Conference on Latin American History 45
This is the final panel of three linked sessions on ‘Ethnography, Ethnology and Science, 1500-1800’. It explores the networks of observers and writers whose practices and conceptual frameworks helped to shape European ideas about distant regions. These issues are examined with a focus on the ethnography, ethnology and natural history of Latin America.
European textual and visual responses to first-hand encounters were created in complex contexts, both at home and abroad, in which travellers’ and writers’ preconceptions about nature and human diversity were confronted by experience. This panel seeks to understand the ways in which intellectual and physical contexts in which ethnographic others were observed, described and analysed shaped the nature of ethnological knowledge. Its papers investigate the ways in which both the experiences and expectations of ethnographers informed their writing about indigenous peoples and their local environments.
The three speakers locate and follow networks of individuals whose ideas, experiences, actions and writings helped to shape what came to constitute authoritative knowledge about this region. Katherine Johnston explores how, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, travellers’ ideas about the relationship between human bodies and their environment were re-shaped by their experiences. Jordan Kellman argues that the seventeenth-century ethnography of the Tupinambà of Brazil was the result of a complex network of ideas, individuals and communities from several contexts: monastic, theological, cosmological and naturalist. Mariana Françozo explores the tensions between experience and convention in mid-seventeenth century visual representations of Brazilian peoples.