Exam List 1: Colonial Latin America

Walter Mignolo’s notion of the “Colonization of Space,” as it is used in Chapter 6 of The Darker Side of the Renaissance, articulates a point of intersection between traditional notions of colonization as physical occupation of space, and the more discourse-centered dimensions of colonization laid out, for example, in “On the Colonization of Amerindian Languages and Memories.” By focusing on the impact of colonization on cartography, Mignolo is able to trace a visible discursive shift in both European and Amerindian semiosis while at the same time presenting a convenient means of connecting that shift in writing back to a shift in consciousness, in terms of a changing conception of space.

This list will investigate colonial semiosis in the Latin American context through the lens of the discourses of space and place. Primary and secondary texts will address key moments in what Edmundo O’Gorman calls “the invention of America,” namely the process by which the Americas were given a meaning within the European system of cosmology. Following Mignolo’s model, I will trace the mapping of the Americas from pre-Columbian pictorial representations of space, through the revision of the European global map and the local practices of mapping new territories, and into the emergence of hybrid texts combining and recontextualizing both pre-Columbian and Spanish discursive practices.

I am interested in particular in the hermeneutics implied by Mignolo’s notion of colonial discourse and by his adoption of Homi Bhabba’s notion of hybridity. Mignolo challenges mimetic notions of discourse in two ways: first, by reading colonial semiosis as productive, rather than merely reflective, of spatial ontologies; and, second, by pointing to hybrid texts as moments of resistance which operate by destabilizing colonial signifiers. However, the destabilizing potentials of hybrid texts seem to rely on the assumption of an already stable colonial discourse capable of producing legible visions of space. Therefore, in studying these texts, one of my principal concerns will be to understand the extent to which practices of representing space can be read as reliable interventions in both cosmological and local geographical visions.

Primary Texts:

Acuña, René, ed. Relaciones geográficas del siglo XVI.

Cabeza de Vaca, Álvar Núñez. Naufragios.

Colón, Cristóbal. “Diario del primer viaje (1492-1493)” in Los cuatro viajes: Testamento.

Cortés, Hernán. Cartas de relación.

Diaz del Castillo, Bernal. Historia verdadera de la conquista de la nueva España.

Ercilla, Alonso de. La Araucana.

Garcilaso de la Vega, Inca. Comentarios reales de los Incas.

Kirchoff, Paul, et al, eds. Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca.

Poma, Guamán. Primer nueva crónica y buen gobierno.

Vandera, Alonso Carrió de la (Concolocorvo). El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes.

Secondary Texts

Baird, Ellen T. “The Reordering of Space in Sixteenth-Century Mexico: Some Implications of the Grid,” in Painted Books and Indigenous Knowledge in Mesoamerica: Manuscript Studies in Honor of Mary Elizabeth Smith.

Bhabba, Homi. The Location of Culture.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill and Walter Mignolo, eds. Writing without Words.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill. “Pictorial documents and Visual Thinking in Postconquest Mexico,” in Native Traditions in the Postconquest World; “Migration Histories as Ritual Performance” in To Change Place: Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes.

Gruzinski, Serge. The Conquest of Mexico: The Incorporation of Indian Societies into the Western World, 16th-18th Centuries.

Hulme, Peter. “Columbus and the Cannibals” in Colonial Encounters: Europe and the native Caribbean 1492-1797.

Mignolo, Walter. The Darker Side of the Renaissance; “On the colonization of Amerindian Languages and Memories: Renaissance Theories of Writing and the Discontinuity of the Classical Tradition” in Comparative Studies in Society and History.

Mundy, Barbara E. The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geográficas.

O’Gorman, Edmundo. The Invention of America.

Rama, Angel. La Ciudad Letrada.

Romero, José Luis. Latinoamérica: las ciudades y las ideas.

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