on its own as a form of encounter; it is the result of an ongoing contact process that I will examine by engaging debates on cultural encounter and colonialism (Sahlins 1985, 1995; Obeyesekere 1992/1997; Todorov 1978; Clendinnen 1991). In particular, in order to avoid the double bind that plagues representations of non-Westerners, in which cultural difference is denounced as exotization and likeness as an imposition of Western rationality, I will stress uncertainty and diversity, within and across the cultural divide, and the politics of their simplification by both natives and Spaniards. To that end, instead of solving differences between sources to produce a unified historical narrative, I consider them as indices (Ginzburg 1989; De Certeau 1991) of distinct ways of making and producing sense of events that coexisted when the events occurred-narrative strategies and political goals aside. Following these indices, and considering nativelike sources as responses to colonialism from within that imply a positioned difference, a border thinking (Mignolo 2000), one can grasp another, though silenced, sense (alterity) in Cajamarca. Likewise, reading indices in Spanish sources through poststructuralist work on violence (Taussig 1987; Feldman 1991; Das 1998), one can destabilize the dominant image of the Western subject as a purely rational actor in full control of all interactions.

By exposing the mechanisms through which the actors tried and often failed to control their unstable present, Cajamarca regains its character as a contact situation in which different senses of order competed and tangled. As interactions lose their neatness and the Spaniards their mastery, an alternative image begins to make sense on its own. After all, domination is to a large extent precisely about rendering some views unintelligible, and ethnography should serve as an element to counterbalance it, as the Comaroffs point out (1991:xiii-xiv).


The small compañía (company) that began the conquest of the Inca empire landed in the empire's very northern tip sometime in early 1531. It took its men almost two years to reach Cajamarca, and some sixteen months to contact Atahualpa. During this time all attention and military resources were concentrated on a war of succession between Inca political fractions, whose visible heads were Huáscar and Atahualpa, sons of the last emperor, Huayna Cápac. Atahualpa's base was in Quito, not too far from the fistful of Spaniards but in the highlands, where Inca political action always gravitated; Huáscar's base was in the heart of the empire, Cuzco, some 1,500 km (932 mi) south. As chroniclers and scholars alike point out, this coincidence gave the conquerors a chance to succeed.

A compañía was a private enterprise contained within the legal frame given by the Crown's authorization. It was organized around several captains with a "prospective governor" (Spalding 1984:116) as its head. Each captain had his own ambitions and several mini-compañías existed, and there was thus potential for political fission. This local tension tangled with another between the Crown and the compañía. The Crown was present through its royal officers, although their task was mainly to secure that due taxes were paid; a real challenge could only come from a competing compañía with good political connections at court. But during its early stages, as Lockhart stresses, a compañía's real danger was that it might fail and dissolve (1972:7).

The 1531 compañía was the third attempt organized by Diego de Almagro and the would-be governor, Francisco Pizarro (throughout the book, called Almagro and Pizarro). The first (1523-24) had been a fiasco that only reached Mesoamerican lands infested with mosquitoes. After a disastrous start, thirteen survivors of the second attempt (1526-28) navigated south, and reached some towns in present-day coastal Peru. They gathered two young natives, who would serve as interpreters, plus enough information and proofs of a viable future to negotiate a conquest permit and a governorship at court. Organizing each expedition meant borrowing and investing large amounts of money, as well as rallying manpower. Pizarro and Almagro had exhausted most of their capital when the third compañía landed in San Mateo Bay, in northern Ecuador, while most of its men had indebted themselves to pay for their equipment and travel. Everyone's most urgent need, then, was riches to pay off debts, while the second was to find large native populations to exploit, which the compañía needed for propaganda.

The mechanism of advance involved a constant definition of the limits of the possible. When the compañía encountered a new group, if the local lord welcomed it, then exchanges and behaviors were contained; he would only have to provide them with all the goods and services they wanted. If, rather, he attempted any resistance, a clear politics of fear was put into place; with violent punishing actions the conquerors would kill as many Indians as they felt necessary and loot with few actual limits. Finally, more stable relations were set by Pizarro's political alliances with native lords, required because his goal was not extermination but domination.

One can see these dynamics in different combinations. The Christians (that is what the conquerors of Peru called themselves at almost all times) landed in a tropical coastal area with few inhabitants and plenty of mosquitoes. Their initial way south was slow because the native groups along their way emptied their small towns and withdrew supplies. When the Christians arrived in Coaque, the first town of significant size, they attacked to prevent this and looted it (Xérez [1534] 1985:64-65). Pizarro then seized most of the bounty to pay off debts to the ships' owners, who provided reinforcements and supplies, and spread in Panama and Nicaragua the news that there was something to gain there, preventing the conquest from fading. The idea worked. After eleven months of enduring tropical illnesses, in November 1531 the compañía greeted two ships that brought it fifty men and twenty-five horses (Lockhart 1972:8). Even so, they still numbered fewer than 100 men.

Their reputation and military might opened the way south. Some lords they encountered welcomed them, and when they did not, as in La Puná Island, the resulting open war set the pattern of encounters to come: the better-equipped Christians crushed the numerically superior natives and suffered only two casualties. In Túmbez, their next stop and Pizarro's original goal, they suffered their last three losses in a skirmish (Xérez 1985:71-76). From there, with a reinforcement of 100 men and twenty-five horses, Pizarro moved south and the conquest entered a new stage: he began realizing his governorship by blending fear and alliance. Aware of the Christians' might, the lord of Poechos welcomed them, and Pizarro received his vassalage, opening the door to a regulated flow of goods and services. Yet nearby lords in the sierra and on the coast refused to serve them, and some men arriving by sea reported fearing an imminent overnight attack. As in any neo/colonial enterprise, the frightening of a colonizer by locals required immediate action. After a military operation, hierarchy was reestablished through exemplary punishment: Pizarro had a main lord, several principals, and some other Indians burned alive; but he also kept one of the accused main lords in office, and even extended his lordship over the executed lord's people (ibid.:78-80).

This blend was an effective political strategy, because it knitted local and foreign orders causally, turning events into structure: the local lord acquired a new authority, with the Christians' presence at its base, while, simultaneously, Christian authority was fortified in being so recognized. Each new social position depended on the other, both arising from a temporally ordered indebtedness-much like a Melanesian Big Man to whom exchanges of gifts are owed. This mechanism secured indirect rule and the sought-after ascendancy: as Pizarro's secretary summarized, from then on "they all served better, with more fear than before" (Xérez 1985: 79). When he reached an exceptional coastal zone of rich valleys, Pizarro began to objectify his governorship in Spanish terms as well: he founded the first town (San Miguel de) Tangarara at the end of July 1532.

During these months Atahualpa's generals were closing in on Cuzco, defeating Huáscar's armies in battle after battle, some 1,500 km (932 mi) away from the compañía. This no doubt organized Inca attention, as many have argued; yet, if the conquerors' production of order seems uncontested, it is because I am condensing here only what their own accounts disclose. Their narratives have a narcotic effect: one has to adjust to only a certain way to actually make sense, of only certain kinds of events, which take place within clear, intelligible boundaries. Actions become reasonable because in the Spanish eyewitnesses' regime of visibility, there is nothing else in sight. To correct this, I will introduce nativelike sources and contrast them with Spanish sources. This will flesh out the steps of Atahualpa's production of order vis-à-vis the newcomers, and will render visible silences and hidden objects on both sides, denaturalizing critical actions and categories. To that end, I will depart from most prior histories by focusing on the exchange of messengers between Atahualpa and the Christians, using the latter's advance as its context. The first exchange originated in Tangarara, to where I now return.


All so-called native chroniclers (Tito Cussi [1570] 1985; Guaman Poma [1615] 1987; Garcilaso [1617] 1960) include extraordinary, often flustering elements when they give people's first images of the Spaniards. Yet, they quickly erase this uncertainty, which corrected the narcotic effect of the conquerors' narratives; they associate the New People with a native deity, Viracocha, and jump immediately to the scene in Cajamarca. This is not the feared revelation but rather an interested simplification that conceals uncertainty and local politics. Behind this simplification, one can identify four stages: newness, inquiry, containment, and objectification. I will study them signaling the locations of strangeness, the means for making sense of them, and the mechanisms through which they are harnessed in pursuit of clear political goals. This shows that, twisting Bhabha's (1994:88) idea slightly, "the representation of difference always can turn into a problem of authority."


Excerpted from DOMINATION without DOMINANCE by Gonzalo Lamana Copyright © 2008 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

About the Series vii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Situated Interventions: Colonial Imprints, Decolonial Moves 1

1 Beyond Exotization and Likeness: Alterity and the Production of Sense in a Colonial Encounter 27

2 Christian Realism and Magicality during Atahualpa's Imprisonment 65

3 Why Betting a Barrel of Preserves Can Be a Bad Thing To Do: Civilizing Deeds and Snags 97

4 Illusions of Mastery: Manco Inca's War and the Colonial Normal 125

5 The Emergence of a New Mestizo Consciousness: An Unthinkable Inca 159

6 Power as Moves: A Mid-1540s Repertoire of Flipping the Coin 193

7 "The End" 227

Basic Political Chronology of the Spanish Conquest 231

Notes 233

Glossary 249

References 251

Index 275

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