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"The Entanglements of Vanilla in El Tajín”

"The Entanglements of Vanilla in El Tajín”

Sam Holley-Kline
Date and Time: 
Monday, May 7, 2018 - 12:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


Why is vanilla associated with Papantla, Veracruz, and the archaeological site of El Tajín? Beyond spatial and historical co-occurrence, what are the relationships between the commercialization of vanilla and the development of archaeology and heritage management? In this preliminary draft dissertation chapter, I explore the cultivation, curing, and commercialization of vanilla and their relations with the archaeological site. To do so, and following my interlocutors’ leads, I draw from an archaeological theory of materiality: entanglement. This requires beginning from the botanical characteristics of Vanilla planifolia Jacks and focusing on the temporalities inherent in getting the spice to market; working through the sociotechnical processes of vanilla cultivation, curing, and commercialization; through the historical development of the political economy of vanilla; and finally working back around to the archaeological site.


Sam Holley-Kline is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. His dissertation explores the relations between archaeology, industry, and labor in El Tajín, Veracruz, between 1880 and the present. More broadly, his research interests involve the intersections of archaeology and sociocultural anthropology, as well as the politics of history and archaeology in 20th-century Mexico. He received his BA in anthropology and Spanish from DePauw University in 2012. Outside of his dissertation research, he has participated in archaeological research in Kiuic, Yucatán, and ethnographic research in Cuetzalan, Puebla.