Article ID: CBB498534270

‘That They Will Be Capable of Governing Themselves’: Knowledge of Amerindian Difference and Early Modern Arts of Governance in the Spanish Colonial Antilles (2019)


Contrary to conventional accounts, critical knowledge of the cultural differences of Amerindian peoples was not absent in the early Conquest of the Americas. It was indeed a constitutive element of that process. The knowledge, strategies, and institutions of early Conquest relied on, and reproduced, Amerindian difference within the Spanish Empire as an essential element of that empire’s continued claims to legitimate authority. I demonstrate this through a focus on three parallel and sometimes overlapping texts: Ramón Pané’s Indian Antiquities; Peter Martyr d’Anghierra’s First Decade; and the first systematic attempt to govern colonized populations in the Americas, the Laws of Burgos. Not only did each text furnish the necessary material upon which the claims to intellectual, and so civilizational, superiority that were central to the justification of empire could be sustained. What is more, they transformed Amerindian difference from an object of knowledge into a subject of governance.

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Authors & Contributors
Bigelow, Allison Margaret
Willmott, Cory
Bradley, John K.
Haralampou, Luka
Adgemis, Philip
Cameron, Fiona Ruth
History and Anthropology
Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation
Current Anthropology
Medical History
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Environment and History
Indiana University Press
Duke University Press
University of California, Santa Barbara
Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with University Of Hawaii Press
Indigenous peoples; indigeneity
Spain, colonies
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Skinner, Henry Devenish
Mandeville, John
Eden, Richard
Acosta, José de
Zilsel, Edgar
Boas, Franz
South America
United States
Central America
Early modern
16th century
17th century
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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