Marcia Stephenson

Jan 27, 2024

Llamas beyond the Andes

Untold Histories of Camelids in the Modern World

University of Texas Press 2023

Camelids are vital to the cultures and economies of the Andes. The animals have also been at the heart of ecological and social catastrophe: Europeans overhunted wild vicuña and guanaco and imposed husbandry and breeding practices that decimated llama and alpaca flocks that had been successfully tended by Indigenous peoples for generations. Yet the colonial encounter with these animals was not limited to the New World. Llamas Beyond the Andes: The Untold History of Camelids in the Modern World (University of Texas Press, 2023) by Dr. Marcia Stephenson tells the five-hundred-year history of animals removed from their native habitats and transported overseas.

Initially Europeans prized camelids for the bezoar stones found in their guts: boluses of ingested matter that were thought to have curative powers. Then the animals themselves were shipped abroad as exotica. As Europeans and US Americans came to recognize the economic value of camelids, new questions emerged: What would these novel sources of protein and fiber mean for the sheep industry? And how best to cultivate herds? Andeans had the expertise, but knowledge sharing was rarely easy. Marcia Stephenson explores the myriad scientific, commercial, and cultural interests that have attended camelids globally, making these animals a critical meeting point for diverse groups from the North and South.


This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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Miranda Melcher

Miranda Melcher (Ph.D., Defense Studies, Kings College, London) studies post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with deep analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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