Beyond Babel: Translations of Blackness in Colonial Peru and New Granada


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Romance Languages, Hispanic Studies


Within the imperial reach of the Spanish Crown in the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, new intersections of blackness, Christianity, and humanity took shape in Spanish discourse. This dissertation examines these intersections in histories, dramatic and poetic works, religious treatises, hagiographies, and legal ordinances about blacks from colonial Peru and New Granada. Beyond Babel demonstrates how genre and Christian humanist notions of language and bodily difference affected inscriptions of black subjects into the Spanish American archive and literary canon. By employing interdisciplinary methods to interpret written expression and performance in these texts, this dissertation also argues that blacks sometimes manipulated moments of linguistic translation and Christian norms to influence their fashioning as black subjects. These myriad representations and performances of blackness in colonial Spanish America have been overlooked by contemporary scholarship due to the tendency to project contemporary models of race backward to the early modern period.