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Duke University Press Books
Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

by Joanne Rappaport


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Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

Much of the scholarship on difference in colonial Spanish America has been based on the "racial" categorizations of indigeneity, Africanness, and the eighteenth-century Mexican castas system. Adopting an alternative approach to the question of difference, Joanne Rappaport examines what it meant to be mestizo (of mixed parentage) in the early colonial era. She draws on lively vignettes culled from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century archives of the New Kingdom of Granada (modern-day Colombia) to show that individuals classified as "mixed" were not members of coherent sociological groups. Rather, they slipped in and out of the mestizo category. Sometimes they were identified as mestizos, sometimes as Indians or Spaniards. In other instances, they identified themselves by attributes such as their status, the language that they spoke, or the place where they lived. The Disappearing Mestizo suggests that processes of identification in early colonial Spanish America were fluid and rooted in an epistemology entirely distinct from modern racial discourses.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900822356362
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 04/04/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Joanne Rappaport is Professor of Anthropology, and Spanish and Portuguese, at Georgetown University. She is the author of Intercultural Utopias: Public Intellectuals, Cultural Experimentation, and Ethnic Dialogue in Colombia and coauthor (with Tom Cummins) of Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Author's Note on Transcriptions, Translations, Archives, and Spanish Naming Practices xiii

Introduction 1

1. Mischievous Lovers, Hidden Moors, and Cross-Dressers: Defining Race in the Colonial Era

2. Mestizo Networks: Did "Mestizo" Constitute a Group?

3. Hiding in Plain Sight: Gendering Mestizos

4. Good Blood and Spanish Habits: The Making of a Mestizo Cacique

5. "Asi lo Paresçe por su Aspeto": Physiognomy and the Construction of Difference in Colonial Santafé

6. The Problem of Caste


Appendix: Cast of Characters




What People are Saying About This

Rolena Adorno

"Joanne Rappaport has revealed what her historical subjects, labeled as mixed-race, mestizo, or mulatto, knew all along: that their identities, as perceived from the outside, and their self-identities, configured from within, were malleable, negotiated categories. Taking the peripheral Spanish colonial region of the Nuevo Reino de Granada–today's Colombia–as her case study, Rappaport debunks the notion that such definitions were monolithic and empire-wide and shows that reliance on them fails to capture the richness of lived experience that she culls so engagingly from the archives. Through its vividly reconstructed life stories, Rappaport's book successfully combats received ideas about the fixity of racial and ethnic labels that have allowed us to imagine, erroneously, that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were simpler times than ours."

Between the Sacred and the Worldly - Nancy E. van Deusen

"The Disappearing Mestizo is a compelling work with important implications for colonial race studies. Considering how diversity was visualized, recorded, and experienced in colonial Spanish America, Joanne Rappaport argues against ethnoracial constructs as strictly genealogical or based on skin coloration, and she challenges the assumption that the fluid classifications of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries hardened into a more elaborate caste system by the eighteenth. Above all, Rappaport questions how scholars of colonial Latin America have created models to explain disparities and discrimination."

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