Encoding Authority: Negotiating the Uses of Khipu in Colonial Peru

  • Amanda Kenney University of Missouri Columbia


This paper seeks to synthesize the insights from the wide variety of scholarship while fleshing out the complex story of the roles that khipu played in the encounter of native and Spanish cultures. The chronicle record provides key insights into both how the Spaniards perceived the Inca and their khipu and how those with native claims of authority presented Inca civilization and its cultural trappings, including their system of knots. Augmenting the context of the chronicle record are additional sources from the colonial period. Two important arenas of encounter between indigenous and Spaniard were the church and court. Evidence from these forums of unequal power illustrates the nuanced presentation and perception of the khipu within the larger context of the navigation of Spanish hegemony. Taken together, these sources provide a glimpse into how the khipu itself was transformed by its use by natives in a colonial context.

Author Biography

Amanda Kenney, University of Missouri Columbia
Amanda Kenney is currently working toward her Masters degree in History with a concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Studies under the direction of Dr. Lois Huneycutt at the University of Missouri Columbia. Her current research interests focus on cultural contacts and the experience of pain in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. This work comes from undergraduate research Amanda Kenney completed while earning her BA in History from Southeast Missouri State University, working under the direction of Dr. Erika Hosselkus.