How to study the current process designated as “globalization” from the perspective of Early Modern times? How to construct a corpus of sources and ideas on such a relevant topic? Between the 15th and the 17th centuries, with the expansion projects of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns in Africa, Asia, America, and Europe itself, one “conquest” became more crucial than any other ––retaking the words of the philosopher Martin Heidegger, this was “the conquest of the world as an image.” Much earlier than Heidegger, in the late 16th century, the Spanish Jesuit José de Acosta had expressed this idea in an even more palpable way: the world could now be (visually and symbolically) “embraced.”
The process of conquering the world as an image and embracing it with one’s eyes closed was accompanied, however, by myriad challenges: not only mapping the new extension of the empire and updating the information in the Padrón Real from Seville, but also relying on a panoply of local representations of the territories produced from afar; not only exporting the Spanish and the Portuguese languages as a key for the expansion of the empire (as Antonio de Nebrija pointed out in 1492), but also learning local languages (Nahuatl, Maya, Chinese, Japanese, Tupí, Tamil, etc.); not only globalizing European imagery through prints and objects brought to the four parts of the world, but facing the transformation of art histories which had remained, until then, mostly autonomous; not only converting neophytes to Christianity, but innovating conversion techniques and debating on their efficacy; not only recording and depicting the flora and fauna encountered in new lands, but transforming the written and visual taxonomies through which unknown specimens could be described.
In this senior seminar we will study a great variety of primary sources to configure a possible “corpus” of research in the field of Iberian globalization: maps drawn or printed from New Spain, Perú, China, or the Philippines (the Relaciones Geográficas or the Mercedes maps, and Matteo Ricci’s or Guaman Poma de Ayala’s world maps); objects and images painted and carved in the most novel materials (corn paste, feathers, mother-of-pearl, lacquer, sandal paste, etc.); conversion books and dictionaries aimed to facilitate the process of Christianization (the Franciscan Diego Valadés’s Rhetorica Christiana or the Jesuit João Rodrigues’s conceptualization of Japanese language); books of natural history on Mexican or Indian flora and fauna (Francisco Hernández, Garcia da Orta). We will also discuss the theoretical insights of philosophers, historians, art historians, literary critics, and anthropologists (Peter Sloterdijk, Serge Gruzinski, Inés Zupanov, Jean-Michel Sallmann, Timothy Brook, Fernand Braudel, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Kenneth Pomeranz, among others) who elucidate profound aspects of the Early Modern globalization and its relationship to the contemporaneity. We will also discuss how the process of globalization, in Early Modern times, resulted in the redefinition—or definition, and even fiction—of the quintessence of European thought, and we will analyze the complex distinction between European and Western, the latter not being “produced” exclusively from Europe anymore.
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