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Indigenous Knowledges and the Imperial Archive: Nahua Health, Illness, and Healing in the 1577 relaciones geográficas

October 28 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

A lecture by Prof. Kelly McDonough (University of Texas at Austin)

Scholars⁠ have made significant headway in articulating the histories of science and technologies in the Iberian colonial world, yet we still lack a comprehensive understanding of Indigenous contributions to this area. A challenge we are presented in attempting to remedy this gap is the limited source material available in archives made for and by dominant culture, which tend to obscure or erase Indigenous knowledges and practices. The relaciones geográficas, bureaucratic surveys of Spanish-held territories of the Americas, are well-known to scholars and have been studied from a variety of angles. I propose, however, that we have not yet paid sufficient attention to the presence of Indigenous knowledges and practices embedded in the corpus. In my talk, I argue that thinking with a “technologies as systems” approach (Norton 2017; Gell 1988), we can read the relaciones geográficas in a way that draws out Indigenous Plant Science and Technologies (IPST) and its practitioners. Part meditation on methodological challenges and part suggestion of possibilities for meeting them, my talk provides a deep contextualization of the traces of Nahua health, illness, and healing modalities in the 46 relaciones geográficas manuscripts from the Archdiocese of Mexico and Tlaxcala. The goal in doing is to demonstrate how we can broaden our source base for the study of Indigenous knowledges in general, and IPST specifically, while re-establishing Indigenous “active presence” (Mt. Pleasant, Wigginton, and Wisecup 2018, 210) in archival materials where it can be difficult to see or hear.

Indigenous Knowledges Poster


October 28
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm