David Tavárez

David Tavárez
Vassar College · Department of Anthropology

PhD in History and Anthropology
Nahua humanism; Edited volume on ritual language

About

99
Publications
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249
Citations
Citations since 2017
31 Research Items
115 Citations
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Introduction
David Tavárez is a historian and linguistic anthropologist whose interests include religion, calendars, colonial Nahuatl and Zapotec, and Indigenous intellectuals. A recent Guggenheim fellow, he is the author of Rethinking Zapotec Time (Texas, 2022, NECLAS best book prize); The Invisible War (Stanford, 2011); 60+ peer-reviewed articles & chapters; editor of Words and Worlds Turned Around; and co-author of Painted Words (Dumbarton Oaks, 2016), and Chimalpahin's Conquest (Stanford, 2010).
Additional affiliations
July 2015 - present
Vassar College
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (99)
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter sketches two distinct modes of engagement pursued jointly by Franciscans and Nahua scholars as they produced a printed and manuscript corpus that spans the decades between the 1550s and the 1620s, which was impacted by censure and increasingly orthodox evangelization policies. It plumbs into the Nahua-Franciscan confidential mode to re...
Article
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This article proposes the idea of refracting memories to understand the transformation of historical memory of Mesoamerican communities in the 17th and 18th centuries. This process is illustrated through the analysis of divinatory manuals that contained references to the arrival of Spanish, and through the Probanza of Yelabichi, a Northern Zapotec...
Book
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In 1702, after the brutal suppression of a Zapotec revolt, the bishop of Oaxaca proclaimed an amnesty for idolatry in exchange for collective confessions. To evade conflict, Northern Zapotec communities denounced ritual specialists and surrendered sacred songs and 102 divinatory manuals, which preserve cosmological accounts, exchanges with divine b...
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Context This article presents a translation and analysis of the only extant formal confession of human sacrifice written in an Indigenous language in the colonial Americas. An analysis of this document, written in Northern Zapotec by the town officials of Yalalag in 1704, provides numerous insights about how a community deployed traditional rhetori...
Book
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In Rethinking Zapotec Time: Cosmology, Ritual, and Resistance in Colonial Mexico, David Tavárez writes with depth and originality as he engages with challenging colonial epistemologies, yet his work remains intelligible to those outside of his primary fields of inquiry. Undertaking truly interdisciplinary research, across decades, Tavárez serves as...
Presentation
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Presentación del dossier monográfico “La imagen de las religiones indígenas en crónicas novohispanas. Nuevos caminos a transitar” Studi e Materiali Storia delle Religioni, 86 (2) 2020. Lunes 20 de septiembre 2021 - 18 HS (Italia) – 11 HS (México). Saludos institucionales de Alessandro Saggioro (Editor de la revista SMSR - Sapienza Università di Rom...
Article
Through a sustained emphasis on Maya and Zapotec fiction, poetry, and theater in Mexico and Guatemala in the last five decades, Indigenous Cosmolectics: Kab’awil and the Making of Maya and Zapotec Literatures provides a thoughtful introduction to the vibrant world of Indigenous authorship and cultural activism in Mesoamerican languages. As discusse...
Article
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This essay contends that the path followed by the Dominican fray Pedro de Feria in his Valley Zapotec Doctrina (1564), based in part on a work by fray Bernardo de Albuquerque, was narrower, less adventurous, and more rigid than the one embraced by Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominicans. Although Feria adopted a theological basis to explain in Zap...
Article
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Book review: "Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America," by Allan Greer
Book
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Podcast on New Books Network: Words and Worlds Turned Around: Indigenous Christianities in Colonial Latin America (Colorado, 2017). Edited by David Tavárez. Interviewer: Krzysztof Odyniec. Please select and paste on browser: https://newbooksnetwork.com/david-tavarez-words-and-worlds-turned-around-indigenous-christianities-in-colonial-latin-america...
Article
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Historical linguistics is a discipline with strong interdisciplinary connections to sociocultural anthropology, ethnohistory, and archaeology. While the study of language change and etymology can be traced back to ancient societies in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Asia, a number of important methodological approaches emerged in the late e...
Article
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The notion of a “spiritual conquest,” as opposed to a military conquest by Spanish forces and indigenous allies, was developed in detail in Robert Ricard’s eponymous 1933 work. While the metaphor of a “spiritual conquest” is broadly understood and used, many recent historical works eventually turned their attention to a close analysis of distinct p...
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The epistemic assumptions, methods, and rhetoric employed by colonial indigenous intellectuals in Latin America were based on preconquest intellectual labor and literacy systems. These practices were deeply impacted by collaborative projects and historical scholarship undertaken in the sixteenth century, as indigenous elites embraced European liter...
Preprint
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This table presents, at a glance, two correlations: one between the Northern Zapotec and European year count, and another between the Mexica (pre-1507) and European years. It may be used by anyone working on indigenous documents from colonial Central Mexico that feature Nahua or Zapotec dates. It is based on the correlation among the Northern Zapot...
Book
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A sophisticated, state-of-the-art study of the remaking of Christianity by indigenous societies, Words and Worlds Turned Around reveals the manifold transformations of Christian discourses in the colonial Americas. The book surveys how Christian messages were rendered in indigenous languages; explores what was added, transformed, or glossed over; a...
Article
Altera Roma: Art and Empire from Mérida to Mexico. JOHN M. D. POHL and CLAIRE L. LYONS , editors. 2016. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA, Los Angeles. xxvi + 359 pp., 125 figures, 1 table. $75.00 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-938770-01-2 - David Tavárez
Chapter
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The Cambridge History of Religions in Latin America covers religious history in Latin America from pre-Conquest times until the present. This publication is important; first, because of the historical and contemporary centrality of religion in the life of Latin America; second, for the rapid process of religious change which the region is undergoin...
Chapter
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This chapter sketches out the relationship between speakers’ consciousness and verbal ritual performances, and between ritual language and the social world. It discusses a number of works published in the last two decades, and draws on a variety of examples of ritual speech from societies in the Americas, the Pacific, South Asia, the Indian Ocean,...
Book
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After the conquest of Mexico, colonial authorities attempted to enforce Christian beliefs among indigenous peoples-a project they envisioned as spiritual warfare. The Invisible War assesses this immense but dislocated project by examining all known efforts in Central Mexico to obliterate native devotions of Mesoamerican origin between the 1530s and...
Article
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In 1570, the Franciscan friar Jerónimo de Mendieta bestowed a rare gift on Juan de Ovando, then president of the Council of Indies. Mendieta placed in Ovando's hands a small manuscript volume in superb Gothic script with illuminated initials and color illustrations, one of several important manuscripts he had brought to Spain for various prominent...
Chapter
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This chapter evaluates Chimalpahin's modification to the manuscript of Historia de las Indias y Conquista de México. It analyzes Chimalpahin's motivation for producing this manuscript and suggests that his “hybrid” La Conquista is the sole extant attempt by a colonial American indigenous author to appropriate and modify a historical narrative by a...
Book
This volume presents the story of Hernando Cortés' conquest of Mexico, as recounted by a contemporary Spanish historian and edited by Mexico's premier Nahua historian. Francisco López de Gómara's monumental Historia de las Indias y Conquista de México was published in 1552 to instant success. Despite being banned from the Americas by Prince Philip...
Article
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In this essay, I analyze a sample drawn from a corpus of about 107 alphabetic texts that were produced in a clandestine manner by Zapotee ritual specialists in northern Oaxaca, Mexico, during the second half of the seventeenth century. I argue that these texts represent an unusual appropriation of the Latin alphabet and of European literacy practic...
Article
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In 1704 and 1705, some 103 copies of the 260-day Zapotec ritual calendar and four collections of ritual songs were handed over to Bishop Fray Ángel Maldonado by elected Zapotec town officials of the province of Villa Alta, Oaxaca. This article analyzes the multiple religious and social meanings of these calendars by focusing on two main issues: con...
Article
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This essay argues that our current knowledge about the so-called “extirpation of idolatries” in New Spain is the product of a peculiar combination of historiographic silences. In other words, the myriad negotiations between Central Mexican natives and ecclesiastical authorities in the 17th and 18th centuries are still underrepresented in the histor...
Article
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This paper translates and analyzes references to eclipses in two seventeenth-century Zapotec calendrical booklets. These booklets are part of a corpus of 106 separate calendrical texts and four collections of ritual songs that were turned over to ecclesiastical authorities in 1704 and 1705 as part of an ambitious campaign against traditional indige...
Article
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Sometime after the summer of 1703, a strange traveler journeyed to several Zapotec-speaking communities nestled in the rugged geography of Villa Alta—an alcaldía mayor northeast of Oaxaca City in New Spain. He wore a pectoral ornament around his neck—a gift from the Benedictine friar Ángel Maldonado, a newly appointed bishop who had arrived in Oaxa...
Article
Full-text available
Sometime after the summer of 1703, a strange traveler journeyed to several Zapotec-speaking communities nestled in the rugged geography of Villa Alta—an alcaldía mayor northeast of Oaxaca City in New Spain. He wore a pectoral ornament around his neck—a gift from the Benedictine friar Ángel Maldonado, a newly appointed bishop who had arrived in Oaxa...
Article
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Is it possible to regard idolatry as an epistemically objective notion in colonial Spanish America? In order to address this question, this essay will adopt two separate strategies: a traditional narrative historiography, and a conceptual stance inspired by contemporary Anglo-American analytical philosophy. In historiographical terms, this essay wi...
Article
El cristianismo en el espejo indígena. Religiosidad en el occidente de Sierra Gorda, siglo XVIII. By Cisneros Gerardo Lara . Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2002. Pp. 257. Illustrations. Maps. Tables. Notes. Bibliography. - Volume 62 Issue 3 - David Tavárez
Article
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A pesar de un número no despreciable de practicantes, defensores y textos esenciales propios, no es hipérbole afirmar que, en contraste con el sólido cimiento académico de la historia como disciplina, la etnohistoria sigue siendo concebida en las Américas como una novedad metodológica en el mejor de los casos, o como uno de tantos neologismos hueco...
Article
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This essay will investigate through a longitudinal case study specific instances of the Nahua linguistic and pragmatic reception of missionary efforts to translate the notion of the Trinity. A review of the linguistic procedures used by missionaries to translate Christian concepts such as "sin", “God” and “Eucharist” in the 16th century will be fol...
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This essay proposes a comparative analysis of the production and circulation of ritual and devotional texts in some Nahua and Zapotec communities in 1613-1654, with an emphasis on three basic topics: the rapport between oral and written transmission of native ritual knowledge, the clandestine appropriation of Christian ritual and devotional texts b...
Article
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El presente ensayo ofrece un análisis comparativo de la producción y circulación de textos rituales y devocionales en algunas comunidades nahuas y zapotecas entre 1613-1654, que enfatizan tres temas básicos: la relación entre transmisiones oral y escrita de conocimientos rituales indígenas, la apropiación clandestina de textos rituales y devocional...
Chapter
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Article
PardoOsvaldo F., The Origins of Mexican Catholicism: Nahua Rituals and Christian Sacraments in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. History, Languages, and Cultures of the Spanish and Portuguese Worlds. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004. xii + 250 pp. ISBN: 0-472-11361-5 (hbk.). - Volume 29 Issue 3 - David Tavárez
Article
WyssHilary E., Writing Indians: Literacy, Christianity, and Native Community in Early America. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000 (2003). xiii + 207 pp. ISBN 1-55849-264-X (hbk.); 1-55849-412-X (pbk.). - Volume 28 Issue 3 - David Tavárez
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Cultural Politics in Colonial Tehuantepec: Community and State among the Isthmus Zapotec, 1500–1750. Judith Francis Zeitlin. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. 323 pp.
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The Americas 62.3 (2006) 502-504 Over the last fifteen years, several works have consistently raised the analytical acuity of a challenging area of inquiry: indigenous adaptations to the teaching and enforcement of orthodox Christian practices in colonial Spanish America. This inquiry has been bracketed, however, by the fragmentary nature of eccles...
Article
In this dense and authoritative volume, Noble David Cook and his collaborator Alexandra Parma Cook provide a summary of three decades of inquiries into the social history and human geography of Peru's Colca Valley, located to the southwest of the former Inca capital of Cuzco, and near the city of Arequipa. As Cook mentions in his preface, the initi...

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