Nomadic economics: The logic and logistics of Comanche imperialism in New Mexico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past 20 years, scholars have expanded upon subsistence-driven models of indigenous labor and exchange by tracing out the dynamic social, economic, and political systems created by Native people. While current research has highlighted indigenous agency, especially in response to Western colonialism, these approaches have largely ignored the cultural and linguistic meanings behind key economic concepts. Through a case study of the Comanche, this article develops a culturally grounded approach to nomadic economics. The Comanche offer a compelling case for indigenous empire building, a case which points to the need to develop a revised understanding of imperialism. Drawing on documentary and archaeological evidence, this article traces the logic and logistics of Comanche imperialism in New Mexico. Specifically, I argue that during the 18th and early 19th centuries, Comanche people created a nomadic empire rooted in decentralized political power, kinship, and inter- and intra-ethnic exchange. This case study provides a glimpse into the priorities and practices of Comanche entrepreneurs and points to the important role of internal social dynamics in structuring indigenous forms of imperialism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-355
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Comanche
  • imperialism
  • New Mexico
  • political economy
  • rock art

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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