Andean clothing, gender and indigeneity in Colonial Period Latin America

by Christine Beaule


The material culture approach taken in this article combines theoretical perspectives on exchange in value and the gendered body politic. This theoretical framework is applied to three elements of costume changes in the early Colonial Period (c. 1532–1825) of the Andean highlands of South America. The impact of Spanish public policies, gender roles and social ideals is examined for the maskaypacha scarlet forehead fringe, the form and decorations on male Inkan unku tunics and decorative motifs on textiles. Beaule argues that changes in indigenous dress are largely confined to males in the early Colonial Period, which mirrors the gendered nature of the Spanish body politic. This material culture reading of indigenous clothing changes provides a useful model for analysing the gendered categories of indigenous political symbols and costumes today as well as in more recent history.

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