Mobilizing the Monolith: Patrimonio, Collectivity, and Social Memory in Contemporary Mexico


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Cultural Anthropology


This project explores competing claims around ancient artifacts in Mexico, where archaeology is central to national identity. It describes the effects of the transportation of a colossal pre-Hispanic monument from the town of Coatlinchan to Mexico City. The monolith was rendered heritage and enshrined in the National Museum of Anthropology in 1964. This thesis shows how the secular Mexican state and archaeologists inadvertently animated objects and revitalized ties to ancestral localities. Forty-five years later, townspeople are remobilizing the monolith and archaeology to substantiate local claims to land and resources. This research shows how heritage and patrimony (patrimonio) provide a way for communities to counter rampant urbanization and recent neoliberal policies aimed as dismantling communal property.