Digital Colonial Latin America: Experiments in Research, Teaching, and Narrative

AHA Session 169
Conference on Latin American History 36
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hampton Room (Omni Shoreham, East Lobby)
Alida Metcalf, Rice University
Jeffrey Erbig, University of California, Santa Cruz
Jane Mangan, Davidson College
Bianca Premo, Florida International University
Yanna P. Yannakakis, Emory University

Session Abstract

This roundtable showcases digital projects on colonial Latin America in varied stages of development, with an eye to encouraging digital experimentation and a focus on the particular challenges that colonial historians face. The four projects feature distinct places and times: Río de la Plata, urban centers in the Viceroyalty of Peru, and rural indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico across the colonial period. Whereas each project centers on spatial, social, and institutional relationships, and all of them situate indigenous peoples and castas(mixed-race peoples) as central actors in their stories, Premo’s and Yannakakis’ projects focus primarily on the interaction of subaltern actors with institutions (courts and jurisdictions); Mangan’s on the production of social networks mediated by kinship, ethnicity, urban institutions, and material culture; and Erbig’s on ethnicity and autonomy as defined against Catholic missions and colonial settlers at the edge of empire. In each case, the maps and visualizations that our presenters have designed are intended to challenge our assumptions about colonial society, history, and geography in ways that conventional forms of historical narrative cannot.

We formed this panel as a roundtable so that we can share ideas about project design, sources, data organization, methods, and technologies. Some issues that we hope to address with presenters and audience members include: how to create data from colonial sources; how to develop categories of data with an eye to putting them into relationship with one another; how to reconcile modern and historical spatial and geographical information; how to express change over time spatially; how to express spatial and geographical relationships temporally; how to balance the relationship between visual and written narratives in digital projects such that one offsets the partial nature of the other.

The presentation titles are as folllows: Jeffrey Erbig, “Mapping Tierra Adentro: GIS and the Histories of Autonomous Native Peoples”; Jane Mangan, “Mapping Mestizaje: Urban Family Networks in the Colonial Andes”; Bianca Premo,“Dominions: The Colonial Spanish America Digital Jurisdictions Project”; Yanna Yannakakis, “Power of Attnorney: Native People, Legal Culture, and Social Networks in Colonial Oaxaca, Mexico.”

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