Gonzalo Lamana

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies


1309I Cathedral of Learning


Gonzalo Lamana's research and teaching explore themes of colonialism and subalternity, cultural contact, meaning-making, and historical change. Although his area of specialty is colonial Latin America—and in particular the Andean region—he also explores these themes through a comparative, cross-area and time study of colonial and postcolonial dynamics. As a means of undoing the authoritative effect of the official representations of Spanish colonialism—and make them visible as such—in his research he uses an array of everyday archival documents. To that end, he has carried out extensive work in archives and libraries in Peru, Spain, Argentina, and the United States.

Lamana is currently working on two new research projects that work at the juncture of two de-colonial attempts. First, to examine colonial acts of reality-making through the lenses of magicality. The idea is to denaturalize and de-Occidentalize conceptions of power that conceive of it in terms of instrumental, rational action. Building on attempts from different critical traditions at turning magic into a category of analysis that speaks not of the exotic but of the everyday, he wants to explore how magicality, as a way of reasoning and acting, can help us understand the nature of colonial relations, both of ordinary people’s lives and of those in power.

Second, to examine the emergence of a colonial grammar of difference in the second half of the sixteenth century in the Andes. Departing from the common practice in Andean studies of taking for granted, as a starting point of analysis, an a-temporal cultural logic that marks Andean peoples off, making them the West’s Other, it intends to explore the hypothesis that much of what is taken to be distinctively Andean (and implicitly of what is taken to be distinctively Spanish) came into being as a result of early colonial power conflicts. The resulting intertwinement between ethnography and colonialism included the development of taxonomies of human capacity and natural inclination.

His recent book, Domination without Dominance. Inca-Spanish encounters in Early Colonial Peru, offers an alternative narrative of the conquest of the Incas that both examines and shifts away from the colonial imprint that still permeates most accounts of that confrontation. The text focuses on a key moment of transition: the years that bridged the first contact between Spanish conquistadores and Andean peoples in 1531 and the moment, around 1550, when a functioning colonial regime emerged. Using published accounts and an array of archival sources, Lamana focuses on questions of subalternization, meaning-making, copying, and exotization, which proved crucial to both Spaniards and Incas.

On the one hand, he re-inserts different epistemologies into the conquest narrative, making central to the plot the often-dismissed, discrepant stories such as books that were expected to talk, horses said to be capable of being angry and eating people, and attacks that were launched for an entire year only on the full moon. On the other hand, he questions dominant images of Inca-Spanish distinctiveness and shows that in the battlefield as much as in everyday arenas such as conversion, market exchanges, politics, and land tenure, the parties blurred into each other in repeated instances of mimicry. The resulting landscape of plural attempts to define the order of things reveals that, contrary to the conquerors’ accounts, what the Spaniards achieved was domination without dominance.

This conclusion undermines common ideas of Spanish (and Western) superiority, shows that casting order as a by-product of military action rests on a pervasive fallacy: the translation of military superiority into cultural superiority. In constant dialogue with critical thinking from different disciplines and traditions, the book illuminates how this new interpretation of the conquest of the Incas revises current understandings of Western colonialism and the emergence of still-current global configurations.

Reviews of Domination without Dominance

  • “Domination without Dominance is a theoretically historical and historically theoretical argument. Through his valiant and successful effort to learn from the Incas, Gonzalo Lamana shifts the geopolitics of knowledge, stepping back and disengaging from the basic epistemic principles on which the humanities and the social sciences are founded. His detailed analysis of the first two decades of encounters between Incas and Spaniards unveils how from then to today, historical narratives managed to tell half of the story as if it were the totality.”—Walter D. Mignolo, author of The Idea of Latin America
  • “Far from contributing to the well-known story of European victories against overwhelming odds, this reinterpetation of the conquest of Peru portrays complex, human adversaries who each used their own cultural understandings in an effort to gain control over the other. Everyone who seeks to step outside the vision of the Spanish conquest imposed by the victors since the sixteenth century will find this study invaluable.”—Karen Spalding, author of Huarochiri: An Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule
  • “In this book--the very first ethnographic history of the so-called 'Conquest of the Incas,' Inca and Christian protagonists negotiate not only who they are vis-a-vis one another but also and centrally, the terms with which they would recognize their relationship. Combining literary criticism, anthropology, and history, Domination without Dominance extends the historical archive of the period to the present, and through ethnographic-textual analysis of modern historiography, shows 'the Conquest' as an event the conceptual politics of which linger today. This book is an important addition to archive studies, de-colonial scholarship, and cultural politics.”—Marisol de la Cadena, author of Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919-1991


  • PhD, Duke University
  • Licenciatura, Universidad de Buenos Aires

Selected Publications

  • 2012. Pensamiento colonial critico: Textos y actos de Polo Ondegardo. Lima-Cuzco: Instituo Frances de Estudios Andinos-Centro Bartolome de Las Casas.
  • 2010.“What Makes a Story Amusing: Magic, Occidentalism and Overfetishization in a Colonial Setting."  Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 19(1): 87-102.
  • 2008. Domination without Dominance. Inca-Spanish Encounters in Early Colonial Peru. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • 2008. “Of Books, Popes, and Huacas; or, the Dilemmas of Being Christian.” In Margaret R. Greer et al. (eds.), Rereading the Black Legend: The Discourses of Racial Difference in the Renaissance Empires, 117-49. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • 2005. “Beyond Exotization and Likeness: Alterity and the Production of Sense in a Colonial Encounter.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 47(1):4-39.