Native Religions in Colonial Latin America: An Interdisciplinary and Comparative Symposium

AHA Session 241
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Governor's Square 14 (Sheraton Denver Downtown, Plaza Building Concourse Level)
David E. Tavárez, Vassar College

Session Abstract

This session brings together exciting new finds and approaches to the study of “native religions” in colonial Latin America. It aims at better understanding how scholars at present times view native religions in prehispanic times and how to understand subsequent mutual adaptation processes with respect to Christianity. Religion is certainly a key feature of native identities in the Americas at the outset of Spanish colonization. It continues to play a key role in later colonial times even though native religions changed heavily under the impact of intercultural exchanges. This panel brings together scholars with a primary focus on religion in prehispanic times as well as those with a primary focus on the colonial times. While Baroque religiosity in the Americas has so far received considerable attention, the understanding of changes within native religions in the maelstrom of intercultural exchanges has received little attention as it requires an interdisciplinary longue durée perspective from pre-Hispanic to Hispanic times. This panel wants to overcome this hurdle by bringing to discussion new insights from anthropology, ethnohistory, history, and religious studies. It also wants to address two basic distinctions that shape the study of native religions in both Mesoamerican and Andean settings: first, the distinction between pre-colonial and colonial native religions, and second, the distinction between the rural and urban divide. Was there a different pace between assimilation processes in rural as well as in urban settings? How did subsequent Spanish Christianization differ in both geographical areas?

This panel therefore wants to show that the study of native religions requires transdisciplinary longue durée perspectives. Experts from different fields such as history, anthropology, religious studies, and ethnohistory will learn in how far Spanish Christianization differed because of differences in Mesoamerican and Andean native religions.

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