- Fellowship year:2020-2021
- University: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
- Dissertation Topic/Category: Latin America
- Dissertation Title: Ambivalent Alliances: Diplomatic Interactions Among Natives and Spaniards in Early Modern Northwestern Mexico.
Indigenous territories in the early modern Spanish Borderlands were shaped by mobility and by unfixed and shifting boundaries under conflictive and peaceful interactions. Mobility was physical and social. Ethnicity was not a fixed entity either, but a network of multiethnic relations. Peaceful and violent encounters were occurring simultaneously, but they should not be subsumed into a false dichotomy. What Spaniards and Indians called war went from raiding and captive taking, to large scale rebellions. Peace however, involved more than just the absence of war, and was more complex. It was an invention that required political order and negotiation. For indigenous peoples, peace had to be founded by way of reciprocity in both material terms (access to food and goods), and in the political recognition of their leadership and their communities. I am interested in finding out what peace negotiations and military strategies meant for indigenous peoples. How do we understand indigenous territoriality in a context of mobility and unfixed boundaries? How did the different ecological settings and subsistence practices among the diverse indigenous groups in Sonora give shape to violent encounters and peaceful negotiations among different Natives, and among Natives and Spaniards?
To answer these questions, my dissertation uses interdisciplinary tools, combining archival research with methods from anthropology, archeology, and geography. I analyze a select group of Spanish primary sources, including Jesuit and Franciscan missionary accounts, which hold rich ethnographic descriptions and narratives about the experiences of indigenous peoples in this area. I examine military documents related to peace agreements, interethnic alliances among Natives and Spaniards, and Spanish and indigenous military campaigns. I also study maps and expedition routes, which provide geographical information for this time period. I take into account the different environmental settings: such as the plains, mountains, riverine valleys, and coastal desert, to derive or to find indigenous perceptions on territoriality and on their meanings of peaceful interactions. My project reinterprets these primary sources through a broad framework based on borderland studies and military history, in an ethnographically informed manner for understanding the cultural practices of indigenous peoples in northern Mexico. I will triangulate the results of these analyses with a series of archeological studies on key sites in the area. By interpreting textual and non-textual evidence, my research will demonstrate that primary sources produced by the colonial regime can also be used for the decolonization of knowledge.