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Picturing Lettered Cities under Spain

Joshua Fitzgerald

This session investigates the history of language adoption and adaptation, literacy and urbanity, and Indigenous-American cognitive sciences before and after Spanish interventions in the sixteenth century. Language and media were essential tools used in Spain’s imperial endeavours in Mesoamerica and South America, and our investigation churns around Angél Rama’s provocative concept of the colonial ‘lettered city’ (la ciudad letrada, 1984). Scholars have argued that colonial education was conquest and literacy represented one of the darker sides to colonialism. Others have begun to shed light on the longevity of Indigenous innovations and cultural perseverance through preserving local knowledge in what some have called the ‘colonial mediascape.’ In this session, we explore how Indigenous and mixed-heritage communities confronted, accommodated, or ignored the advent of Ibero-Christian literary regimes. We will unpack ethnolinguistic change and material culture to help answer challenging questions, including: What archival systems existed before the proverbial lettered cities? How was language weaponized through Spanish colonialism? What was the socio-political and economic roles of the ‘lettered’? To what degree did Indigenous traditions influence Spanish Colonial education systems? How might colonial hierarchies of knowledge persist in our current vernaculars? And how might today’s language revitalization programs and popular culture confront the legacies of colonialism?

Key issues:

  • Language Adoption & Empire
  • Colonial Education Systems
  • Indigenous Archiving/Writing/Learning Modalities
  • Rearticulating Texts and Visual Bilingualism
  • Code-switching, Past and Present
  • Language Revitalization and Cultural Heritage

Required readings:

Further readings:

  • Aparicio, J., and Blaser, M. 2008. "The'Lettered City" and the Insurrection of Subjugated Knowledges in Latin America." Anthropological Quarterly (2008): 59-94.
  • Boone, E.H. and Mignolo, W. 1994. Writing without words: Alternative literacies in Mesoamerica and the Andes. Duke University Press,.
  • Burkholder, M.A. and Johnson, L.L. 2003. Colonial Latin America. Fifth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cañizares-Esguerra, J. 2006. Puritan Conquistadors: Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550-1700. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Charles, J. 2010. Allies at odds: the Andean church and its indigenous agents, 1583-1671. University of New Mexico Press.
  • Cohen, M. and Glover, J., eds. 2014. Colonial mediascapes: sensory worlds of the early Americas. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  • De la Puente Luna, J. 2018. Andean cosmopolitans: seeking justice and reward at the Spanish royal court. University of Texas Press.
  • Donahue-Wallace, K. 2008. Art and architecture of viceregal Latin America, 1521-1821. UNM Press.
  • Dueñas, A. 2015. "Introduction: Andeans Articulating Colonial Worlds." The Americas 72, no. 1 (2015): 3-17. 
  • Dueñas, A. 2010. Indians and Mestizos in the "lettered City" Reshaping Justice, Social Hierarchy, and Political Culture in Colonial Peru. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Press.
  • Errington, J. 2007. Linguistics in a colonial world: A story of language, meaning, and power. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Gruzinski, S. 2016 [1988]. La colonización de lo imaginario: Sociedades indígenas y occidentalización en el México español. Siglos XVI-XVIII. Fondo de Cultura Económica.
  • Howe, E. 2016. Education and Women in the Early Modern Hispanic World. Routledge.
  • Kicza, J.E. 1993. The Indian in Latin American History: Resistance, Resilience, and Acculturation. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources.
  • Klein, C. 1990. “Editor's statement: Depictions of the Dispossessed.” Art Journal, 49:2 (1990), 106-109.
  • Kobayashi, José María. La educación como conquista: empresa franciscana en México. 1996.
  • Laird, A. 2014. “Nahuas and Caesars. Classical Learning and Bilingualism in Post-Conquest Mexico. An Inventory of Latin Writings by Authors of the Native Nobility”. Classical Philology 109: 150-169.
  • Lara, Jaime. 2008. Christian Texts for Aztecs: Art and Liturgy in Colonial Mexico. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame.
  • Lockhart, J. 1999. Of Things of the Indies: Essays Old and New in Early Latin American History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Mignolo, W. 2003. The Darker Side of the Renaissance. Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization. Michigan, University of Michigan Press.
  • Navarrete, F. 1999. “Las fuentes indígenas más allá de la dicotomía entre historia y mito”. Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl. 30: 231-256.
  • Rama, A., (trans. John Charles Chasteen). 1996. The Lettered City. Durham: Duke University Press. Post-contemporary Interventions OR Rama, A. La Ciudad Letrada. Santiago: Tajamar Editores, (1984) 2004.
  • Ramos, G. and Yannakakis, Y. eds. 2014. Indigenous Intellectuals: Knowledge, Power, and Colonial Culture in Mexico and the Andes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Restall, M., Terraciano, K. and Sousa, L. 2005. Mesoamerican Voices: Native-language Writings from Colonial Mexico, Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Guatemala.
  • Ricard, R. 1966. The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico an Essay on the Apostolate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain, 1523-1572. CA, Berkeley: University of California.
  • Ruiz Medrano, E. and Kellogg, S. eds. 2010. Negotiation within Domination: New Spain’s Indian Pueblos Confront the Spanish State. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.
  • Russo, Alessandra. 2014. The Untranslatable Image: A Mestizo History of the Arts in New Spain, 1500–1600. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
  • Serulnikov, Sergio. 2003. Subverting Colonial Authority: Challenges to Spanish Rule in the Eighteenth-Century Southern Andes. Duke University Press.
  • Zapata Silva, C. 2007. Intelectuales Indígenas Piensan América Latina. Quito: Ediciones Abya-Yala.