Keynote Lectures

Diana Magaloni, Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM
The Indigenous History of the Conquest of Mexico in Book 12 of the Florentine Codex

The Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, also known as the Florentine Codex is a twelve volume bi-lingual encyclopedia that encompasses most aspects of the Nahua culture and people of central Mexico on the eve of the Conquest. The twelve volumes were designed to have two handwritten texts, in Nahuatl and Spanish, and to bear more than two thousand paintings. In this talk I explore the meaning of this work from the standpoint of the indigenous conception of history and community focusing on the written and painted account of the Conquest of Mexico preserved as El Libro de la Conquista in Book 12 of the Florentine Codex. I show how this book is simultaneously an ancient sacred indigenous codex and a European book. As an indigenous painted manuscript the work was crafted to re-create or found New Spain as an indigenous altepetl, Water Mountain in Nahuatl, an expression that denotes the people, their territory (land) and their history. As a European chronicle it served the purpose to add the indigenous vision to the contemporaneous European interpretations of the Conquest.

Sylvia Sellers-García, Boston College
Making the Margins in Paper: Colonial to National in Central America

Officials in the Kingdom of Guatemala understood themselves to be at the spatial and temporal margins of the Spanish empire; in turn, they saw the provinces of the kingdom as marginal to Guatemala. In this talk, I will examine how paperwork created certain places as peripheral and, at the same time, allowed for the margins to influence the center. Changes during the late eighteenth century set the stage for a more efficient and more rapid movement of paper, creating a different dynamic in the newly emerged states of Central America.

Rebecca Scott, University of Michigan
“Esto lo ha dicho la doliente”: From Last Rites to Freedom Suit (Havana, 1817)

In 1796 in Saint-Domingue a young woman named Colette, born into slavery but freed in the midst of revolution, sought passage on a ship taking refugees out of the war-ravaged colony. She promised the woman who made the loan that she would work for her to pay off the debt. After settling in Havana, however, Colette (now Coleta) gradually came to realize that by working for years without pay she could be – and was – taken to be a slave.  The woman to whom she owed the debt took Coleta’s daughters to the church of Santo Ángel Custodio to be baptized, and the priest entered each into the record as born to “Coleta, esclava.” Coleta’s predicament seemed to offer no solution.  Held as a slave, she would be deemed to lack “legal capacity.” Twenty years later, as Coleta lay on her deathbed, a Capuchin friar was summoned to perform the last rites. Coleta recounted her saga – and then refused to accept final absolution unless the friar would write her story down and take those pages to a judge in order to initiate a freedom suit for her daughters.  In this talk, based on a paper co-authored with Carlos Venegas Fornias, Rebecca Scott explores the role of ink on paper in the adjudication of status for persons held or claimed as slaves.

Panel Presentations

Panel 1: Papers of Freedom and Dispossession

Ana María Silva, University of Michigan
Inventories of Dispossession: The Financial Archives of the Inquisition of Cartagena

On Sunday, March 26, 1634, the Inquisition of Cartagena de Indias declared twenty-one women of color, some of them formerly enslaved, guilty of witchcraft and condemned them to punishments that included jail, whippings, temporary or permanent exile, and confiscation of all their property, including freedom papers, houses and plots of land. In the subsequent months, Inquisition officials carefully inventoried each woman’s belongings and auctioned them to the highest bidder. The Tribunal used the proceeds to pay its agents and finance public ceremonies. The confiscation and resale of houses and plots of land was one the strategies that allowed the Inquisition to prevent the spread of heterodox beliefs and practices by uprooting people that inquisitors perceived as threatening from their communities and networks. By examining the Tribunal’s production of a financial archive, my paper provides insights into the mechanisms by which plunder and dispossession of women of color became deeply intertwined with the spiritual and economic “health” of Spain’s empire overseas, thus highlighting the material dimensions of the Inquisition’s intervention into the secular world.

Adrián Lerner, Yale University
Out-of-Jail-Cards in Authoritarian Times: Habeas Corpus and State Formation in Manaus, 1960-1990

In this paper, I explore the political meanings of the judicial practice of Habeas Corpus in the courts of Manaus, the capital city of the State of Amazonas, before, during, and after the military government that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. I analyze more than a hundred cases filed by petitioners from all social backgrounds and involving an array of actors. Citizens claimed that their liberty of movement was unjustly restricted; specific documents could, and often did, grant them effective freedom. Papers related to Habeas Corpus cases, then, directly affected that most material aspect of human life: the circulation of bodies. I therefore conceptualize them as performative texts during contested processes of state formation.

Seen in this light, they reveal important and understudied features of state formation. These include conflicts between state powers, which show that the judiciary was a crucial actor for the expansion of the Brazilian state in peripheral regions, but that it often did so by limiting its coercive powers. They also include an intertextual flux between judicial decisions, declarations, inquiries, certificates, jurisprudence and the like, which directly affected the citizens’ right to move. Moreover, by studying cases that span democracy and dictatorship in a peripheral but strategic region of Brazil, I show that authoritarian practices and resistance to them transcended traditional divisions between political regimes, and suggest the potential for new periodizations of authoritarianism in the region.

Panel 2: Printing Politics

Rachel Stein, Columbia University
Pearls, Paper, and Print between Isla Margarita and Lisbon

In 1581, King Philip II annexed Portugal and its overseas empire to the Spanish Crown. According to the terms of the Iberian Union, the Portuguese Indies would continue to be governed by Portuguese representatives in Lisbon, while the Spanish Indies would remain under the purview of the Royal Council of the Indies in Madrid. Authors and editors of texts on Iberian empire in this period, however, used print to contest and reimagine the global monarchy’s administrative composition. This paper shows that those publishing on Spanish America at the Lisbon press of Pedro Craesbeeck removed the royal court and its Council of the Indies from their books through editorial operations and censorial circumventions, presenting Lisbon as an alternative metropolitan center for the Spanish Indies. I analyze two works printed at Craesbeeck’s house: Francisco Losa’s La vida que hizo el siervo de Dios Gregorio López en algunos lugares de esta Nueva España, first printed in Mexico City in 1613 and re-edited in 1615 by the Lisbon bookseller-publisher Manoel Pereira, and Pedro Bejarano’s Resolución breve acerca de las monedas que corren en la Isla Margarita (1600), a Dominican friar’s invective against the corruption of the Caribbean pearl trade. Both Pereira and Bejarano disconnect Castile from its colonies and link them to Lisbon instead, treating the King and his councils like moveable parts with a flexibility akin to the moveable lead type arranged on the bed of the press.

Corinna Zeltsman, Wesleyan University
Responsibility on Trial: Printers, Politics, and the Law in Early Republican Mexico City

This paper explores how printers shaped the implementation and interpretation of freedom of the press laws in early republican Mexico City. Far from passive reproducers of texts written by elites, printers facilitated politics by assuming or managing the risks that accompanied the production of controversial imprints, especially by manipulating the ostensibly defined yet practically contingent category of “responsibility” embedded in Mexico’s press laws. Reconstructing the production, dissemination, and fallout over an 1840 pro-monarchist pamphlet written by the Yucatecan senator José María Gutiérrez Estrada, the paper recovers the collaboration of a trio of printers and publishers who brought the work to light and contested official efforts to punish them by holding them responsible for the senator’s text. While officials in the case wielded press laws to regulate the emerging field of public debate in print, printers circumvented their efforts, using liberal arguments about free expression and the divisions between manual and intellectual labor to craft public personae. The paper also considers Mexico City’s circuits of distribution and role of print as material texts that connected intimate urban communities.

Panel 3: Paper Identifications and Struggles over Legal Personhood

Jose Ragas, Cornell University
Portable States: Internal Passports and state-making in Peru, 1820-1855

This paper examines state building process in Peru during the transition from colony to republic from a socio-technical perspective, focusing on the design and circulation of internal passports in the aftermath of the Wars of Independence. The necessity to monitor the mobility of people and determine their identity led to the development of an embryonic surveillance system, which relied on the production of ephemeral passes and identification codes that could be used across the nascent republic. I argue that these artifacts were crucial to the early Peruvian government in their quest for legitimacy as the sole entity responsible for the identification and control of spatial mobility, in a moment when private surveillance was also performed in rural estates and the Catholic Church was still the most prominent generator of personal certificates. For thirty years, which correspond to the vital cycle of the internal passports, policy makers were able to develop a portable and easy to manage device to secure governmentality, before fingerprints, mug shots, and other authentication technologies were still available.

David Sartorius, University of Maryland
Paper Trails: Passports and Personhood in Nineteenth-Century Cuba

Regulating mobility was serious business in nineteenth-century Cuba, from controlling the illegal slave trade to classifying the bodies (and the ideas and goods they carried) coming and going from the island. By midcentury, passports became a crucial point of contention. Historically, the diversity of these documents—from passports for entire ships to passes scribbled by port officials to wordy certificates bearing an elaborate coat of arms—underscored the variety of attempts to regulate mobility and the unresolved questions of documenting personhood, particularly racial identity. This essay attempts to foreground the prehistories, afterlives, and exclusions of passports: stories of their issuance, forgery, use and misuse; what they meant to their bearers and how they made use of them beyond the purposes of a single voyage; accounts of African captives denied documentary proof of identity; stories of stowaways and women and children who traveled without papers. Dramas surrounding passports unfolded in quotidian interactions on the docks, in consular offices, in police headquarters, and on ships, and raise questions about the relationship between travel documents and legal personhood.

Elizabeth Shesko, Oakland University
The Effects of Bureaucracy: State Capacity and Social Categories in Bolivian Military Conscription Records

When Bolivia lawmakers decreed obligatory military service in 1907, they laid the foundations for a complex bureaucracy that would need to record personal details and track all men living in the national territory. However, the existing state lacked the capacity to fulfill this ideal, especially given Bolivia’s low population density and majority-indigenous and non-Spanish-speaking population. It thus depended on indirect governance through often-unreliable local authorities. This paper analyzes Bolivian conscription records as a method of state formation and tracks the strengthening of the state’s documentary regime and repressive apparatus from 1907 until the Bolivian National Revolution in 1952. These records reveal the ideal bureaucracy and citizenry that the law sought forge yet also show a wide gap between aspirations and implementation. The paper argues that conscription records created new social categories that both reinforced and destabilized Bolivia’s deeply rooted hierarchies of race, education, and social class. The way that conscription records both track and deliberately omit racial categories point to the centrality of race to Bolivian state formation.

Panel 4: Imperial Alphabets, Indigenous Tactics

Valeria López-Fadul, The University of Chicago
To Preserve and Unite: Knowledge Gathering and History Writing in the Spanish Empire

By the late sixteenth century Phillip II, the Spanish king, reigned over a vast and transoceanic kingdom that spanned more than one third of the earth. The empire’s vastness created a dire need for information that would facilitate governance and also allow Spain to fulfill its mission of Christian indoctrination. To acquire this information, the scholars in the king’s court devised numerous projects to harness knowledge, in the Iberian Peninsula and its transatlantic realms, for the Crown’s political benefit. This paper examines a set of projects that sought to collectively master the human and natural history of the Indies by excavating linguistic and visual evidence, much of which was acquired orally through the interrogation of local informants. I will show the many ways in which these diverse undertakings were united in the early modern Iberian world by a shared dependence on the knowledge of languages. Moreover, by relying on the testimonies of local authorities early modern scholars replicated in the realm of knowledge production Spain’s well-known commitment to a decentralized and composite administrative model that brought together information while preserving its local specificity. This preference was reflected in the adaptation of ancient and medieval forms of information compilation that accommodated both local expertise and modern experience.

Santiago Muñoz Arbeláez, Yale University
Formats of Indigeneity: Dictionaries, Maps, and the Paper Genres of Ethnic Marking in the Early New Kingdom of Granada

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the Spanish empire put forth two bureaucratic movements to codify and define indigenous identity in the New Kingdom of Granada: one had to do with linguistic practice, the other with geography. The first one was co-directed by bureaucrats and clergy and aimed to gather all available knowledge of the muisca language, to standardize it into vocabularies, to then translate the principles of the Catholic faith into this language. The second created a new category of property to give out lands to indigenous peoples without allowing them to sell them. Both were based on incorrect assumptions about the natives. The linguistic project assumed that there was a single and coherent muisca language that could be standardized and used to convert the diverse native groups of this area. The geographic project assumed the native economies were oriented toward survival and had no commercial inclination. Both these movements left material traces in paper form. The linguistic process translated into catechisms, dictionaries, and confessionaries, the geographic one into land titles and land claims. In this paper I examine the production of these paper artifacts, the ideas and assumptions about indigeneity they sustained and enforced, and how the natives engaged with them to make their claims. I argue that, in spite of their flawed assumptions and contradictions, these paper technologies and the institutional settings that gave them meaning, profoundly shaped the meaning and practices associated with being an “Indian” in the sixteenth-century New Kingdom of Granada.

Caroline Garriott, Duke University
Venerating the Apu’s Brother Jesus Christ: Material Archives and Ritual Kinship in Seventeenth-Century Huamanga, Peru

This article examines an unedited manuscript from 1684 written by Jesuit priest Nicolás de Talavera concerning the sixteenth century “origins of devotion” to a locally-produced image of the Crucified Christ from Cayara, a highland region in Huamanga, Peru. Though spat upon, whipped, buried, and burnt by indigenous “idolaters,” the Christ image “miraculously” remained intact. While Talavera positions the material indestructability of the Crucified Christ of Cayara as a metonym for the eventual triumph of Catholicism in the diocese of Huamanga, a critical analysis of the manuscript’s material form and discursive content challenges facile understandings of the missionary process and the “successful” indoctrination of indigenous locals. This essay considers whether ideological conversion could occur in the absence of the material embodiment of the sacred—in Andean huacas or Christian icons—particularly considering the Catholic Church’s iconoclastic campaigns to “extirpate” Andean idolatry by destroying figurative huacas and/or erecting Christian crosses and crucifixes on top of ancestral sites of ritual devotion. Drawing from insights in critical ethnography and material culture, I argue that indigenous populations in mid-colonial Huamanga responded to the imposition of Spanish Catholicism by “carrying water on both shoulders,” in other words they venerated Christian images alongside local huacas and ancestral Apus that ordered their cosmos and were rooted in the sacred, animated landscape embedded with camay.