Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Olmec monuments as agents of social memory
by Mollenhauer, Jillian Louise, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2010, 500; 3408027
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation contributes to a growing body of literature which considers the problems of redacted histories, re-formed memories, and competing identities in relation to the Olmec societies of Mexico’s Gulf lowlands. In this study Olmec monuments are positioned as agentive entities which served to generate and transform the collective memory of Pre-classic populations. Additionally, larger patterns in the praxis of memory, both individual and corporate, are discerned through the contextual analysis of individual monuments in order to trace the social and spatial milieus of Olmec monumental sculpture.

The archeological contexts of particular monuments, including architectural settings and the associated depositional matrix, demonstrate the heterogeneity of monument display and corresponding ritual practices at different chronological and regional scales. Megalithic sculptures were integrated into Pre-classic monumental spaces and civic landscapes, which served to continually manifest the mytho-historical past in the present. As sites of memory within the urban topography, monuments functioned to naturalize the past and ground it within the spaces of civic and religious ceremony. Practices of re-carving, erasure, re-setting, and destruction may be read as points of disjunction or rupture in the collective memory of a site in response to shifting social and political needs.

Outside of primary centers, hinterland monuments integrated satellite communities into larger spheres of social interaction through the generation of a shared collective mnemonic which connected rural and urban populations. However, the past was also a mechanism for the constitution and contestation of socio-political authority. The appropriation, mutilation, and destruction of monuments could serve to challenge the status quo and could be used by hinterland populations to negotiate or reform their relationships to larger centers of power. Overall, this study aims to re-position the monuments of the Gulf lowland Olmec as social agents which were used and re-used by distinct corporate entities to manipulate present populations through their collective memories of the past.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Newsome, Elizabeth A.
Commitee: Bryson, Norman, Smith, Susan, Tejada, Roberto, Van Young, Eric
School: University of California, San Diego
Department: Art History, Theory and Criticism
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Archaeology, Art history, Native American studies
Keywords: Agency, Landscape, Memory, Mexico, Monuments, Olmec, Sculpture, Social memory
Publication Number: 3408027
ISBN: 9781124036939
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