JCB Fellow's Talk: Jaime Marroquín

January 24, 2018 - 4:00pm

Jaime Marroquín (Western Oregon University), John Carter Brown Library Associates Fellow

"Missionary Botany: Translating Indigenous Naturalist Knowledge in Early Modern Mexico"

Along with the postulation of a heliocentric universe by Copernicus in the sixteenth century, there was another, less known scientific development, that brought about the so-called "Scientific Revolution." Such event was the gradual incorporation of the natural world from the East Indies and the Americas to Europe's tradition of natural history. Despite the relative abundance of recent works that explore the importance of the Iberian colonization of the Americas for the emergence of Early Modern Science, the philosophical, material and intellectual processes that underlie the cultural and scientific assimilation of indigenous American and early modern European natural knowledge remain understudied. This presentation will explore the European translation of Mesoamerican naturalist knowledge in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, paying particular attention to the evolution of the conceptual and material methodologies that underlie the production of natural histories in New Spain, as well as their transformation while being re-translated into European scientific culture. A case study in point will be the translation of Amerindian knowledge about the famous Mexican nochtli (also known as nopal, Indian fig, or tunal), as seen in the works of Martín de la Cruz, Bernardino de Sahagún, Francisco Hernández, Juan Tovar, José de Acosta, Juan Eusebio Nierember, Johannes de Laet, and Andrés Pérez de Ribas, among others. This fascinating epistemological process followed, for the most part, the medieval tradition of translatio studiorum (transfer of learning) as perfected by Renaissance humanist philological studies and aided by a gradual systematization of experience-based knowledge.

The Reading Room will close to researchers at 3:30 pm.