Borderlands of the Iberian World: Environments, Histories, Cultures
Description: Rationale and Contributions
This collaborative multi-authored volume on the “Borderlands of the Iberian World,” under contract with Oxford University Press for release in 2017, will be published in print format and in a simultaneous electronic edition. It will contribute significantly to the OUP Handbook series through its broad regional scope and innovative presentation of the concept of borderlands. By integrating interdisciplinary approaches to this central theme, it will illustrate the historical processes that produced borderlands in the Americas and connected them to global circuits of exchange and migration in the early modern world. The project, initiated in 2013, brings together specialists in different world regions that have a historical connection with the Spanish and Portuguese imperial spheres and with their geographic and cultural borderlands in both South and North America, extending to maritime networks across the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The goal is to publish a balanced state-of-the-art educational tool representing innovative research for teaching and scholarship on the Iberian borderlands.
The objectives for this Handbook emphasize (1) assembling an international team of authors in order to include scholarship published in Latin America and other scholarly communities outside the Anglophone literature as well as new research published in English-language books and journals; (2) including transdisciplinary research in fields such as ecology, archaeology, art history, geography, and anthropology that inform the current field of borderlands scholarship; (3) assuring accessible language and imagery to make this a work that will appeal widely to students, teachers, and scholars. This project will provide primary source materials of texts, images, and digital artifacts via open-access websites, contextualized with historical summaries and personalized stories that will serve educational needs and reach a broad public outside the academy as well as the published synthesis of new research.
“Borderlands” as a concept and a field of academic inquiry has opened new dimensions of interdisciplinary and critical thought in the last quarter-century at the same time that ethnohistorical approaches to imperialism and colonialism have produced critical analyses of European imperial spheres in the Americas and other world regions. Borderlands historically encompass political boundaries, but our understanding of borderlands has expanded to comprehend spaces of ethnic and cultural exchange as well as zones of ecological transition. Comparative research on different imperial spheres and indigenous peoples of Asia and Africa has enriched the conceptual frameworks that define borderlands, expanding the theoretical significance of the concept since its inception in North America. Borderlands history has become an exciting field of scholarship that includes comparative studies of environmental change, the powerful indigenous federations that developed in both North and South America, gendered histories of women and men in the mixed and volatile social fabrics of borderlands regions, indigenous enslavement and the complex degrees of difference between freedom and bondage, and Afro-descendant populations in the Spanish and Portuguese borderlands.
The innovative contributions of borderlands studies to history and related disciplines in the social sciences and humanities have emerged from research in archaeology, ethnohistory, and cultural geography as well as new currents in literature, Native American studies, Africana diaspora, and gender and sexuality studies. Histories of displacements and migrations have problematized the identities of peoples as diverse as the Latino/a communities of North America, the mixed populations of the Caribbean basin, and the cultural mosaics of highland and lowland South America. The commercial networks forged by Portuguese and Spanish imperial ambitions established trade networks that set in motion both forced and voluntary migrations extending from South Asia across the Americas and to Africa, creating transcontinental borderlands of vast geographical and historical proportions. The chronological depth and spatial breadth of the imperial spheres and heterogeneous populations of the Iberian World provide an important contrast with the histories associated with the British Empire; yet, they are generally less well known than the British model that appears in English-language textbooks. Their significance needs to be made available for students, teachers, and scholars.
This volume is unique in providing an analytical synthesis of a large body of recent and innovative scholarship that foregrounds the Iberian borderlands in the early modern period. Its chronological framework, extending from the fifteenth to the nineteenth-centuries, presents a critical view of empire as a European-centered extension of power, emphasizing histories of overlapping and competing spheres of power. The contributing authors are building their chapters on interpretive syntheses of the existing literature together with their original research, illustrating different methodological approaches to archives and other kinds of primary sources.
The Borderlands book project is structured around the following broad themes: environmental change and the production of humanly crafted landscapes; the important role of indigenous allies in the Spanish and Portuguese military expeditions into the borderlands; negotiations of power across imperial lines and indigenous chiefdoms; the parallel development of subsistence and commercial economies, highlighting both terrestrial and maritime trade routes; labor and the corridors of forced and free migration that led to changing social and ethnic identities; exchanges of plants, animals, and microorganisms that altered demographic and social configurations; histories of science and cartography; musical and visual artistic traditions in the religious cultures of both South and North America; gender and sexuality, emphasizing distinct roles and experiences documented for men and women in the borderlands.
The book’s geographical scope extends to the historical creation of imperial borderlands in what today is northern Mexico and southern United States; the greater Caribbean basin, including cross-imperial borderlands among the island archipelagos and portions of coastal Florida and Central America; the greater Paraguayan river basin, including the Gran Chaco and the lowland areas of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia; the Amazonian borderlands; the grasslands and steppes of Patagonia and Araucania south of the Bío-Bío river; and Iberian trade networks that created oceanic borderlands connecting the Americas to Africa and Asia. While centered in the Iberian colonial period, it is framed by chapters on the pre-contact Mesoamerican borderlands of North America and the Amazonian borderlands of South America. Chapters include nineteenth-century historical developments for those regions where the continuity of inter-ethnic relations with the colonial period is particularly salient, like the lowland tropical regions of northern Bolivia and central Brazil or the Mapuche/Pehuenche captaincies in South America. The book is organized thematically and, within each theme, the chapters are grouped geographically and chronological.