Tupi or Not Tupi? The Indian Par Excellence in Early Modern Eastern South America

Friday, January 5, 2018: 3:50 PM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
M. Kittiya Lee, California State University, Los Angeles
“Tupi or Not Tupi? The Indian Par Excellence in Early Modern Eastern South America” examines the evolution of early modern representations of the Indian, drawing on the paper trail left by and about peoples known as Tupi Indians for colonial Amazonia and Brazil, and as Guarani Indians for Paraguay. I balance the written observations made by European and Ibero-American outsiders with the views provided by the insiders -- native peoples and the missionaries who worked closely with them -- who scripted and dictated travel accounts, letters, histories, as well as translation manuals (dictionaries, catechisms, Christian doctrine) written Tupi and Guarani, two indigenous languages which became important linguas franca. I argue that the peoples of the Tupi-Guarani language family introduced to their respective colonial societies an ethnocentrism that identified themselves as the American Indian manifestly excellent above others. My analyses focus on the vocabulary that the Tupi-Guarani spoke, and sometimes innovated, and examine how the words and the ideas they carry influenced dominant society throughout three centuries of Iberian colonization (1500-1800). This study revises the scholarly emphasis that credits the representations and descriptions of New World Indians to the European authorial gaze by uncovering indigenous influences. Specifically, the project suggests that the Indians of eastern South American engaged in an intellectual colonization of early modern notions of goodness, propriety, and superiority.