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'The People from Heaven'? Reading indigenous responses to Europeans during moments of early encounter in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica, 1492-c.1585

Rogers, Claudia Jane (2018) 'The People from Heaven'? Reading indigenous responses to Europeans during moments of early encounter in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica, 1492-c.1585. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This study examines how indigenous groups and individuals responded to and identified Europeans in moments of early encounter in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica, in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Whilst the narrow issue of whether Mesoamericans viewed the arriving Europeans as ‘White Gods’ has dominated scholarship considering indigenous views of Europeans during first encounter, this study departs from this simplistic ‘god’/‘not god’ binary. Instead, it explores the wide and complex spectrum of indigenous responses to these newcomers – from flight to fight, trade and exchange to provision of aid – and asks how such responses reflected the nature and stability of cross-cultural relations. By exploring Taíno and Nahua worldviews, this study highlights the multiple and diverse categories of identity into which indigenous groups may have placed the Christian strangers. In telling multiple, smaller stories of these early meetings – from multiple perspectives – the intricacy, fluidity, and fragility of the contact situation emerges. In the following reading of European accounts and indigenous-authored pictorial texts – the ‘purest’ sources for Nahua perspectives – I take a microhistorical approach, focusing on interpersonal relationships. I deconstruct personal, face-to-face encounters between Taínos and Christopher Columbus, Nahua groups and Hernando Cortés, as well as the unique experiences of indigenous and European individuals caught between – individuals who occupied in-between states and in-between spaces. Throughout the study, particular attention is given to the methodological challenges arising from the uncovering and reading of indigenous voices and actions in the (ethno)historical record. Significantly, by examining the early encounters using a methodology based on transcending Westward-facing perspectives, the evidence from my case studies highlights the action and agency of indigenous groups and individuals, and, above all, positions Taíno and Nahua agents not as ‘vanquished,’ but as powerholders.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: First encounter, first contact, White Gods, indigenous history, ethnohistory, comparative history, Caribbean, Mesoamerica, Taíno, Nahua, Aztec, Columbus, Cortés, conquest of Mexico, New World, power, agency, identity, cultural intermediaries, in-betweenness
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of History (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.752580
Depositing User: Miss Claudia J Rogers
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2018 11:04
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21328

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