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Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Nelson. Andrew J.


Structural violence (SV) highlights how social structures harm communities via inequities in health, risk of trauma, and post-mortem treatment, however its applicability outside of Euroamerican capitalist contexts is unclear. Fifty-nine individuals from the MUNA cemetery (Pachacamac, Perú) from the Late Intermediate to Late Horizon Periods (1100-1532 CE) were analysed for evidence of SV. Nonspecific stress markers, osteoarthritis, pathological dental conditions, and physical trauma were recorded and compared as they related to age, sex and/or status and then contextualised using the Spanish Chronicles, ethnographic, and archaeological research. Inequities in resource or labour distribution but not amount to SV, but SV did operate through physical trauma; two nonadults were victims of human sacrifice and tinku. Analytically, SV is useful in non-Euromerican contexts, but its effectiveness will be negatively impacted by the amount and type of contextual evidence available, and social complexity will determine where SV will develop.

Summary for Lay Audience

‘Violence’ encompasses more than just physical trauma, and can include the inequitable distribution of resources, labour, and treatment of the dead. Structural Violence is a useful framework for analysing these other forms of harm, as well as physical trauma, as it exposes how mundane social structures prevent particular groups from accessing fundamental resources or increase their risk of experiencing trauma. Presently the framework has primarily been employed in Western, capitalistic political economies (or those entangled with them) thus the true applicability of the framework for understanding violence more broadly is unclear. To explore the true applicability of SV as an analytical framework in a non-Western bioarchaeological context, 59 individuals (34 adults, 25 nonadults) from the MUNA cemetery, outside the monumental site of Pachacamac, Perú, who died during Late Intermediate to Late Horizon Periods (1100-1534 CE) were analysed for evidence of structural violence. Contextual evidence was gathered from the Spanish Chronicles, ethnographic research, and archaeological data and was used to identify aspects of identity that may have increased the group’s risk of violence. Analysis included identifying and comparing rates various markers of general health (physical and dental), labour intensity through markers of osteoarthritis, and the prevalence and type of physical trauma, as they related to age, sex, and status. Inequities in resource and labour distribution did not amount to SV. However, two nonadults were subject to SV, operating via physical trauma. Reflecting on this research, SV is a framework that can be applied effectively outside of Euroamerican contexts; however, its efficacy will decrease as contextual evidence becomes more limited. Furthermore, the degree of social complexity, i.e., how many layers of social strata exist between the leader and the victims, will determine whether SV will develop.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.