The Ethnogeographical Imaginations of Early Modern Mapmakers

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:50 AM
Salon 10 (Palmer House Hilton)
Jeffrey Erbig, University of California, Santa Cruz
During the past three decades, historians of cartography and ethnohistorians alike have drawn upon historical maps to examine the spatial practices of indigenous Americans. Efforts have included scrutinizing imperial maps for evidence of indigenous settlements and toponyms, analyzing renderings of native peoples in cartouches and illustrations, identifying and interpreting native-authored visual sources, and reading textual accounts of imperial mapmaking endeavors for evidence of indigenous informants. This paper builds upon this scholarly impetus by exploring the cartographic representation of autonomous (non-subjugated, non-missionized) native peoples as free-floating textual ethnonyms. Drawing upon a corpus of 177 historical maps of southeastern South America (Uruguay, northeastern Argentina, and southern Brazil) from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, it demonstrates that each map employed one of a dozen distinct patterns of locating autonomous native communities in the region. These ethnogeographical renderings in turn shaped understandings of native communities both by their colonial contemporaries and by post-colonial historians. By articulating such representative forms and by comparing them to the ethnic geographies evident in textual sources, this paper sheds light on the interplay between ethnographic and cartographic knowledge in early Latin America.