Anthropology 84, Section 1

Race, Gender, and Social Life in Colonial Honduras: Reading Over the Shoulder of People in the Past (1 unit, LG)

Professor Rosemary Joyce
Wednesday 11:00-12:00, 2224 Piedmont Ave., #15, Class number: 22654

This seminar introduces students to how we learn about people in the past through the use of archival documents. Working with digital copies of documents from the colonial Spanish archives in Sevilla, Spain, Guatemala, and Comayagua, Honduras, we will "read over the shoulder" of the writers whose words form one of our most immediate links to Spanish colonial Honduran life. Students will learn how to locate archival documents online; how to read colonial handwriting; and how we can begin to understand more about society from even brief documents, like receipts for serving as a courier. Working together, we will discuss several longer documents about the lives of native Americans who were obliged to work for Spanish citizens and petitioned for relief, about free black residents of a military fort, and about illegal trade in sugar, rum, and tobacco.

Instructor Bio

The questions I examine all arise from considering the way that things make people and people make things. Understanding materiality, I argue, requires attention to repetition over time, making historical anthropology and archaeology critical parts of understanding materiality as emergent and dynamic. My research in Honduras explored social histories in which economic inequality was never as extreme as among neighboring Maya societies, leading me to consider how archaeologists might combat the common assumption that ever-increasing inequality is somehow inevitable. Those concerns with inequality have been central as well to my explorations of difference, identification, and the exercise of power within societies as well, where I have been particularly attentive to intersectionality between gender, sexuality, and economic subordination. As a public anthropologist, I am equally concerned with the pragmatic ways that the kinds of things I study as historical sources are tied up in nationalism, cultural diplomacy (or "soft power"), and struggles about what constitutes cultural heritage and whose voices should count in determining what can and cannot be done with cultural properties. All of my interests are rooted in field practice in Honduras (and more recently, through collaborations, in Mexico) and museum research throughout Europe, North, and Central America.

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This course provides participants experience in reading original, hand-written documents from the period of Spanish colonization of Central America. Many assignments involve working to transcribe the words from these handwritten documents into printed text, and some involve analyzing the content of the text. Because the documents are written in Spanish, some knowledge of Spanish is helpful, and having no prior knowledge of Spanish will limit participants' ability to understand what documents are saying.