Graduate Seminar: Ellen T. Baird

Ellen T. Baird, University of Illinois at Chicago
Ellen T. Baird, University of Illinois at Chicago
Center for Renaissance Studies Programs
Graduate Seminar
Friday, January 13, 2006 to Friday, March 17, 2006

Theorizing Indigenous Knowledge in Colonial Mexico: Pictorial Nahua Documents

Ellen T. Baird, University of Illinois at Chicago

Pictorial manuscripts occupied a central place in the intellectual traditions of the Aztecs of Mesoamerica and recorded great historical events; individual triumph, intrigue, and defeat; arcane religious practice; economic transactions; dreams and prognostications; astronomical events; and land ownership.  Scholars worldwide have long been fascinated by Aztec culture prior to the conquest, and their reconstructions of this extraordinary society have resonated with modern audiences. This seminar will:

  • focus on the richness and vigor of indigenous creativity and intellectual production in the colonial period with a particular emphasis on pictorial documents;
  • highlight the continuity, adaptation, and transformation of indigenous Nahua culture (the Aztecs’ colonial descendants) through the continued use of Aztec symbolic forms and the introduction of the alphabetic writing of Nahuatl; and
  • emphasize the lesser-known history of indigenous survival and creative adaptation, as well as the cross-cultural communication between indigenous people and Europeans.

Through the use of primary sources drawn from the Newberry Library’s acclaimed collection of colonial Mexican materials and secondary readings, we will explore the persistence and vigor of indigenous culture and intellectual production in colonial Mexico from 1519 to the eighteenth century and will analyze the interaction between the Nahua and Europeans. We will examine original manuscripts, books, documents, and maps focusing on the pictorial representation and language through which the Nahua encoded knowledge and represented the past and the present.

We will study the various social and cultural settings where the production of indigenous knowledge took place, the heterogeneous activities and cultural artifacts involved in the representation and reproduction of indigenous culture, the conditions that made indigenous cultural production possible in the colonial context, the translation of cultural categories as a form of interaction in the colonial context, and the ways in which Nahua culture dealt with the power mechanisms regulating the production and representation of knowledge within the colonial context. Within a historical and theoretical framework, we will also seek to develop an understanding of the challenges to our own attempts to theorize indigenous knowledge.

Participants:  Catherine Burdick, University of Illinois at Chicago; Luis Delgado, University of Illinois at Chicago; Arturo Garcia, University of Illinois at Chicago; Yesenia Gonzalez, University of Illinois at Chicago; Dianne Lehmann, Northwestern University; Maria Reyes Moran, University of Illinois at Chicago; Ruth Nelson, University of Illinois at Chicago; Martin Ponti, University of Illinois at Chicago; Irene Ruiz, University of Illinois at Chicago; Thomas Vandervelde, University of Illinois at Chicago; Candice Weber, University of Illinois at Chicago; Lauren Whitney, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Learn more about Center for Renaissance Studies programs for graduate students.

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