This course examines the rise of capitalism during the conquest and colonization of the New World by the Spanish Empire. We will take into account contemporary debates that suggest that we have entered a new geological era (the “Capitalocene”) characterized by the ecological impact of capitalism’s global expansion. The concept of “capitalist ecology” (a historically evolving field made up of nature, capital, and the institutions of political power) will allow us to identify the place of nature in the development of the modern world. The readings will trace the ideological and material constitution of commodities such as gold, silver, sugar, and pearls, among others, which comprised a transatlantic network of economic and ecological exchange. Central to this new global economy were notions of anthropocentrism, patriarchy, and slavery, that made possible the appropriation of nature, women, and colonies. In order to identify them, we will analyze the world views of pre-Columbian civilizations, literary and historical narratives from the Spanish conquest, scientific and natural history treatises, legal texts, maps, paintings, and illustrated codices that describe the transformation of American human and nonhuman natures into the source of European power.
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