The Deadly Politics of Giving – Dr. Seth Mallios Interview

2020 marks the 450th anniversary of the ill-fated Spanish Jesuit Ajacan Mission. Discussing this topic and a key ingredient to Ajacan’s downfall is Dr. Seth Mallios, who wrote The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown in 2006. The key ingredient leading to Ajacan’s fate, Mallios argues, is gift giving, or better stated, how the Spanish did not understand how gift giving was properly used in indigenous society. Because of this lack of understanding, when the Spanish returned to establish Ajacan in 1570 the mission quickly and violently ended.

Dr. Mallios then ventures into Roanoke and Jamestown with the same focus, how did gift giving affect those colonies? Tune in to this episode to find out the answer to this and other questions that Seth and I discuss, such as whether or not the Ajacan Jesuit missionaries were martyrs and differences between how European and Indigenous societies viewed transactions.



  1. The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown. Tuscaloosa AL: University of Alabama, 2006.
  2. Born a Slave, Died a Pioneer: Nathan “Nate” Harrison and the Historical Archaeology of a Legend. New York: Berghahn, 2020.
  3. With Caterino, David M. Cemeteries of San Diego. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2007.
  4. With Caterino, David M. Cemeteries of San Diego County. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2008.
  5. Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State. San Diego: Montezuma Publishing, 2012.
  6. An Interim Technical Report for the 2017 Field Season: Archaeological Excavations at the Nate Harrison Site in San Diego County, CA.San Diego: Montezuma Publishing, 2018.
  7. With Lennox, Jaime. Let it Rock! Live from San Diego State, 5 Volumes. San Diego: Montezuma Publishing, 2015

Links to Dr. Mallios:

Don Luis decapitating the Jesuit Missionaries at Ajacan

All photography on this website is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of Dr. Seth Mallios from the The image of Don Luis decapitating the Ajacan Jesuits can be found at

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “”Simple Gifts” performed by the New York Philharmonic, also available on Apple Music.