The 2019 Mesoamerica Meetings



January 15-19, 2019
Organizers: David Stuart, Astrid Runggaldier, Catherine Popovici
The University of Texas Austin, Austin, TX

The 2019 Mesoamerica Meetings will take a detailed and interdisciplinary look at topics related to dress, adornment, regalia, and bodily decoration among ancient Mesoamerican cultures. This topic was certainly of great importance to ancient Mesoamericans, given how the imagery accompanying the human body was so central to identity, status, and social codes. Yet the study of this rich and informative theme remains under-developed in many ways. Our meeting will bring together an international group of scholars, students, and all interested people to explore the different ways in which “dress codes” can reveal new insights into Mesoamerican societies, cultures, and worldviews.

Some questions we hope to address include: What were the messages and ideas conveyed by the attire and regalia of Mesoamerican kings, queens, and other elites and how do they compare with the context of dress and adornment of other social classes? How did societal restrictions and sumptuary laws reinforce hierarchical structures? What was the nature of fashion and adornment in economic context, and how can we study it? What materials and specialized crafts in Mesoamerica were uniquely focused on adorning the body? How did elements of dress and adornment of human bodies also extend to the dressing of objects, and what do these practices indicate about the nature of people and things? How did dress and attributes of attire communicate social standing and contexts of practice, from royal office, to dance, war, and ritual? Conversely, what were the implications of nakedness, and the stripping off of attire and regalia? How did humans impersonate deities, embody ancestors and lineages, and personify divine concepts through elements of clothing, masks, and headdresses? Can we relate the imagery of dress and regalia to larger artistic and iconographic programs in Mesoamerican art?

We don’t envision a conference only about clothing and costumes. Rather we want to investigate what might be called the “iconography of the body.” The human form was a medium for artistic display of many kinds, encompassing woven and painted designs in cloth and paper, jewels of precious stones and metals, intricate featherwork, and the use of hides and other animal parts, diverse color materials, headgear, body art, even hieroglyphic writing. Tackling subjects within this large topic inevitably takes us into important issues about performance, economics, gender, politics, and society. Like other broad themes covered by The Mesoamerica Meetings, regalia and attire provide a window of new perspectives on a distant world.