Literature and the other: political history, origins, and the invention of the American in the early Spanish colonial period

by Minster, Christopher

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation analyzes the construction of certain aspects of New World native identity on the part of Spanish historians between the years of 1492 and 1615. In the early part of the time period, Spanish historians earnestly tried to decipher New World history through the use of traditional Spanish historical documents and native techniques considered to be of questionable accuracy. However, the process became subverted in the latter half of the sixteenth century by colonial economic interests seeking to answer the concerns put forth by reformers such as Bartolomé de Las Casas, who questioned the legal, moral, spiritual and social construction of the New World native subject under Spanish rule. These later histories – written by Juán Ginés de Sepúlveda, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa and others – are marked by a negative construction of New World native subjectivity. In this dissertation, I take on two aspects of New World history considered by Spanish historians, the related problematics of origins and political history. The Spanish discursive construction of New World history was part of an overall process of subalternization and marginalization of the native population. Spanish historians searching for history had at first turned to two sources: their own ancient texts and native record-keeping techniques. These historians soon found that their ancient authorities had nothing to say about lands to the West of which they had been unaware, and native record-keeping techniques were considered unreliable. Once it had been established that New World history was a ‘blank slate’ of sorts, Spanish historians took the opportunity to construct native subjectivity in terms that permitted – and encouraged – the continued Spanish presence in the New World. This dissertation seeks to challenge traditional readings of colonial texts, eschewing superficial meaning in favor of searching for hidden power structures and means of repression. It draws on the work of noted theorists and writers such as José Rabasa, Walter Mignolo and Edward Said, but is nevertheless original, taking an overdue look at the discourses of history that produced the native subject during the early colonial period.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:gregorio garcia jose de acosta postcolonialism bartolome las casas history latin america literature lost tribes of israel jews


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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