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Barbara E. Mundy
Tulane University

Materialities of Ancient American Books: Paper and Other Flayed Skins

The book tradition of ancient America, specifically Mesoamerica, dates back over two thousand years. Catholic campaigns to extirpate idolatry in the sixteenth century have left few surviving examples from pre-1520, but more were created over the remainder of the century. These books conveyed meanings to their publics as much by their materials as they did by the writing on the surfaces of their pages. Mundy’s talk will center on the paper used for books and other manuscripts, which was conceptually and materially the flayed skin of the amatl tree. Her central question is the nature of the connection between the flayed skin as a surface for graphic inscription and as an agent for the material transformation of human beings into deity impersonators (teixiptla).

Wednesday, January 26, 12:15 pm
Via Zoom

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Barbara E. Mundy’s scholarship dwells in zones of contact between Native peoples and settler colonists as they forged new visual cultures in the Americas. She has been particularly interested in the social construction of space and its imaginary, which was the subject of her first book, The Mapping of New Spain (Chicago, 1996). Mundy’s recent book, The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City (Texas, 2015), draws on Indigenous texts and representations to counter a colonialist historiography and to argue for the city’s nature as an Indigenous city through the sixteenth century. Her work spans both digital and traditional formats. With Dana Leibsohn, she is the creator of Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 15201820. She holds the 2021–22 Kislak Chair at the Library of Congress, and the Donald and Martha Robertson Chair in Latin American Art at Tulane University.

This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.