Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Philosophy, Universidad de Chile

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Texas / Austin
War, Politics, and Ritual in Colonial Borderlands of the New World: Spanish-Indian Conferences as Spaces of Negotiation and Cultural Hybridity (Chichimeca, Guarani, and Mapuche)

My dissertation project is at the same time a revisionist, comparative, and interdisciplinary study of the complex dynamics of three colonial borderlands of the Spanish Empire in America.The Chichimeca from northern New Spain, the Guaraní from the Paraguayan jungle, and the Mapuche of the forests of southern Chile and the pampas of Rio de La Plata were three native societies that challenged the Spaniards' military capacity in the New World. The successful resistance of these three cultures forced the Spanish Empire to implement a policy of agreements based on the recognition of their political autonomy and territories. My research focuses on the Spanish-Indian Conferences, interethnic councils that began among the Chichimeca, but reached a higher level of complexity among the Guaraní and Mapuche. The central hypothesis of this project is that these intercultural meetings were an instance of hybridity in which two cultural forms converged: Indian ritual and Spanish political protocol. As a revisionist study, this project problematizes the recent historiographical assertion that this policy of pacts mediated by gift-giving was born in French, British, and Dutch colonies, and was later borrowed by the Spanish. By contrast, I assert that it actually formed in the Spanish borderlands of the New World. This is a comparative study because it seeks to assess the successes and failures of the intercultural policies as they differed and converged along the borders of the Spanish Empire, and how the experiences of one region served to inform and shape the interethnic relationship in others. Finally, the interdisciplinary aspect of this study involves both a historical and discursive analysis of colonial documentation, and an interpretation of the material culture used in these Conferences through Interpretive Anthropology and Symbolic Archeology. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, my project requires working in both archives and museums.