I apologize, first, that I withdrew from this round table because I couldn’t come to San Diego. I wish I were there for what would be for me a fascinating discussion. I don’t know how useful it is at this point to add my 2 cents to the discussion, but I will.

Chad’s post from two weeks ago interested me very much. They seem right on target. (The chart of the rise and relative recent drop of Andeanist publications is a striking piece of quantitative research!) Building on part of what he wrote, I want to argue that the last several decades of colonial Andeanist historiography have focused disproportionately on these themes:

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The Future of the Andean Past

Comments prepared for the Andean Studies Section Roundtable

CLAH/AHA, San Diego, CA

7-10 January 2010

Let me preface these comments by noting some limitations. It’s not my intention here to provide a comprehensive overview of the state of Andean History at the end of this first decade of the twenty-first century. It’s also not my intention to engage any number of specific works that currently define the field.  Rather, I’d like to reflect on some issues of ethnohistorical method and the social-cultural history endeavor as a provocation for future work in the field. Additionally, I come to this as someone who works, as it were, from the margins of the traditionally conceived heartland of Andean History—I’m a historian of Quito and the north Andes who generally works on the casta plebeians of the city in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As a colonialist, I find myself on the margins of that periodization. As an Andeanist, I find myself on the margins of the heartland of Upper Peru and the Viceroyalty of Lima. And, as an Andeanist, I find myself on the margins of the area of scholarship I find most exciting- ethnohistory of the post-conquest period. And yet, that position within the scholarship gives me, I hope, an interesting perspective on the Future of the Andean Past.

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Much ink has been spilled on the Andean past and how it relates to eternal verities about the Andes. To a certain extent, this perspective is valid, for the geographic environment of the Andes (despite recent climate change) has not varied much over the centuries. That is, the Andean mountain range, located in a subtropical and tropical climate makes possible the cultivation of a large variety of plants and animals in different ecological zones present in the area, often within a very short distance from another. This created a type of human society that was able to take advantage of these factors, with its concomitant emphasis on communal lands, reciprocal arrangements, etc. that exist still today since in many ways it is the most rational use of the (otherwise potentially harsh) environment.

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Thus far in the results from our last poll, on writers of the 16th century, Pedro Cieza de Leon is maintaining a commanding lead with seven of twelve votes cast. Up for your consideration now, “historians” of the 17th century. In deference to Noble David Cook’s comments on the first poll, I’ve added scare quotes to the word -Historian- to broaden its application. For your consideration, we have authors whose works were ethnographic, ethnohistorical, appeals for advocacy, and traditionally historical.

Cast a vote, and tell us why in the comments!

To kick things off for this year’s CLAH roundtable on the Future of the Andean Past/Futuro del Pasado Andino, we offer the first of a few polls of Andean “historians” of the Andean Past. We start with the sixteenth century, and a handful of chroniclers from the early days of the Spanish empire in the Andes. Please vote for the “historian” you think most important, and feel free to add your reasons with the comment link below.


Welcome to the blog of the CLAH Andean Studies Section un-panel, “The Future of the Andean Past/El Futuro del Pasado Andino.” In the coming months we will be holding a group discussion of the state of Andean history in preparation for a roundtable at the 2010 AHA/CLAH Annual Meeting in San Diego. Our hope is to facilitate a discussion on the state of the discipline of Andean history. And we are serious about facilitation. Rather than a traditional panel or roundtable, we want audience participants who are as committed and excited to the future of Andean history as we are.

Kathryn Burns (UNC), Erick Langer (Georgetown), Jeremy Mumford (OleMiss), and Chad Black (UTK) are currently scheduled to participate, along with panel organizers Rachel Sarah O’Toole (UCI) and Kimberly Gauderman (UNM). The panel facilitators will be posting short essays on the current state of the discipline in the months leading into the conference. These pieces are intended to provoke thought and discussion on the method, theory, and content of the future of Andean history. We welcome any comments and look forward to your participation.

So, please check back this Fall and join in the discussion, and then come participate in the live discussion in January. It should be a nice time to visit San Diego.