PhD Dissertations: Gina Claire Michaels, 2009

Poverty, Chastity and Obedience:  Monastic Masculinities 

The colonial city of Riobamba was founded in 1534 in what is now Ecuador.  The city was a major textile centre and provided trade between other cities and missionary settlements throughout the Andes.  In 1797, a devastating earthquake hit the region.  A large percentage of the population was killed and much of the city was destroyed or covered in silt.  Following the disaster, survivors were forced to move 16 kilometres away where they established the modern city of Riobamba.

This study examines life and identity in colonial Riobamba prior to this catastrophe.  Interdisciplinary methods are employed in an examination of two separate religious orders that resided in Riobamba between the years 1645 and 1797.  I carried out this work through archaeological excavation and archival study of historical documents.  Over the course of this project, the two monasteries were extensively surveyed and thirteen units were excavated archaeologically.

The following research reveals the close connection between common material culture recovered from within these monasteries and the identities of the men who routinely used these items.  Traditional understandings of colonial masculinity describe gendered behaviours as rigidly defined.  My research, however, demonstrates that gender expectations were somewhat flexible and adapted both to the environment and the immediate needs of the group. This study shows that monastic men were at times able to occupy traditionally nonmasculine roles while still maintaining positions of relative power within the community, thus troubling our current understanding of masculine behaviours and identities within this particular context.