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Picturing Lettered Cities under Spain

Joshua Fitzgerald

This session investigates religious, political, and cultural imperialism, indoctrination and acculturation relating to the history of European/Iberian interventions in sixteenth century Mesoamerica and South America. Language, literacy, and ‘new’ media for communication were essential tools used by the Spanish Empire. Our conversation will churn around Angél Rama’s provocative, Hispanophilic conception of the ‘lettered city’ (la ciudad letrada, 1984). Theoretically, new media of the sixteenth century demarcated the boundaries of the ‘lettered’ elite framed against a backdrop of the illiterate urban and rural peoples of the colonies. Scholars have argued that these advents reflected a dark side of colonialism (Mignolo, 2003). Recently, some have begun to shed light on the persistence of Indigenous intellectual innovations under colonial regimes.

Our goal is to explore assumed power relationships alongside the complexities of what some have called the ‘colonial mediascape’ (Cohen & Glover, 2014). Beyond the lettered milieu, communities could foster local and regional knowledge that would seem an anathema to colonialism and early-modern educationists. We will study a variety of primary sources, including pictorial manuscripts and material culture, to better understand change over time and the diversity of learning strategies at the time. Some of the questions under discussion include: What archival systems existed before the proverbial lettered cities and was the cultural slate wiped clean with Spanish-Catholic conquests? How were writing and linguistic traditions weaponized by the imperial agents? What was cultural hybridity and is that an effective term? And to what degree did Indigenous and mixed-heritage traditions influence colonial-era education systems?

Key issues:

  • Science of Indigenous archiving, writing, learning
  • Language and writing adoption & Spanish Colonial education systems
  • Rearticulating texts and visual bilingualism in Colonial Period
  • Research methods of Art History and Archaeology in historical analysis
  • Persistence and resistance to acculturation, 1519 to present

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 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.
  • 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. 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. University of New Mexico Press.
  • Dueñas, A. 2010. Indians and Mestizos in the “Lettered City” Reshaping Justice, Social Hierarchy, and Political Culture in Colonial Peru. 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, J. M. 1974. La educación como conquista: empresa franciscana en México. El Colegio de México.
  • 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. University of Notre Dame.
  • Lockhart, J. 1999. Of Things of the Indies: Essays Old and New in Early Latin American History. Stanford University Press.
  • Mignolo, W. 2003. The Darker Side of the Renaissance. Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization. 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. 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. Duke University Press.
  • Restall, M., Terraciano, K. and Sousa, L. 2005. Mesoamerican Voices: Native-language Writings from Colonial Mexico, Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Guatemala. Cambridge University Press.
  • 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. University of California.
  • Ruiz Medrano, E. and Kellogg, S. eds. 2010. Negotiation within Domination: New Spain’s Indian Pueblos Confront the Spanish State. University Press of Colorado.
  • Russo, Alessandra. 2014. The Untranslatable Image: A Mestizo History of the Arts in New Spain, 1500–1600. 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.