Colonial Things, Cosmopolitan Thinking: Locating the Indigenous Art of Spanish America

Collaborative Group

Professor Dana Leibsohn, Professor Carolyn Dean




Recognizing that the humanistic disciplines have often had an uncomfortable relationship with objects created outside Western traditions, this project illuminates how indigenous objects in the Spanish colonial past have been used and invested with meaning. This collaboration actively participates in both long-standing and current debates about that which is foreign and unfamiliar within the context of Western hermeneutics. Indigenous art and creativity are among the least studied topics in art and early modern history. This project redresses these lacunae by examining three issues: how indigenous Americans created their place in the wider world to which Spanish colonialism introduced them; how perceptions of indigenous art have shifted over time, both for natives and outsiders; and how, therefore, indigenous art contributes to the understanding of colonialism and its history. The collaborators write as art historians—one specializes in the Andes, the other in New Spain— yet take an interdisciplinary tack, drawing on the study of history, anthropology, literature, and religion. Building upon their study of hybridity in colonial Spanish America, this project represents the first extended collaboration by these scholars. The result will be a co-authored book that explains how indigenous art, global trade networks, and cosmopolitan ambitions intersected in colonial Spanish America (ca. 1500-1850), producing innovative research on indigenous objects by forging new links among the histories of art, colonialism, and global exchange. Award period: July 23, 2012 – July 22, 2014