Materializing Power through Practice in the Late Postclassic Naco Valley, Northwestern Honduras

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We contend that political structures emerge in the course of interpersonal dealings conducted by people organized within overlapping social networks. It is through these webs that resources needed to define and achieve goals and exert control over others are mobilized. Elites seeking to construct hierarchies and concentrate power must restructure the preexisting matrix of networks to redirect the flow of assets to their benefit. In doing so, they seek to create an affiliation that transcends loyalties to extant social groups while securing for themselves positions of preeminence within the overarching affiliation. Such social engineering involves manipulating the material symbols by which interpersonal ties are made tangible and imbued with emotional significance. The resulting political structures are less nested sets of stable territorial groups than dynamic networks of networks through which assets are deployed in the practices by which power is exercised. This perspective is used to describe Late Postclassic (A.D. 1300-1532) political processes in the Naco Valley, northwestern Honduras, calling attention to how power of various sorts took shape through complex relations among diverse people and varied things orchestrated within overlapping social networks. The implications of a network approach for studying political processes generally are also considered.


Latin American Antiquity





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