Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

  • Monday, November 14, 2022 - 5:15pm to 6:30pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion, sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

We will be welcoming Marcy Norton (Penn) for a talk entitled “Indigenous Expertise and Epistemology in 'Historiae animalium et mineralium Novae Hispaniae' (1560–1577).” This week's talk is generously co-sponsored by the Penn Department of History.

Marcy writes:
How do we find traces of Indigenous agency and epistemology in colonial projects when European authors sought to hide or even disavow Indigenous contributions? In 1569 King Phillip II appointed Francisco Hernández, a physician and humanist scholar inspired by Pliny, to collect information about
materia medica based on Indigenous expertise in New Spain. Portions of the resulting work, completed c. 1576, circulated in manuscript and print in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, culminating in the Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus (Rome, 1648–1651). Though the role of Indigenous labor in the creation of the texts and images of these singularly influential treatises on plants, animals, and minerals has long been recognized, there is still much we don’t know, in part because Hernández often denigrated the contributions of his Indigenous collaborators. Focusing on the treatises devoted to animals, I will propose that Nahua humanists associated with the Imperial College of Santa Cruz at Santiago Tlatelolco (Mexico City) had a central role in their creation. And I will explore the interplay between Hernández’s methods and the epistemological perspectives and commitments of the Nahua scholars.

Marcy Norton is associate professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She writes about people’s relationships with plants and animals, focusing on the entanglement of Indigenous and European technologies and epistemologies in colonial Latin America and the Atlantic World. Her publications include Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Cornell University Press, 2008), “The Chicken or the Iegue: Human-Animal Relationships and the Columbian Exchange” (American Historical Review, 2015), and “Subaltern Technologies and Early Modernity in the Atlantic World” (Colonial Latin America Review, 2017). Her book The Tame and the Wild: People and Animals after 1492 will be published next year by Harvard University Press.