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Volume 64 / Humanities

ETHNOHISTORY: South America


SUSAN E. RAMÍREZ, Professor of History and Neville G. Penrose Chair of History and Latin American Studies, Texas Christian University

THIS SELECTION OF ITEMS is somewhat leaner than in years past, but no less distinguished in its variety of topics and methodologies. Of particular note are those books that have as a primary or secondary goal the important task of outreach. Although not as scholarly and detailed as such soon to be classic works as David Garrett's study of the Cuzco native elites (item #bi2005006254#), the compilations of articles by John Rowe on the Incas (item #bi2007000749#) and Waldemar Espinoza Soriano on Bolivia (item #bi2007000717#) or the volume edited by Hiroyasu Tomoeda and Luis Millones on passions and sentiments (item #bi2007000744#), these books serve a broader purpose of informing and inspiring peoples outside of academia whose ancestors might be the object of the volumes themselves. Notable in this regard is item #bi2007000709#, which explains water use, science and technology, and more directly the raising of camelids as an example of sustainable development; and item #bi2007000723#, which publishes the proceedings of an ecumenical conference on native American theology and includes a discussion of how to preserve native origin myths. Another work with a broader goal, (item #bi2007000738#), seems designed to serve as a basic text on and for the Guarani peoples of the Bolivian Chaco. Una mirada Andina de Lima (item #bi2007000704#) treats the history of Lima and three valleys and concludes with ideas for using archeological sites, myths, and other resources in these places as educational tools. Others, such as the beautifully illustrated six-volume set on the history and art of ancient Peru (item #bi2007000733#) should be available in all public libraries for use by teachers, students, parents, and the residents of the locale. Bibliographic works such as (item #bi2007000724#) also serve to orient the public and scholars alike.

As usual there are a number of solid and well-documented ethnohistorical studies of ethnic groups, both historical and contemporary. Archeologists treat us to sometimes fascinating analyses of Moche iconography (item #bi2007000736#) and material remains (item #bi2004003109#), the rock paintings of Patagonia, and the art and architecture of such diverse sites as Laurecocha and Ranracancha in Peru (item #bi2007000733#). Art historians analyze the portraiture of Andean kings (item #bi2005004441#). Ethnohistorians trace the history of the Carijona and Muiscas of Colombia (items #bi2007000734# and #bi2007000742#); the Incas' institutions and cosmology (items #bi2007000703#, #bi2007000713#, #bi2007000716#, #bi2007000726#, #bi2007000746#, and #bi2007003963#); the Choquequirao of Peru (item #bi2007004056#); the Aymaras, Collas, Diaguitas, Mapuches, and Yagon of Chile (items #bi2007000721# and #bi2005004645#); the Isoso, Machaqa, Tinkipaya, and Caracara of Bolivia (items #bi2007000717#, #bi2007000727#, and #bi2007000743#); the Calchaquíes, Guaraníes, and Guaycurúes of Argentina and Paraguay (items #bi2007000728#, #bi2007000739#, #bi2005002460#, and #bi2005002953#); the Charrua and Minuano of Uruguay (item #bi2007000708#); and the Kaiabi, Ticuna, and Tupi of Brazil (items #bi2007000707#, #bi2007000719#, #bi2007000747#, #bi2004003174#); among others. Of importance is the analysis of the Jesuit letters of Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta who observed the Tupi on the coast of Brazil in the 16th century (item #bi2007000719#). Besides their observations, their letters enable us to understand their mindset, and, thus, better determine the accuracy of their words (See also items #bi2006001924# and #bi2005003620#). A similar process of reexamination of the writings of the chroniclers is now underway as exemplified by such leaders in the field as Sabine MacCormack in her new book On the Wings of Time. Complicating these ethnohistorical studies is the confusion of some authors between ethnic groups and the geographical areas in which they were fixed by colonial or postcolonial powers. By studying a geographical area, some authors overlook or minimize the fact that historical peoples of one ethnic group lived dispersed, often side-by-side with members of other ethnic groups, over vast areas and/or often moved great distances over the course of a year to supply their basic subsistence needs (items #bi2007000701#, #bi2007000729#, and #bi2005002126#). It was after the reducciones or congregaciones that historical ethnic groups sometimes became locked in one location and lost some of their prehispanic mobility.

Progress is being made at getting closer to the native point of view. This is being made possible through the several studies of native cosmologies based on the study of institutions (items #bi2007000703#, #bi2007000713#, #bi2007000726#, #bi2005001959#, #bi2007004064#, and #bi2005006694#); words (including toponyms) and their multiple meanings and belief systems (items #bi2007004094# and #bi2007004095#); biographies of notable native leaders (items #bi2007000711#, #bi2007000732#, #bi2007000742#, and #bi2005004473#); and analyses of stories and myths (items #bi2007000723#, #bi2007000731#, #bi2007000747#, #bi2005001462#, #bi2005001463#, and #bi2005001465#); and native record keeping systems (item #bi2007000746#). Understanding the ways that natives reasoned explains how they acted in various circumstances. Further insights, I predict, will come from more truly interdisciplinary studies that combine, not only historical and anthropological methodologies, but take into consideration archeological findings to a greater extent than is now the usual practice. Linguistics, too, seems to be a promising contributor to our knowledge base; but for many historical groups, sources (like grammars and vocabularies) are limited.


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