Spanish 280, section 2: Colonial technologies

Instructor: Professor Ivonne del Valle

This course fulfills an elective requirement for the DE in REMS.

Recent work of environmental historians has demonstrated how Spanish America underwent drastic changes during the colonial period. From the desertification of 20% of what is now Mexico to the traces of pollution found in the ice caps of the Andes due to mining, it would appear that, since the 16th century, the relationship between technology and economic activity had a detrimental impact on the “New World” natural environment which is only now beginning to be studied. By the same token, it could be argued that entire populations underwent equally drastic changes, some of them related to technological and economic enterprises (such as mining), others related to more subtle interventions (religious conversion, the learning of Spanish and alphabetic writing, etc.). If, as in the latter case, new methods (evangelization, training in alphabetic writing, etc.) were devised as means to particular ends (conversion, transformation), we could consider that the whole colonial enterprise became a moment in which technology was potentialized, radicalized.

In this course, we will undertake two tasks:

  1. a) A theoretical exploration of what technology is: how it was conceived of at different times, by different cultures and different thinkers (Aristotle, Lucretius, Heidegger, Serres, Nancy, among others), and its “explosion” as a field of interest after World War II, and above all, recently.
  2. b) A reading of pre-Hispanic and colonial sources (mainly from Peru and Mexico; in Spanish) on what colonial technology was and the impact it had on natural environments, urban centers, and the populations that inhabited them.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes