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Volume 58 / Humanities

HISTORY: ETHNOHISTORY


South America

SUSAN E. RAMIREZ, Professor of History, DePaul University


THE WORK OF HISTORIANS of indigenous groups in the Americas included in HLAS 58 prompts three suggestions for future research in the field. First, more primary sources should be published, either in the text or in an appendix (items #bi 97001694#, #bi 97001700#, #bi 97001708#, #bi 97015997#, #bi 97001689#, and #bi 97001717#) and In that regard, the exemplary effort in this chapter is the series of volumes published by Tovar Pinzón of 16th-century accounts (relaciones and Visitas) of Colombia (item #bi 97009228#). Volume 2, on the Caribbean provinces of Santa Marta and Cartagena, should be used as a model (item #bi 97001718#). Some accounts contain European observations on the political, economic, social, and, occasionally, religious organization of the indigenous peoples(items #bi 97001722#, #bi 97001680#, #bi 97001674#, and #bi 96024131#) Such sources also tell a great deal about the worldview of the European writers and the nature of the encounters. Encomienda grants, tribute lists (item #bi 97001704#), letters (items #bi 97001687#, #bi 97001663#, #bi 97001664#, #bi 96022533#, and #bi 96025373#) court cases, investigations (item #bi 97000533#), and records of idolatry campaigns (item #bi 97001662#) also are welcome. Publication increases availability for those who cannot easily gain access to primary documents.

Second, analysis of ethnic groups should not always be defined by modern geographical borders. Many of the peoples whom historians seek to describe and understand placed less emphasis on territorial demarcations than on kinship and alliance-based boundaries. The Inca empire, for example, relied on social and hegemonical frontiers rather than clearly delineated physical borders. By studying a group within modern political boundaries, historical societies become segmented in an artificial manner. The historical societies studied should themselves inform us as to how they defined the geographic limits of their own groups (items #bi 96012777#, #bi 96019215#, #bi 96020446#, #bi 96011336#, #bi 96017608#, and #bi 96024182#).

Third, in certain cases there is sufficient material to begin cross-cultural comparisons (item #bi 96011334#) or, equally as important, to begin placing ethnic groups within a wider context (item #bi 97001707#). Thus, there should be more studies about how the Pastos (item #bi 97015112#) can be compared with the Chachapoyas (items #bi 97001700# and #bi 97001653#). Or, alternatively, how the Inca compared with the Maya. Or, more broadly, how the Inca empire (items #bi 97001722#, #bi 97001677#, #bi 97001659#, #bi 95023474#, and #bi 96006340#) and compared with and contrasted to other empires. Or, more universally, how an Andean chiefdomship, or curacazgo, compared with Asian and African chiefdomships. Such studies would attract broader readership to these research efforts and help bring into the mainstream questions, concerns, and conclusions of historians.


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