ECOLOGY, HISTORY, AND CULTURE IN TWO COLONIAL FRONTIERS
Professor Radding is currently working on a comparative ethnohistorical study of northwestern Mexico and eastern Bolivia that brings together cultural and environmental history. The project spans more than a century of history, from 1750 to 1880, and poses new questions for the themes of culture, colonialism, and the historical evolution of hybrid frontier societies in the Spanish and Portuguese American empires. It addresses central methodological concerns of ethnohistorians working in comparative colonial settings of the Americas, Asia, and Africa, in reference to orality and the written word, political economy, environmental and societal change, and ethnic polities.
During her Center appointment, Professor Radding will analyze her research materials, write, and share with colleagues her theoretical approaches to the historicization of culture change. The book she plans will relate outward expressions of culture documented in texts, imagery, pageantry, and colonial landscapes to the material cultures exhibited in the economy and ecology of these two specific colonial societies. Conceptually, she will move beyond the binomial opposition of “resistance and accommodation” to explore critically the notion of “agency” and to analyze the historical production of culture in the asymmetrical power relations that define colonial regimes.