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Mary Weismantel

Engaging the Moche Sex Pots

Thursday, November 4, 2021, 5:00–6:30pm CT

Zoom / Social Science Research Building, Tea Room (2nd Floor)

This is a hybrid event, and registration via the link above is required for both in-person and virtual participation.

In the Things in Theory conversation series, 3CT fellow Shannon Lee Dawdy engages scholars from different disciplines who work at the intersection of material culture studies and contemporary theory. What role do objects, architecture, and landscapes play in social and political life? What happens when we take things seriously?

Here, Dawdy speaks with Mary Weismantel, a cultural anthropologist who writes about indigeneity in the Americas, with a focus on Andean South America (Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia). Throughout her career, Weismantel has pushed the boundaries of ethnography through a consistent engagement with materiality and the nonhuman.

In her new book, Playing with Things: Engaging the Moche Sex Pots (University of Texas Press, 2021), Weismantel moves into the ancient past. More than a thousand years ago on the north coast of Peru, Indigenous Moche artists created a large and significant corpus of sexually explicit ceramic works of art. These works depict a diversity of sex organs and sex acts, and an array of solitary and interconnected human and nonhuman bodies. To the modern eye, these Moche “sex pots,” as Weismantel calls them, are lively and provocative but also enigmatic creations whose import to their original owners seems impossible to grasp. Her book refutes this assumption, and shows us the pots, not merely as inert objects from a long-dead past but as vibrant Indigenous things, alive in their own human temporality, who have much to teach us about what it means to be human, to have a body and to have (a) sex.

Mary Weismantel is a professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, where she has previously served as director of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and as an adjunct curator at the Field Museum of Natural History. She received a PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is the author of two previous books, Cholas and Pishtacos: Tales of Race and Sex in the Andes and Food, Gender and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes.

This event is free and open to the public; registration is required. Please email us at if you require any accommodations to enable your full participation.

Please note: This convening is open to all invitees who are compliant with UChicago vaccination requirements and, because of ongoing health risks, particularly to the unvaccinated, participants are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures (masking and social distancing, etc.) appropriate to their vaccination status as advised by public health officials or to their individual vulnerabilities as advised by a medical professional. Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.