Early American Borderlands: 3rd Early Iberian/Anglo Americanist Summit; Panel: "The Nature of Mixture"

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Allison Bigelow / University of North Carolina
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The language of mixture permeates the natural histories and nature writing-sections of the accounts, relaciones, and memorias of the early literatures of the Americas (1500-1800). The celebration of or resistance to the idea of a mixture that is either naturally-occurring or engineered by early modern men of letters informs encounters both real and imagined. We see this attention to mixture, separation, and order in passages as diverse as the Portuguese scribe Pêro Vaz de Caminha's call for the king to "lançar semente" (cast his seed) to Catholicize the indigenous population of Brazil (Carta, 1500), the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser's river scene (Faerie Queene, Book IV, 1596 ed.), the Spanish doctor Juan de Cardenas's invocation of the language of friendship and desire to describe the "buena convivencia" among minerals that "se aman" and "se abrazan" (Problemas y secretos, 1643) and the Jesuit priest Andre João Andreoni's classification of the Brazilian mining towns (Cultura ê opulencia, 1693). From the representations of peopling the contact zones with European, African and Mestizo/a bodies to descriptions of and suggested improvements for foundational material practices like planting, husbandry, and mining, the language and imagery of mixture is writ large upon the histories and natural histories of the early Americas.

But what is the relationship between the material condition of mixture in the natural world-be it seed and land, sprig and root, river and ocean, azogue and silver-and the ways in which early modern writers understood their own cultural exchanges and demographic mixtures in the Americas? How might the material practices of combination inform the imaginative or textual representations of mixture? How might such a representation in turn shape material practices like metallurgy, husbandry, or botany or the period's developments in areas of study like oceanography or cosmology? How do early modern European and indigenous epistemologies mix in the study of American nature?

This panel welcomes papers that explore the uses, understandings, and imaginings of mixture in physical and human natures from a comparative hemispheric and/or multi-disciplinary position.

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