The New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico

Author(s): Eric Van Young
Source: The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 79, No. 2, Special Issue: Mexico's New
Cultural History: Una Lucha Libre (May, 1999), pp. 211-247
Published by: Duke University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2518373
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The New Cultural History
Comes to Old Mexico

Eric Van Young

The human,the social question [is] alwaysdogging the steps of the
ancient contemplativeperson and makinghim, before each scene, wish
reallyto get into the picture,to cross, as it were, the thresholdof the
frame.It never lifts, verily,this obsession of the story-seeker,howeverit
may flutterits wings, it may bruiseits breast,againstsurfaceseither too
hardor too blank."The manners, the manners:where and what are they,
and what have they to tell?"-that hauntingcuriosity,essentialto the
honor of his office, yet makingit much of a burden,fairlybuzzes about
his head the more pressinglyin proportionas the social mystery,the
lurkinghumansecret, seems more shy.

-Henry James, The American Scene

An anthropologywhich abdicatesthe searchfor explanatorytheories of
cultureand society in favorof particularisticinterpretationsof specific
culturesand societies exclusivelyis an anthropologywhose attractionwill
... become confined to scholarswhose intellectualcuriosityis limited to,
and whose intellectualappetiteis nourishedby, strangecustoms of exotic
peoples. For the rest ... that aim produces... anexoriacuriosa;in a
word, boredom.

-Melford Spiro, "CulturalRelativismand the Futureof Anthropology"

One day while driving through a beautiful autumn countryside, a man from
the city passed by an apple orchard. There a strange sight met his eyes and he
slowed his car to observe it more closely. A strapping farmer dressed in over-
alls was staggering about the orchard, borne down under the weight of an
enormous pig, which he carried in his arms. With some difficulty, the man

HispanicAmericanHistoricalReview 79:2
Copyright i999 by Duke University Press

212 HAHR / May / Van Young

saw, the farmerwould lift the pig up to the height of the lowest fruit-bearing
branch,the animalwould daintilynibble an apple, and the farmerwould then
stagger along to another apple tree, where the process was repeated.Puzzled
and fascinatedby this, the man from the city stopped his car by the side of the
road,hopped the wooden fence into the orchard,and pursuedthe farmerwhile
he continued to stagger from tree to tree. Addressingthe heavily perspiring
rustic (for it was an unseasonablywarm day), the man from the city asked,
"Excuseme, sir. Do you mind my asking what you are doing?"The farmer
answeredin a friendlyway, "Why no, mister,I don'tmind tellin'you at all. I'm
feedin' the pig his lunch."The city man considered this for a moment while
following the farmerand pig to the next tree, then offered,"Well,doesn'tfeed-
ing him that way waste an awful lot of time?"And the farmerreplied, "Why
hell, mister,time don'tmean nothin' to a pig."

Of Pigs and Promiscuity

Whether the meaning of time for the pig (or more properly, for its owner)
fell into a Taylorite register (time as money) or a Thompsonian one (time as
culture) is impossible to tell.1 The larger point of this homely Chayanovian
parable, however, is that man the exchanger of calories with the natural envi-
ronment and man the exchanger of meaning with other men are not easily
separable entities, although academic disciplines and subfields of historical
writing tend to cleave the two apart as though they were.2 One of the argu-

i. On Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915), the industrial engineer whose "time
and motion studies" in American factories spawned "Taylorism"just after the turn of this
century, see Robert Kanigel, The One Best WVay: FrederickWinslowTaylorand the Enigma
of Efficiency(ew York:Viking, I997); and the review by Sean Wilentz, New Yor-k Reviewof
Books,20 Nov. 1997; see also E. P. Thompson's seminal article about the cultural stresses
attendant upon the transition to a modem work regimen, "Time, Work-Discipline, and
IndustrialCapitalism,"Past and Present38 (i967). Two recent books on time in a cultural and
historical perspective that have stimulated my own thinking are G. J. Withrow, Timein]
History:The Evolutionof Our GeneralAwaireness of Timeand TemporalPerspective(Oxford:
Oxford Univ. Press, i988); and Alfred W Crosby, TheMeasuweof Reality:Quantificationand
WesternSociety,I250-I600 (Cambridge:Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997). The pig story I owe
to Dan Foe.
2. The Russian agronomist A. V. Chayanov, a major theorist of peasant economic life

writing primarily in the early Soviet era, suggested that traditional peasant farmers may
"self-exploit" their family labor to the point of discomfort without apparent regard to
obvious criteria of economic utility, for reasons based in a different rationality having to do
with family and plot size, the demographic cycle, and so forth; see A. V. Chayanov,

in northwesternMexico in the early i89os. F. and par- tially with the idea that all human actions and expressions have cultural valences. E. Smith. if necessary.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 213 ments I hope to make in this essay is that culturalhistory and economic his- tory (or other sorts of quantitativelybased history. and maximization. such as the action of an indi- vidual. and R. subsistence strategies. they seem to have been saying that although the reigning powers of state and propertymight control the medium of economic exchange.1810-182I" (Stanford:StanfordUniv. and Eric Van Young. i998). I have found instances of the same thing amongst the insurgents of the independence period nearly a century earlier. Paul J. for useful analyses of Chayanov's thought.replacing their economic value with a moral one. and so on. 3. "Chayanov'sMessage: Illuminations. or even antithetical. gender roles. "The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence and Ideology in Mexico. i986). Let us take the example of monetary wages.eds. say. .because of epistemological. This possibilityhas partiallyto do with the prin- ciple of overdetermination:that a single effect. for that matter). Basile Kerblay. might jostle each other in the thinking of one person. see Daniel Thorner. that their antimodern ideology condemned doctors. Yet the believers awardedthemselvesextraordinarilyhigh (nominal)money wages for fighting againstthe Porfiriangovernment. or meanings. the investment of time in private versuspublic activities. that cultural history The Theowyof PeasantEconomy. wages may be said to reflect the relationship between the supply and demand of labor in a given market. and money. Press. of Wisconsin Press. In his recent magisterialbook. for example.they themselves knew their own worth and were readyto expropri- ate the markersof that worth by force.3 What were these popularrebels thinking of? Paradoxicalas such an approach/avoidance to money might appear. or boundary distinctions. but individual worth-not just decisions about leisure time. and Teodor Shanin. may have several causes. self-valuation. "Chayanov'sConcept of Peasant Economy". Daniel Thorner. but without the anti-modernist ideological baggage. and the Contemporary 'Development Theory.Paul Vanderwoodwrites of the mil- lenarianrebels at Tomochic. Miscomprehensions.forthcoming). may usefully be united to the benefit of each. From a strictly economic point of view. for example. I want to suggest. Wages may simultaneously reflect not only value."' both in ibid. priests. so that economic and religious motives. with a foreword by Teodor Shanin (Madison: Univ. Vanderwood. methodological. though most often thought separatefrom each other. but about culturallyspecific normative ideas of work.Press. however. therefore. ThlePowerof Godagainst the Gunisof Government:Religious Upheavalin Al exicoat the Turnof the NineteenthCentiuy (Stanford: Stanford Univ.

I (1994).is one of the central points I hope to make. I will refer throughout to "the new cultural history." Latin AmericanResearchReview 33. or what is "new"about the cultural history some scholars are writing for colonial Mexico. This essay does not pretendto surveyall. My own present essay engages in something of a dialogue with an interlocutor represented in this issue of the HAHR. However. In addition to this journal. whose earlier "The Worst of Both Worlds: The New Cultural History of Mexico.214 HAHR / May / Van Young should actively colonize economic relations. on the imperialist assumption that all history is cultural history. anthropological. i99i). since the interdisciplinary mix of these journals tilts heavily toward what one might call postmodernist historical." Mexican Studies/EstudiosMexicanos 13 (1997). I shall return to these issues below. the tone of their treatment of cultural history being more celebratory than critical. and there is also some cross talk with the essays of Mary Kay Vaughan and William French. Why this is not a flaccid formulationthat dilutes the conceptual precision of culture. as well: Stephen Haber. though hardly new to history as a discipline. or because they encapsulatecertain problems for new cultural historians or embody certain of their successes. and John Kicza. Nonetheless. Power. and literary studies. Mexico City) periodically publish substantive pieces and review articles that air these same issues. In the preparation of this essay I have found particularlysuggestive a recent review article by Susan Deans-Smith. but a salutaryform of promiscuity. such as what culture is." Latin Allierican ResearchReview 30."Within the past few years the Latin AmericanResear-ch Reviewhas published a number of useful review articles. as it has done political systems. "Recent Trends in Ethnohistoric Research on Postclassic and Colonial Central Mexico. see Enrique Florescano. no.5 Still less does it lay out a sys- 4. Nor does this essay attempt to answerthe large questions. "Cultural Dialogues: Recent Trends in Mesoamerican Ethnohistory. and Society in Colonial Mexico. or even a large part. they tend to preach to the converted. For a general discussion of Mexicanist historiography up until about i990. "Culture." . 5." Latin AmericanResearchReview 29. at least with earlier versions of their contributions to this issue of the HAHR. Certainly much of what has been done in the last 15 years or so is new to the history of colonial Mexico. El nuevopasadomexicano(Mexico City: Cal y Arena. i (i998). 3 (1995). privileging projects such as ethnohistory either because I am more familiarwith them. no. for the sake of consistency with the other authors' offerings and in the spirit of the original scholarly colloquy at which these essays were presented as papers. no. among them Janine Gasco. in the same issue see also Cynthia Radding. "Recent Books on Ethnohistory and Ethnic Relations in Colonial Mexico.4The coverageis admit- tedly spotty. the excellent newer journals ColonialLatin AmiericanReviewand Histo-iay G-afia (Universidad Iberoamericana. has prompted a good deal of healthy discussion of cultural history's claims and methods.of what has been done in the culturalhistory of colonial Mexico. what cul- turalhistoryis (a historyof the productionand reproductionof sociallyconsti- tuted meanings will have to do).

The Princesof Narailja:An Essayin Anthrohistorical Method(Austin: Univ. Stephen Haber. Stern. Partly this is due to the increasing convergence of culturalhistory with anthropol- ogy. 7. my approachwill be to raise a series of questions-questions altogethereasier to ask than answer. "Introduction: Economic Growth and Latin American Economic Historiography.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 215 tematic theoretical approachto what we are calling culturalhistory.and a few unpublished. .I place a particularemphasison epistemological and methodological issues.as is often remarkedeven by its own advocates.Men. long dominated by materialist forms of explanation.8But partlyit just makes sense given the nature of the approachand its 6. 8. TranslatedWornan:Crossingthe Borderwith Esperanza'sStory (Boston: Beacon Press. the cultural history literature often betrays certain autobiographicalundertones. ed. 1800.strugglingto reinvent itself after the dismantlingof depen- dency theory as a metanarrative. Press.7Moreover. and particularlyapt given the strongly herme- neutic approachhe took in his microethnographicdescription of women at risk from male violence and patriarchalrepression.1914. and Paul Friedrich. Ruth Behar. Stephen Haber (Stanford: Stanford Univ. The SecretHistoryof Gender:Women.in most cases about how culturalhistory is being done. and even apart from a fascination with laby- rinthine postmodern culturalstudies.Even aside from a certainself-conscioustendencyto overly long methodological and theoretical prolegomena because we are perhaps not sure of our own ground. the genre of culturalhistory may tend somewhat towardnavel-gazing. i986). 1993). In passing I make reference to various scholarly studies about colonial Mexico alreadypublished. Steve J.This may be especially true in a subfield such as Latin Americanhistory.but it goes without saying that I have left much excellent work aside for lack of space or intimate familiaritywith it. of Texas Press. Rather. and Powerin Late Colonial Mexico(Chapel Hill: Univ."in How Latin AmericaFell Behind:Essayson the EconomicHistoriesof Brazil and Mexico.6It is for such reasons. of North Carolina Press. 1995). what its goals and values are. 1997). whence we have bleeding into our discipline recent examplesof crypto- confessional from eminent practitioners such as Ruth Behar and Paul Frie- drich. that I found Steve Stern'sadmittedlysomewhat compulsivetheorizing in his recent book on gender ideology in late colonial Mexico thoughtful rather than self- abusive (as famously alleged). My readerswill perhapspermit me a few words of confessional before I undertakemy task. and how it relates to other forms of historical inquiry. for example. many of which have arisen in the course of my own work over the last decade or so. The premisesof culturalhistory are by no means as yet self-evidentor univer- sally accepted in a discipline such as history.

2i6 HAHR / May / Van Young own coordinates in cultural studies. and cul- turalist explanations. This has thrown me back ever more on the representationsthemselves-whether of family. on the other hand. I used to be a great deal more sanguine about the possibilities of resur- recting and understanding long extinct worldviews and symbolic systems. Genealogiesand Chronologies The city man in the orchard evoked in my opening passage may be seen to represent(in the sense of "standin for")an ethnographer.or with larger. This has meant forging a complex circularity between historical-structural (that is to say. having one foot on the shore and one in the boat. Whereas we once arrayedourselves as observerand object. essentially materialist)explanationsof collective behavior.I suppose. It seemed that the internal images in people's heads that formed the basis of these motives rarely had anything explicitly to do with economic grievances. particularlyamong peasants."Seeing people's behavior as a reflex of class or market relation- ships. I was increasingly drawnto culture-to the process of meaning formation. Nor. until I came face-to-face in the latter stages of my own work on the Mexican popularinsurgency of i8IO-2I with certain apparentlyintractableproblems. cosmic order. It is almost insuperably difficult to construct a wholly complete or satisfactory model of motivation on this basis. forms of earthly authority. or even three if the maker of the source-text is distinct from the actors being described. however. seemed reductive and out of synch with the evidence.I suspect. In the course of thinking through my research materials.more abstractlystructuralrepresentations of "interest. in other words.Many of those who delve into culturalhistory have fol- lowed something of the same trajectory. therefore. My imperialist project for cultural history represents in part an attempt to resolve this problem. and may find themselves. Nor is it an accidentthat my two epigraphsare drawnfrom the disciplinesof literature . and so forth-as being largely at the source of collective action.we now have two subjectivitieswarilycirclingeach other. and the ideas in people's minds- through the question of individualmotivation for joining in collective polit- ical violence.religious cohesion. have I been able to leave behind the economistic forms of explanationprevailingin most studies of early modern collective action. perhaps their assumptionsand the mode of their gaze warrantsome attention. the codes by which meanings are stabilized and transmitted. with me. community. primarily because one cannot get close enough to the actors' thinking. If the observers are in the picture.

Press. Power. Setting the Virgin7on Fire: LdzarsoCairdenas. as does Deans-Smith.however. perhaps because of the traditionalist. see. Press. "Introduction:History. Anthony Grafton. it seems to me. The Footnote:A Ciarious History(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. io. i i. I987). After recently giving a series of lectures touching on some of these issues. notes the primacy of anthropological influence in cultural history. derives from anthropology. Lynn Hunt. i990). 1997). see Eric Van Young. Where one does occasionally find the more adventuresome impulse to substitute one's own subjectivity for that of the people one is studying. and for an extremely sophisticated but sometimes opaque airing of the central issues. see Robert F. Press. Culture. or at least a willingness to extrapolate from the known without bashfulness. i989). Marjorie Becker. Beyonzd the Great Story:Histowyas Textand Discourse (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. is in more modern history.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 217 and anthropology. Tellingthe Tr-uthaboutHistoiy (New York:Norton. 1995). I995). . I990). aindthe Redemptions of the MexicanRevolhtioni(Berkeley: Univ. Lynn Hunt. and on historians and footnotes..Culturalhistory'snear obsessiveinterest in the problemati- zation of texts (in the literarysense) and in languageobviouslyoriginatedwith poststructuralistliterarystudies. Cultu-e throughTime: Anthr-opological Appr-oaches (Stanford: Stanford Univ.10 Whatever its genealogy and the authoritiesit typicallyinvokes to anchor itself. I994). and Margaret Jacob.its ethnographoidmethod.and the putativelydestructiveinfluence of postmodernismpresumedto flow after it like boiling magma through a volcanic vent.and left-wing attacks." ColonfialLatin Amer-ican Review2 (0993). Palmer. "The Cuautla Lazarus: Double Subjectives in Reading Texts on Popular Collective Action. of California Press."in The New Cultinral1 History:Essays. have called forth some astute but shrill criticism from more "traditional"historians right and left (both politicallyand epistemologically). see Joyce Appleby. The New Historyand the Old (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. See also Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney. text-anchored (in the limited sense) training most of them receive. and Text. For right. and Society. see respectively Gertrude Himmelfarb. "Culture.the new culturalhistoryas practicedfor colonialMexico is not in fact a radicallypostmodernistproject.becauseits practitionersseem to believe in the (at least partial)knowabilityof past realities.se:The Reificationof Lansguageand the Writing of SocialHistowy(Philadelphia: Temple Univ. for example.ed. I myself was asked the question of what the difference is between fiction and history. MichoacdnPeasants.9The linguistic turn. For a remarkablymoderate defense of the new problematic of language and subalternity. my own answer: footnotes. especially. Lynn Hunt (Berkeley: Univ. BerkhoferJr. Press. and to some degree its characteristicinterests in "subaltern"groups and in forms of community and identity. Descent into Discour. ed. ii. For some discussion of this theme. and Bryan D. Press.. of California Press. and that there is a differ- ence between the fictive imagining of the novelist and the factual imagining of the historian." Postmodern weltschmerzor epistemological anarchismare 9."258. This is not a particularlyporous boundary for colonialists.

however. and the symbolic systems people use to explain the world around them.14There is. 3 (i99i) and 27. regressing to credulity) toward sources and textual interpretation. though by no means exclusive. 3) a certain turn toward inductivism in the writing of history. within the cultural dispensa- tion. Among the major features of the new cultural history would be: i) the study of mentalities. I997). nothing very radically "decen- tering" to be found in a methodological/epistemological inventory of this his- tory. despite the fact that some of its practitionersfashioned themselves as dependentistasearlierin their careers. because dependency theory itself focused above all on issues of political economy. I owe this observation to Andrew Fisher.12Nor. is the new culturalhistory the half-life product of a deteriorating dependency theory. . or were so describedby their critics.attacksupon the new culturalhistory resemble a "rear-guardaction against a paper tiger [or perhaps. no. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm. I (I992).218 HAHR/ May / Van Young therefore remarkablyabsent from this burgeoning literature. of course. i5. ms. 2) a particular.15 Given the interest of the new cultural history in what have been called subaltern groups (a point to which I return below)." in Latin AmericanResearchReview 26." because of the actual care and caution with which cultural-historical methods are typically applied. on the other hand. and Rolena Adorno airing some of these questions in relation to "postcolonial discourses. Hernin Vidal. Walter Mignolo.13This genealogy disavowsor ignores the anthropologicalinflu- ences so obvious in the approach. is to denaturalize practice. Matthew O'Hara. That particularteratology makes the new cultural history appear even moreof an abortion to its critics. I4. One of the functions of critical debate and of criticism more generally. in fact. among others? Social and labor history also saw themselves as redemptive projects aimed at I2. It does seem to be the case that the most extreme positions among proponents and critics of the new cultural history tend to be taken in methodological/theoretical debates in print (and on-line) rather than in the monographic literature itself. is there some convincing way of differentiating cultural history from social history ("history with the politics left out")? Or is the study of subalterns. "Ascent into Discord: Theory and Latin America's 'New Cultural History"' (unpubl. As one young historianhas observed. no. simply a sort of fizzed-up political history transposed to another register. P. a straw man]. interest in subordinate groups in history. not very different from older revisionist styles of the social history of working people developed by E. if by this one means the perduring mental structures that motivate individual or group behaviors. better said. and 4) a highly critical stance (occasionally." 2. See the interesting exchange among Patricia Seed. by the way.. I3. This is a loose paraphraseof O'Hara.which new culturalhistorianswould never do. "Ascentinto Discord.

The advent of new cultural history can be accounted for (to borrow a model from the history of science) as much by internalist as externalist expla- nations. Mexico'sMer-chantElite. ends: in the one case to arrive at a history of meanings for the partially inscribed.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 219 restoring voice to historically marginalized groups passed over in canonical accounts. Ladd. for example. historiography has been to work its way down the docu- mentary and institutional food chain to the most fragmentary. I tend to agree with Haber's observation that seeing everyone as a subaltern in some circumstances-the King is subaltern to God as the slave to the overseer.Press. ColonialEntr-epreneurs: Familiesand Businessin Boursbon MexicoCity (Albuquerque: Univ. however. John Frederick Schwaller. For some fine studies in the social history of elite groups in a pre. it was still very strong by the late colonial period. of Texas Press. or complementary. and so forth-empties the concept of its utility. r59o-1660: Silvei. of New Mexico Press. The conquest of Mexico did not create a peasantry. 1976). The Chur1*ch aiid Clergy in Sixteenth-Centz'uy Mexico(Albuquerque:Univ. and within it colonial Mexican. ThpeMexicanNobilityat Independence. may attempt to situate people socially within the frame- work of class while at the same time looking at mental/symbolic processes that may or may not be shaped by class experience. see. "Worst of Both Worlds. and folkloric data.John E. This means that not all subaltern history is necessarily cultural history. primarily with regard to considerations of social class. Understanding subaltern cultural history primarily with relation to class position. Doris M.i99i). may be something of an anachronism for colonial Mexico. i983). or by it alone. as there is nothing par- ticularly unsocial. and Louisa Schell Hoberman. to arrive at a level where the waters are murky and large- i6. but it made of the existing one an ethnically subordinate underclass. The cultural history of subaltern groups. biographical. is an attempt to use many of the same sources for different. therefore. Although the power of ethnicity-or "Indianness" or "caste". during which forms of ethnic and vocalist identity may have been as strong or stronger than those of class. Kicza. but rather its particular techniques and goals. I7. except to the degree that it attempts to deconstruct hegemonic formations that impinge on the production and reproduction of meanings and the symbols that instantiate them. of New Mexico Press. then. The internal logic of the field of colonial Latin American. But there is nothing particularly uncultural.1780-e82 6 (Austin: Univ. and in the second to situate people socially. i987).andSociety(Durham:Duke Univ.or para-new cultural history mode.16 So it cannot be the downward drift in the gaze of cultural historians that makes cultural his- tory cultural.17 What differentiates subaltern history in the cultural mode from social history. about plotting the history of elite groups. State." . Haber.may indeed have been fading with time.

21 This sense of irony.Homficide. 2 I. and Serge Gruzinski. eds. Press.To under- standwhat is going on down there has requiredsomethinglike a minor Kuhn- ian paradigmshift in the face of accumulatingpuzzles or anomalies cast up by the old metanarrativesgrown creakywith stress. for example. "Cuautla Lazarus"). .' is what drives most of the colonial-era essays in the recent anthology on ritual and public life by Beezley. trans. Cheryl English Martin. of Nebraska Press. This is surely one of the reasons for the widespread influence of James C. 20.Spain.. The Str-uctur-e of ScientificRevolhtionIs.' in the sense that mitch of the new writing stresses the contradictory nature of the explicit and the covert. It has produced in the new cultural history what might be called an "ironic project. Lesley Byrd Simpson (Berkeley: Univ. and French. somewhat compressed evolution than the jarring reconfig- uration of normative practice Kuhn originally envisioned. i988). Mlan-Godsin the Mexican Highlands:Indian Power and ColonialSociety.18If the regular evange- lizers of central Mexico did their work so well. Robert Ricard. Scott's work. as in the com- pellingly Whiggish portrayal of their project rendered by Robert Ricard. Eileen Corrigan (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Martin."22 i8. although for reasons I have tried to outline elsewhere (Van Young. Kuhn. ed. for example. The Spiritual Conquestof Mexico:An Essayon the Apostolate and the EvangelizingMethodsof the MendicantOrdersin New. and how was there political and ideologi- cal (let alone physical) space for recurrent episodes of Indian rebellion?20 But the paradigm shift has been sly and incremental rather than disjunctive more an ad hoc. I970). Rebellion. Press. Taylor. 1523-1572. 2d ed. Riot. William B. why was "bargaining by riot" so common between colonial rural com- munities and the Spanish regime. as in describing state "hegemonic" action and popular cultural "reception" and reappropriation of ideological elements. Beezley. Friedrich Katz. ed. Rituals of Rule. See. 22. how did indigenous culture and lifeways survive to the extent they appar- ently did?19 If the hegemony of the colonial state lay so heavily upon the land. i966). Native Resistanceand the Pax Colonial(Lincoln: Univ. i989).220 HAHR/ May / Van Young scale explanationsloom like rustedhulkson the teeming ocean floor. French. William H. of California Press. where irony is "a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise or fitness of things.. i9. of ChicagoPress. Press. and Rebellionin Colonial AIexican Villa7ges (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Thomas S.. Ritualsof Resistance:PublicCelebrationsand Popula-rCultur-ein Mexico(Wilmington.and Revolution:Rural Social Conflictin Mexico (Princeton: Princeton Univ. i998). (Chicago: Univ.1520-1800. Driinking. or even Stern's evocation of the colonial system of "gender right. 1979). i990). trans. especially his Dominationand the Arts of Resistance:Hidden Transcripts(New Haven: Yale Univ. and William E.Scott deals less than convincingly with culture. Susan Schroeder. Press.

for example. of Texas Press. 1984).Enrique Florescano'ssurvey of Mexican historiog- raphy. to about i990 or slightly earlier. Florescanocertainlycites a number of historicalworks that we might construe as exemplarsof cultural history. and Stern. La poblacio'n negra de Mexico:estudioetnohisto6ico (Mexico City: Ediciones Fuente Cultural. I994). 878. 24.: Scholarly Resources.the Indian King: The HistoricalSubstrateof MAlaya Myth and Ritual (Austin: Univ. 2d ed.El nuevopasadomexicano. 31-45).that is. and MIedicina y magia (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista. complementary definitions include "a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used. . The Indian Christ.it may be of interestto ask of the new culturalhistory. and. Nancy M. both of whom certainlydeal with the historicalexperienceof indigenous peo- ples from a culturalistperspective. I151r9-1I81I0 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. even in com- menting on the ethnohistoricalstudies of Nancy Farrissand Victoria Bricker. In his section on "Reval- orizaciony recuperationdel virreinato"(pp.and of the social productionand reproductionof meaning.How new is "new. I95 3). Foi-masde gobiernoindigena(Mexico City: Impr. and Victoria Reifler Bricker. Press.or at least as layingout the elementsfor a culturalapproachto the historyof centralMexicanindigenouspeoples. nor to theworkof GonzaloAguirreBeltrAn of the 1940S andi950S to see it as a pro- found study of systemsof social classification."and "a condition of affairs or events opposite to what was. Maya Societyunder ColonialRule: The CollectiveEnterpriseof Survival (Princeton: Princeton Univ. (Oxford: Clarendon Press. i55-56).24In the closing pages of his essay (pp. Charles Gibson. the new culturalhistoryonly goes backa decadeor so. Universitario. and which has its own burgeoningcorpus of canonicalworks. theoreticalreference points. Farriss."and is the newness that of the emperor'snew clothes? Well. One need not bring a particularly overheatedreadingto CharlesGibson'scanonicalTheAztecsunderSpanishRule.23 But as a self-conscioussubgenreof historicalwrit- ing on Mexico whose practitionersmore or less recognize each other. or might naturally be.and-yes -specialized argot.to see it as culturalhistory. and Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran.ethnic identity. in terms of language. I946). The Aztecs under SpanishRule:A Histowyof the Indiansof the Valley of Mexico. Del. i963). And one could surely go further and further back with such an archaeology. SecretHistoiy of Gender. i99i). expected.published in i99i." 2 3. i964). for example. Florescanoactuallymentions culturalhistory. but the vocabularyhe employs is that of social history. above all. religious belief. source and methodologicalpredilections. to some extent (to paraphraseMoliere) perhapswe have been speakingculturalhistory for a long time without being awareof it. systems of symbolicmeanings. Press.Take. i98i).New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 221 Finally.The quoted definition of irony is drawn from the CompactOxford EnglishDictionaiy.

tanto hacia dentro como hacia afuera de sus formas discursivas.The opening editorial statementsof both journals stress their interdisciplinary.. his recent book on ethnicityand the state in the historyof Mexico'sindigenouspeoples is redolent of culturalistjargonand concepts. de mayor complejidad. En ese sentido quisieramos ver a la historiografia como parte de un sistema de comunicaci6n. I995) backslidto haciendas and hacendados. and of the two addi- tional articlesin this firstissue."ColonialLati7 AmlericanReview I (1992). I should mention that I am a member of the editorial boards of both journals.on the interactionsbetween Hollywood and the Mexican cinema. on photography. "Foreword. Historiay Grafia 25. .25 Nor is it coincidentalthat two journalsdevoted primarilyto culturalhis- tory (the Mexicanjournalembracesmore thanjust the colonial period)are rel- ativelynew by disciplinarystandards.. 5... one treatedMexicanmuseums.number4 (I995) was centered on "historiae ima- gen" and contained articles on the significance of the "royal body" in the French Revolution..while the first issue of i996 (no..The next number (no. Raquel Chang-Rodriguez. Enrique Florescano. edited by Guillermo Zermefio.dating from the early i99os: the Univer- sidad Iberoamericana'sHistoriay Grafi'a.The very firstnumberof Historia y Graffa (1993) was dedicated primarily to the work and influence of the French critic and cultural theorist Michel de Certeau.In succeedingyears each numberwas dedicatedto a specifictheme.edited by Raquel Chang-Rodrfguez. Hay una linea que en especial nos interesa impulsar y promover. "Presentaci6n.26A glance at the tables of contents over the years demonstrateshow this self-mandatehas workedout in practice."revisionist."and I think (implicitly) culturalist agendas. In the interest of full disclosure. 6) continued with fairlytra- ditional essays on "rupturesand continuities" between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the second (no."Historiay Grafia. 7) examined Jesuit thinking on Mexican culture and history. 26.222 HAHR/ May / Van Young though only obliquely and somewhat coyly. para cuyo abordaje el historiador no ha encontrado en general el espacio adecuado: la de la reflexi6n sobre el sentido y funci6n de su propia practica. I997). as well as selections from the work of Pierre Bour- dieu and Paul Ricouer. and the City University of New York'sColonialLatinAmericanReview. For instance. In the following year (997). De modo que la historigrafiaes s6lo una forma de la representaci6n de la experiencia humana y social transcurrida"(emphasis in original). I (1993). Wrote Zermefio about the self-reflective (some would doubtless say "intellectuallymasturbatory"or "navel-gazing") agenda of the journal: "Ahoramejor que nunca sabemos que la construcci6n del saber y de la ciencia es una cuesti6n fundamentalmente colectiva.a hallmarkcon- cern ofrculturalhistorians. Etnian..estadoy nacio'n:ei7sayo sobrelas ide7ntidades colectivase77 M6eico(Mexico City: Aguilar. By contrast. and Guillermo Zermefio...

but with the somewhat different objective of trying to determine when late colonial/early national studies blossomed.conquerorhistoriography.' HAHR65 (1985).and carnivals. 5. It goes without saying that my "statistics"rest upon an impressionistic perusal of the journals'tables of contents. and the theme of "bodies in history. with about half the total articles reflecting this approachin the i996 and I997 volumes (5/io and 5/Ii.the intersectionsof race. i) explored "cross-culturalcommunication and the ambiguity of signs. gender. but added another voice to the polyphony. and the first number of i996 (vol.Mexi- can Studies/Estudios Mexicanos(admittedlyinterdisciplinaryand again not lim- ited to colonial history) publishedone article of an arguably"culturalhistori- cal"approachin i990. too. however.subalternity. and peakedwith six of eleven representingthis tendency in I993. interestinglyenough.textuality. one of which furnishesthe agendafor most of the rest of this essay. 2) was devoted to an extravaganzaof historical and literary stud- ies of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. 726-30). hasshownsomeinclinationto driftoverintothe cul- tural realm. 5/I4 in I992.y condenados. intellectual. that beginning in the early i96os one tended to see a more sociological language in the journal.but acrosswide variationsover time (4/I7 articlesdevoted to "culturalhistorical"themes in I990.prostitution. the ColonialLatinAmericanReviewhas quite consistently combined historical.and literary approachesin its editorial selection policy. 8)."with pieces on religion. at least based upon a count of TJAHRarticles. 9). An avowedly cultural history has not so much drowned out more established forms of political. anthropological.film. typically touching on issues such as mapping and representation.An entirenumberin I995 (vol. About I5 years ago I conducted a similar "survey"of HAHR offerings over the period i960-85 in my article "Recent Anglophone Scholarship on Mexico and Central America in the Age of Revolution (1750-1850). and more contributions in the area of social history.academicculture. or social history. I also noted."which seems to say (or signify) it all.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 223 exploredboth the theme of "marginados.integrados. 4. I concluded (pp.in the hands of someone else this same exercise might produce quite different results. though the proportion had declined to one quarter by i996. But even journalsof a relativelytraditional(not to say staid) bent reflect the same tendency. Since its founding in I992. .First:Does 27.prophetic traditions. and morality(no.and dance (no.if in a more muted fashion.postcolonialism. no. The HAHR has always been somewhat more eclectic in its publication profile.Indian- Spanishrelations. no. 7/I3 in I99I. not upon a careful reading of every contribution or any sort of formal content analysis. respectively).and gender. 4/I4 in I993."embrac- ing articleson melancholy. class. economic.27 The Emperor'sclothes issue branchesinto two slightlydifferentquestions. that it must have been about 1970. andI/I3 in I994) it.

or is it likely to generate in the future.or the role of com- mon people vis-a-vis the state-and to carveout a niche for themselvesin the field.it is very treacherous. Press.ed. for example. in other words. as a research programme for doing what we are calling new culturalhistory in general. see.and Interpretation. for example.say.As an aphoristicpronouncement this reads reasonablywell.John B. Or. the utility of the approachmight well come to depend pre- cisely Upon cultural historians working in the promiscuous and imperialist mode suggested at some length in what follows.which in partencap- sulates the relationshipbetween anthropologyand history.or Geertz and other anthro- pologists treat culturallyexpressivephenomena-whether cockfightsor pup- 28. and trans."which must figure centrallyin any projectto study culturein past time.a jargon. have its advocates simply employed this language to undergird a mild historical revisionism- regarding. Victor Turner may well liken pilgrimages or initiation ceremonies to theater.28 This takesus backto the influence of anthropologicalthinkerson the new cul- turalhistory.religious sensibilities.The termsof this statement. a sort of discursiveexoskeleton for a creaturewhose innards are pretty undefined and squishy. it may be too early to tell. Culture as Text and Text as Culture To begin my substantiveand methodological discussionproper.importedfrom other disciplines and other historiographies?And.or does it say something new enough to be interesting?The second question is larger and harderto answer:Has the new culturalhistory generated. while in the process makingexaggeratedclaims for their approach?Is it. . by which I mean primarilyfieldworktech- niques in the ethnographicpresent.224 HAHR/ May / Van Young the new culturalhistorysimplyconsistof a set of terms. are not reversible because culturalhistoriansare mostly askinganthropologists'questionswith- out accessto anthropologists'tools. of literaryand culturalstudies scholars).Action. there are two answers to this question. First.gender constructions. or will it simply remain bogged down in the sort of particularistic exoticism skewered by the anthropologistMelford Spiro in my second epi- graph?In brief. i98i). his Hermeneuticsand the Human Sciences:Essayson Langluage. some larger understandingsabout the workings of Mexican society and culture over the long term.since this is basicallya paraphraseof Clifford Geertz (and behind him. and for colonial Mexico in particular. Basic to any discussion of text and action is the work of Paul Ricouer. if so. however. let me place on the table the palindromoidstatement "Cultureis to text as text is to cul- ture. Thompson (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.

superimposingtheir own readingsover those of the actors them- selves. see Beezley. The Gr-eatCat Massa-cre and Other- Episodesin FrenchCultur-alHistowy(New York:Basic Books. Cohen. since typically they seek to resurrectthe entire culture from a fragment. while at the same time producingrendered-downor condensedversionsof a larger. the other through expansion and rehydration. and the multilayered approach the cultural historian might adopt both to construct a coherent narrative and to break open the false coherence of a narrative account. in the process they doubly distill a "text"from the buzz of reality.and then essentialize from it. "Conclusion: The State as Vampire-Hegemonic Projects. For some interesting observations along these same lines. Martin. and M1Iyth(New York:Columbia Univ. Ritualsof Rule. 30. i969).Ethnographers.andwhich raiseseyebrowsamong nonbelieversand new cul- 29.or those working along parallel lines and whose studies claim some cultural component. are sometimes guilty.and Metaphors:Symibolic Actionin Human7Society(Ithaca: Cornell Univ. 1984). see Paul A. Fields. and for colonial and modern Mexico. The peculiarlyopen-ended and arbitrarynatureof this procedure.let us remember.30 The problems here for historians in mimicking what ethnographersdo con- sist not only in the pastness of the past. The Ritual Process:Stiructur-eand Anti-Str-ucture(Chicago: Aldine. and French. The two methods. it seems to me. i6oo-i990o. and Dramas. 31. Cultural historians do the opposite. who the actorsare and what they are saying about themselvesand their worlds. For examples of ritual behaviors "read"this way.among other things. . 1997). in Beezley.more chaotic. therefore. Martin. Ritualsof Rule."in The Interpretationof Cultures(New York:Basic Books. Expertiece. Turner.31While ethnographersdo a writing of their own readings. Press. 1974). Victor W.absent the ethnographicallypresent native againstwhose account the scholar'swilder projective liberties may be checked. Public Ritual. then-the ethnographer'sseeing "cultureas text" and the culturalhistorian's seeing "text as culture"-work in exactly opposite ways.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 225 pet shows-as texts.29In doing this they are themselves "reading"them as performancesor narrativesexpressing. Press. and French. There is a certain parallelism here. richerreality. I have discussed these issues at somewhat greater length in my essay.orderthe ritualor other behav- ior as a text. and Clifford Geertz. see Robert Darnton. is one of the reasons for the apparently flaccid methodology of which avowedly culturalhistorians. and Popular Culture in Mexico. at least according to classical psychoanalytic theory. but in the textuality of the text and the narrativityof the narrative. "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. historians do a reading of a writing of a reading of a fragmentedrecord or partialexperience. with what goes on in dreaming and the recovery and interpretation of dreams. the one through condensation and selection. 1973). Historyin ThreeKeys:The Boxersas Event.

and rural commercialization. prominentlyemployed the technique of ethnographicupstreaming. Ladd. 15I17. the author undertakes an eloquent defense of her interpretive techniques in both her introduction and closing methodological essay. though no less bold conceptually.which at times embracedMeso- americaas well as the Andeanregion.and nation-building. i989). Press. civil strife. By contrast. 34.1987). 33. and the importation of anachronistic analyticalcategoriesor forms of experiencefrom one temporal/culturalsetting to another.32Nathan Wachtel's classic study of conquest- and earlycolonial-eraSpanish-Andeancontact."Comments Clendinnen: "It is possible that the carrier squatting back on his heels in the marketplace waiting for hire. is much more restrained in its claims and more convincing in its conclusions."in other words. Doris M. 1977). . 1570 (Cambridge:CambridgeUniv. Among these distortivetechniques are overinter- pretation.34In her attempt to find a relativelyadvancedsyndicalistmentality (arguablya "cultural"arti- Inga Clendinnen. I1766.I1775 (Lincoln: Univ. I do not intend to assume so" (p. sometimes without hitting any vital organs or resistantmaterialat all. comes out as interpretiveconclu- sion. ethnographic upstreaming. and global capitalism?Finally. The Visionof the Vanquished. "AQuestion of Sources. injecting in their passagethings that are not there. Aztecs:An Interpretation(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Clendinnen's earlier AmbivalentConquests:Maya and Spaniardin Yucatdn.226 HAHR / May / Van Young ture history advocatesalike. Nathan Wachtel. 32. The Making of a Strike:Mexican Silver-Workers'Strugglesin the Real del Monte.How are we to blot out or otherwisefactorin. What goes in as "interrogation. i99i). for example.the effects of two or three centuries of evangelization. and watching the great lord and his entourage stalk by.Press.trans. As an exampleof overinterpretation.33But this method requiresso many ceteris paribusassumptionsabout the relation- ship of contemporaryto centuries-old practicesthat it immediatelybecomes highly suspect. 4).state. Burt and Sian Reynolds (New York:Barnes and Noble.relying upon descriptionsof modern ritualbehav- iors such as "Danzasde la Conquista"as an interpretiveaxis along which to understandthe culturalcontent of early European-nativeinteractions.Inga Clendinnen'slyrical and riveting evo- cation of precolonialAztec life seems to me to make claimsfor the existenceof a societywideMexica culture based on exceedinglyshaky extrapolationsfrom elite-generated forms of discoursethat may or may not have representedthe thinking of common people. an avatarof the cultural history of Spanish-indigenous contact and misapprehension.All of these techniquesmay slingshot through the primarysources and back out again. sustained a very different view of the workings of the world they both inhabited.or more recently the effects of modern media. let me offer as an example of the anachronisticimportation of conceptual frameworksDoris Ladd's book on eighteenth-centurymine laborersin the Pachucasilvermines. of Nebraska Press.

to be very stimulating. and "We Think. Sex and Conquest:GenderedViolence. Trexler. traducing the very authentic voices of the workers that she seeks to amplify. reliance upon apocryphal evidence. a permanentlytransvested(usuallyyoung) male who lived as a woman. Stephen L..But whateverelse may be shap- ing the politics of his interpretation. a bit more circumspect and modest in its claims. nonpenetrative)role in sexual activities with other males. fulfillingtraditionallyfemale domestic and other responsibilities. November i988. and a relianceupon "upstreaming"and historicallytranscen- dent categories that violates the very spirit of culturalparticularismthat this 35.and taking the passive (i. P. Press.Trexler has certainly succumbed to the temptation to fill in the gaps in the historicalrecord with untoward specula- tion. as "tribal"peoples).Ladd continually forces the evidence to her own ends. E.35That she did not find a Mexican Francis Place is little short of miraculous. Thompson's conclusions on burgeoning English working-class mentality ignores the history of capitalism. for example. for example. During and after the conquest of the native American peoples.of colonialism. 1984). 1995). Kaplan (Berlin: Mouton. . The Making of the English WorkingClass(New York:Pantheon. P.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 227 fact) among the workers in the Conde de Regla'ssilver mines at the famous Real del Monte complex at Pachuca."in Under-standing Popular-Culture:Eutropefromthe MiddleAges to the NineteenthCentiny. tortured readings of his sources. i963)- 36. Examples of all these questionable techniques can be found in Richard Trexler'srecent Sex and Conquest. and of ethnically stratified societies. Univ.36 A very widely respected historian of Ren- aissance Florence." Bronowski Renaissance Symposium dedicated to the memory of Michel de Certeau.churchmen.PoliticalOrde7.and the EuropeanConquestof the Americas(Ithaca: Cornell Univ. On the other hand. I have personally found other of Trexler's work.thus laying the basis for violent repressionof "unnatural" practices and for the imposition of Christianityand European rule. Trexler has in this work of admirablydense scholarship turned to the Europeans'interpretationof the berdacheof Americanindige- nous peoples.e. ed. At first glance this is not an uninterestingargument. Thompson. of California. see.and chroniclersturned their ethnographicobservationof the berdacheto ideologicaladvantagein "feminiz- ing" the conqueredby generalizingsodomy and associatedvices to the entire subject population. the Spanishconquerors. Trex- ler argues. They Act: Clerical Readings of Missionary Theatre in Sixteenth-Century New Spain. "Dressing and Undressing the Saints in the Old World and the New. San Diego. questionableethnohistory (referringto the Aztecs and Incas. Richard C.Her attemptto map onto late colonial MexicanlaborersE.

and therefore the object of the culturalhistorian. as we all know. is in itself no guaranteeof transparencyin the study of a given culture.37 To return to the text-as-cultureparadigm. of Chicago Press. the controversy over Margaret Mead's ethnographic work or the perusal of some of BronislawMalinowski'sfield journalsand letters attest to this. for example are connectedand the meaningthat culturalpractitionersimpute to them through these connections. I should say that my own very brief ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico. institution. How "Natives"Think:About CaptainCook. particu- larly stable institutionalcomplexes religious thinking and political practice.228 HAHR/ May / Van Young sort of history is meant to embody. since it taught me the myriad sorts of daily cultural events (the "soft tissue" of meaning and practice. as the recent heated exchanges between Marshall Sahlins and Gananath Obeyesekere over the former's historical ethnography of the Hawaiian cul- tures and Captain James Cook's intersection with island history make plain.39 37. since meaning is a relational property. i967).38Nor is the question resolved whether cultural distance from the culture under observation. provides a better ethnographic vantage point.It is pre- cisely in these connections that meaning. and so forth.Culturalhistory like this will do as little to demonstratethe virtues of the approachas SigmundFreud'sand William Bul- litt's hatchetjob on Woodrow Wilson did for psychohistory. judicial and administra- tive structures. also resides in the way these things. But culture. 38. these social artifacts play a major role.an understandingof one thing in terms of another: it forges the path from one system. 39.or kinshiprelations. It is this "softtissue"that is the first to go with the passageof time and the hardestto recover for the historian.Twenty-Eighth Pr-esidentof the UnitedStates:A PsychologicalStudy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. resides. Sigmund Freud and William C. The Apotheosisof CaptainCook: . and more specificallythe dialogic relationship that in the best of circum- stances it presumably engenders between the observer (a culturally consti- tuted subject) and the native practitioner(another culturallyconstituted sub- ject).what most often shows up in the documents. was among the most valuable research experiences I have ever had. the most importantelement of cul- ture. of course. Marshall Sahlins. At risk of becoming too confessional. ThomasWoodrvow Wilson. and Gananath Obeyesekere.freeze-driedversions of rituals.for-Exanmple (Chicago: Univ. among Otomi peasants in the Mezquital Valley around I970. or cultural proximity to it. practice. episodes of collective action. I have been calling it) that are missing from documents. I995).or if we are lucky. as I understand it. conflict situations. Bullitt. are the institutionalaspects of colonial life traces of formal structuressuch as property systems. Ethnographicfieldwork. or set of ideas to another. In the fluid and inclusive approachto culture that I have found most useful.

40. psychopathology. Roy Porter. and so forth. no. at least. how those ideas change over time.42 Maria Cristina Sacristin has almost single-handedly opened up the Eurwopean Mythmakingin the Pacific(Princeton: Princeton Univ. The history of madness. 3 (i990). My own doubts regarding this possibly distorting conjunction are worked through in Van Young. for example. so that the living context of a behavior or discursive element becomes much clearer (or paradoxically. for example-whom societies think mad."Latin AmericanResearchReview 25.40 Most of this documentation was generated by the crossing of individual biographies with public life. I leave aside here the issue of what was "normal"in colonial society and what "abnormal"-in terms of criminal behavior. 4I. himself a Sri Lankan. and Gilbert M.Seasonsof Upheaval:Elite Politicsand Rur-alInsmrgency in Yucatain.41 Though by no means is what follows an exhaiustive catalogue. Press. is based upon the peculiar- ity that the documentary islands rising from whole continents and subconti- nents of past experience are thrust to the surface of the historical record by forms of conflict or deviance that we then take as a starting point to recover "normal" life. I992). One of the main points of debate here is whether Obeyeskere. typically by the action of the state-in this case. is any closer to the Hawaiians than Sahlins. "On the Trail of Latin American Bandits:A Reexamination of Peasant Resistance. it is not too much to say that had there been no colonial state. the symptoms and content of psychopathologi- cal formations. MlIind-Fo-g'd Manacles:A Historyof AMIadness in Englandfifomthe Restorationto the Regency(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. The greater part of what practitioners of the new cultural history are doing. "native" practitioners of a cul- ture can at least expand on the meanings of ritual behavior or spatial organiza- tion.i876-i9i5 (Stanford: Stanford Univ.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 229 But in fieldwork in the ethnographic present. See. Press. and much of their historiographical success. there would now be no possibility of doing cultural his- tory of the "newer" sort. Joseph. in dialogue with the ethnographer. i987). since it deals centrally with socially constructed meanings and their distortive mirroring in the minds of the dis- turbed. let me cite the work of a few scholars that I consider innovative and that ultimately depends upon the intersection of private and public life. "Cuautla Lazarus. i996). Press. especially I-I7. Indeed. Andrew . the colonial state." 42. judicial conflict. and social and medical responses to insanity-continues to be a growth industry in North American and European historiography and a now-classic terrain for cultural historians. more overdetermined and ambiguous) than it ever is in a document. for example. Sulommer of Discontent. Eloquent on this conjunction of state power and the cultural and political history of popular protest are Allen Wells and Gilbert M. Joseph.

Magistratesof the Sacred:Priests and Parishionersin Eighteenth-Centnny Mexico(Stanford:Stanford Univ. the same is true of Solange Alberro's book on the Mexican Inquisition during an extended seventeenth century. and Robert Castel. I988). I997). Grob. of Sergio Ortega's interesting anthology on marriage and on bigamy. while other works on gender one of the new cultural history's success stories-by Patricia Seed. and Locur-a y disidenciaen el AIexicoilustrado. Mexico City: Instituto Mora. Press. ms. and other acts of socially deviant sexual behavior.and Comnmlunity in ColonialMexico(Albuquerque:Univ. and even of William Taylor's monumental study of late colonial parish clergy. I994). Scull.. Halls (Berkeley: Univ. I987).44 Steve Stern's illuminating study of the ideas and practices of gender relations among common people in three regions of New Spain during the late colonial period depends almost exclusively for its central documentation upon criminal records. both on the part of social arbiters and mad people.230 HAHR / May / Van Young field of the history of Mexican psychiatry with a pair of recent books on mad- ness and society. of Richard Boyer's lovely book on bigamy and family life. sexual perversity. I992). I996). Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacan. in the siglo de las luces. In relation to the Church authorities and the documenta- tion left behind by their encounter with the Mexican population. Juan Pedro Viqueira Alban. 44. Locur-a e Inquisicicinen Nueva Espafia. of New Mexico Press. Solange Alberro. "Morally Insane Women: Negotiating Gender and Class at the General Asylum in Early-Twentieth- Century Mexico" (unpubl.43 Her work is based almost exclu- sively on Inquisition and criminal records that would never have come to exist had the individuals she studies not fallen into the toils of the state appa- ratus in some way. Cristina Rivera-Garza. gRelajados o repr-imfidos? Diversionespziblicasyvida socialen la ciudadde Mexicodur-anteel Siglode las Luces(Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Econ6mica. I989). Sergio Ortega. . Silvia T. I995). Grijalbo.trans.I988).157I-I760 (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Econ6mica. The Regulationof Madness:The Originsof Incai-ceration in Fr-ance. of California Press. Richard Boyer. I994).. SocialOr-ler/A/IentalDisorder:Anglo-Amnerican Psychiatiyin HistoricalPer-spective (Berkeley: Univ. De la santidada la perversion:o deporqzueno se cumnplala ley de Dios en la sociedadnovohispana(Mexico City: Ed. I986). and for a later period. D.i8io (Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacan. W. much of whose basic data arose out of conflicts between curates and parishioners. and William B. Inquisitionet societyau Mexique. Maria Cristina Sacristan. 43. Livesof the Bigarnists:l/fairiage.1760. Press. Gerald N. in the more developed and later of which she shows a clear trend toward the secularization of attitudes.1571-1700 (Mexico City: Centre d'EtLidesMexicaines et Centramericaines. Taylor. of California Press. soon to appearin an English translation from Scholarly Resources. The MAlad among Us:A Histoiy of the Car-eofAmer-ica MAlIentally111(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Family. of Juan Pedro Viqueira's fascinating look at public entertainments in Mexico City dur- ing the eighteenth century. ed.

Carlos Valdes. and Asunci6n Lavrin.and Obeyin ColonialMexico:ConflictsoverMarriage Choice. resistance. ToLove. but still powerful in a number of ways. . Sexualityand Mariage in ColonialLatin America (Lincoln: Univ. Stern. or gender. of California Press. Hexagono. The Legal Cultutire of NorthernNew Spain. Woodrow W. 47." religious sensibility. Arrom. Since ethnohistory is by now a fairly venera- ble genre of historical writing on colonial Mexico. I989). and Charles Cutter. 1995). I995).Patricia Seed. ed. and punish for their recalcitrance colonized Indian peoples. The documentation undergirding these studies was for the most part gener- ated by the colonial and successor states in their efforts to control.i 8oo. Aux miar-ges de l'empire: societyet delinquancea Saltilloa lepoque coloniale(Perpignan: Universite de Perpignan.1500-1700 (Norman: Univ. as did Woodrow Borah's pre-new cultural history study of the General Indian Court. I989). and Asunci6n Lavrin. among others. presumably due to the fact that cultural change is a much slower process than political change and less subject to the contingen- 45. for example. it was by no means "invented" or even significantly reshaped by the new cultural history in quite the same ways as studies of "deviance. I995). I983). and has always been influenced by our sister discipline of anthropology. however. I700-I8I0 (Albuquerque:Univ.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 23I Arrom. and acculturation depends almost exclusively upon judicial records. old periodizations have been called into question.1574-I821 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. and Teresa Lozano Armendares.I 821 (Guadalajara:Ed. Justice by Insurance:The General IndianCourtof ColonialMexicoand the LegalAides of the Half-Real (Berkeley: Univ. Law and the TRanobnnationof Aztec Cultun-e. Susan Kellogg.. and Charles Cutter's book on the judicial culture of the Mexican north in the late colonial period. I987).I821 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Aut6noma de Mexico.46 Finally. I988).47 Another great success story of the new cultural history of colonial Mexico is the continuing wave of ethnohistorical works treating indigenous groups. and must therefore be read with many of the same caveats as texts on other char- acteristically "cultural" themes. Press. The Womenof Mexico City. of New Mexico Press. Carmen Castafieda. and Teresa Lozano on the basis of primar- ily local or regional criminal archives. of Nebraska Press. Violacidn. Carlos Manuel Valdes Davila. 1790-I857 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. 46. to be replaced with a tongue duree sort of approach. also rest upon varieties of docu- mentation generated by "deviance" and contention under the gaze of the state. Secr-etHistowyof Gender-. Borah. of Oklahoma Press. Silvia M. For one thing. exploit. La cri-minalidad en la ciudadde Me'xico.45 Garden-variety deviance and crime have been interestingly treated by Carmen Castafieda.estuproy sexualidad:NutevaGalicia. Press. Susan Kellogg's work on Indian litigation. 1790 . I985). Honlol. Here the influence of the new cultural history has been more diffuse and incremental. acculturate.

232 HAHR/ May / Van Young cies of political epiphenomena that typically drive periodizations. The PoliticalEconomyof SpanishAmericain the Age of Revolution. I996). under the new dispensation indigenous peoples have shifted from the position of objects-even if empathetically treated ones. in press). 50.. the refiguration by new cultural historians of indigenous actors from objects to fully realized subjects has been. For recent work on the reperiodization of colonial and early national Mexican and Spanish American history. De la costaa lI sierra:lospueblosindiosde las huastecas.and EcologicalFrontiersin Nor-thwestern Mexico.. Colo. Ethnic Spaces. WanderingPeoples:Colonialism.49In addition. and is likely to remain. I994). State and Societyin SpanishAmericaduring the "Ageof Revolution":New Reseai-chon Histor-icalContinuitiesand Changes.. that as good and plentiful as ethnohistory has become for colonial Mexico. Pedro Bracamonte y Sosa. Johnson.I750-I9I5 (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. as one sees them in Gibson's Aztecs under Spanish Rule. Mexicoin the Age of Democr-atic Revolutions. as with Susan Schroeder's study of the Chalco chronicler Chi- malpahin. so that it has to be readfor the cultural meanings and symbolic exegeses one would suppose typical of the new cultural 48.i 85os (forthcoming). Cynthia Radding.1750-I850 (Boulder. ed.ca.50 It is probably fair to say. Rodrfguez 0.I99I).. I 750s. It claims its culturalist credentials more from its somewhat traditional ethnographic tendencies than from any post- modernist or cultural studies genealogy. and even when focused on members of the indigenous elite rather than subalterns. even though not cut consciously in the new cultural historical mold. as exemplified most recently in the work of David Frye. for example -to that of subjects. of ArizonaPress.: Lynne Rienner. of Texas Press. Frye. Susan Schroeder. This is why the occasional biographical study. much of it is strictly speaking parallel to the new cultural history rather than of it. Still. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. can be so valuable in illuminating Indian culture. a difficult and incomplete one because of the sources available. I700.I750-I900 (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. and Victor Uribe. in fact. and Antonio Escobar. Cynthia Radding. 49. Press. I997). David L. Chimnalpahin and the Kingdontsof Chalco(Tucson: Univ. eds.I85o (Durham: Duke Univ. I994). I994). La memorialenclanustrada: historiaindigena de Yucatdn. Pedro Bracamonte. KennethJ. see Jaime E. .48 In some cases ethnohistorical studies beginning or anchored in the colonial period edge well into the nineteenth or even the twentieth centuries. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. Andrien and Lyman L. 1750-I850 (Albuquerque:Univ. of New Mexico Press. Indiansinto Mexicans:Histoiy and Identityinla Mexican Town (Austin: Univ. ed. and Antonio Escobar. as when Frye and Radding speak of ethnic and localist identities from the actors' points of view.

Adaptaciony resistenciaen el Yaquimi:losyaquis dur-antela colonial(Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. Among the volumes are studies of Oaxaca by Maria de los Angeles Romero Frizzi. Leslie Scott Offutt. I990). are Bernardo Garcia Martinez. it can still be of very high quality. Cynthia Radding. Un rostroencubierto:los indiosdel Tabascocolonial (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. for example. the greater northeast by Carlos Manuel Valdes Ddvila. I996). David B.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 233 history. 1993). Among the recent monuments to this sort of careful ethnohistorical reconstruction are the volumes of the series Historia de los pueblos inadigenasde Mexico. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. most of the volumes in this collection are better than solid and some are outstanding. typically focused on more limited geographical venues. I994). 1995). Daniele Dehouve. El soly la cruz: lospueblosindiosde Oaxaca colonial(Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. I99I). el norestey Saltillo en la historiacolonialde MIe'ico(Saltillo: Archivo Municipal de Saltillo. and Evelyn Hu-DeHart. rather than supplying them intentionally and overtly. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. and Jose Cuello. Carlos Manuel Valdes Davila. Mario Humberto Ruz. Entre el caimdny eljaguar: lospueblosindiosde Guer7ero(Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. and organized (for the most part) by state within the Mexican union. Las coloniastlaxcaltecasde Coahuilay Nuevo Leon en la Nueva Espanna (Saltillo: Archivo Municipal de Saltillo.1530-I840 (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaci6nes y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. Still other works of a similar genre. the Yaquis by Eve- lyn Hu-DeHart (one of the few studies in the series that hews to ethnic rather than state lines). Tabasco by Mario Humberto Ruz. such as the Archivo Municipal de Saltillo. A significant number of works on colonial ethnohistory have appeared from various regional research entities. Although apparently pitched to an educated general audience. Margarita Menegus Bornemann. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. El note. Adams. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. indeed. 1987). Marfa de los Angeles Romero Frizzi. directed by Carlos Vald6s. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. Del seior-foa la r-epziblica de indios:el casode . Guerrero by Daniele Dehouve. 1994). Entr-eel desieto y la siera--:las nacioneso'odhamy tegihia de Sonoran. Lospueblosde la sie-rra: elpoder-yel espacioentr-elos indiosdel note de Pueblahasta I1700 (Mexico City: El Colegio de M6xico. and Chiapas by Jan de Vos. 1995). and still others already published deal with the nineteenth century. Sonora by Cynthia Radding. see. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. edited by Teresa Rojas Rabiela and Mario Humberto Ruz for the Centro de Investiga- ciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social and the Instituto Nacional Indigenista.51 51. Unexotic as this genre of colonial history is. I995). La gente del mnezquite: los no'mnadasdel nor-esteen la colonia(Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologfa Social. All bear some of the hallmarks of the new cultural history. Other volumes in the series are forthcoming. Una sociedadurbanay rural en el nortede AIexico: Saltilloa fines de la epocacolonial(Saltillo: Archivo Municipal de Saltillo.

than most exem- plars of the more traditional sort of ethnohistory cited above. and its virtual obsession with recovering the subaltern voice. i99i). Susan Schroeder. Press.I6oo (Madrid:Ministerio de Agricultura. the tendency to look upon cultural expressions of all kinds as texts. the work of Lockhart and his students has opened the interior of colonial indigenous society in ways fun- damental to any understanding of culture. James Lockhart. Finally. This accords ill with the new cultural history.i 58o -i 6o0o:A SocialHistoryof an Aztec Towvn (Albuquerque:Univ.I 640 (Amsterdam:Centro de Estudios de Latinoam6rica. L.I50oo. ColonialCulhuacdn. even if it is the voice of an indigenous elite that speaks loudest because of inevitable documen- tary biases. PostconquestCoyoacdn: Nahua-SpanishRelationsin CentralMexico. and the linguistic hypertrophy associated with cultural studies. but as Lockhart himself has insisted. '997). Robert Haskett. and detailed work exalts a principle of reliance upon close readings of indigenous language sources.52 This impressive. Nahuas and Spaniar-ds: PostconquestCentr-alMexicanHistowyand Philology(Stanford: Stanford Univ. of New Mexico Press.-Nonetheless. Rebecca Horn. which often sees language as an artifact of power. Press. i986)." the attempt to decode symbolic systems. [Los Angeles]: UCLA Latin American Center Publications. In this scholar- ship." as Serge Gruzinski Toluca. and The Nahuas after the Conquest:A Socialand CulturalHistoryof the Indiansof CentralMexico. Schroeder. Chimralpahin. Two WorldsMerging: The Transforlmation of Societyin the Valleyof Puebla.I 650 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Cline. of New Mexico Press. Press. 1993). and others. There is an inclination.SixteenththroughEighteenthCenturies(Stanford: Stanford Univ. perhaps its best known exemplars are works dealing with "the conquest of the imaginary. . 1992). and Rik Hoekstra. to feel that the work is done when the philology is done. and Rebecca Horn. among them Sarah (Susan) Cline. IndigenousRulers:An Ethnohistoiyof TownGovern-nment in ColonialCuer-navaca (Albuquerque:Univ. the axis is philology rather than power. the Lockhartian school generally eschews the new cultural historians' emphasis on "mentalities. Rob- ert Haskett. i99i). Admittedly this brings it closer into line with the new cultural history. Secretaria General T6cnica. it is true. But as a whole. a third tendency within colonial-era ethnohistory sits squarely within the new cultural history framework. S. Pesca y Alimentaci6n. 1570. dense. I i9 . language is extremely important.234 HAHR / May / Van Young A second discernible current within the ample stream of ethnohistory can be identified with James Lockhart's Nahuatl-based scholarship and the work of his students. i99i). not a transparent medium. in fact. 52. while it lays reasonable claim to being the most innovative and recognizable "school" of colonial history to yet emerge.

Still. Eng. one finds Cervantes focusing primarily on high theology and its complexities. resistance. rather than the carney hueso of popular 53.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 235 has put it. Such studies tend to privilege religious thought and sensibility as the most illuminating site for revealing what colonization meant to both colonizers and colonized. Enrique Florescano. 54. with the assistance of Kathryn R. The First America:The SpanishMonarchy. Enrique Florescano.i6th-i8th Centuries. The Conquestof Mexico:The Incoiporationof Indian Societiesinto the WesternWorld.1993). 1993). traces one root of Indian attraction to the Christian Devil to his association by the friars with complex Mesoamerican deities utilized as a proxy for the Evil One. . Notable here would be studies by Gruzinski. painting and other visual media. Maria Dolores de la Pefia (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Econ6mica. for example. 1994).trans. of Arizona Press. historical memory-are seen as venues of domination.Press. Jeanette Favrot Peterson. Mignolo. Serge Gruzinski. Fernando Cervantes.and Colonization(Ann Arbor: Univ. Myth. trans. Louise Burkhart. of Michigan Press. The Devil in the New World:The Impactof-Diabolismin the New World(New Haven: Yale Univ. Furthermore. and Time in Mexico:From the Aztecs to Independence. in the era of initial cultural contact between Europeans and indigenous peo- ples. Louise M.i99i). and from an art historical point of view. Press. which can lead to the overinterpretation I noted in my discussion of Richard Trexler's work. Bork. 1993).and the LiberalState.of TexasPress. The SlippeiyEarth:Nahzia-ChristianMoral Dialoguein Sixteenth-Centumy Mexico(Tucson: Univ.54 Fernando Cervantes's fascinating study of diabolism in the sixteenth century. David A. Fernando Cer- vantes. and accommodation. Memnovy. Christian Duverger. on the early colonial period.Territoriality. though by no means exclusively. Brading. This created a sort of theological reflux in which the Devil became validated rather than the indigenous deities invalidated. and purport to deal with the colonization of forms of representation- of how people think of and talk to themselves.53 Many of these works concen- trate primarily. Walter Mignolo.: Polity Press. Bork (Austin: Univ. The ParadiseGardenMurals of Malinalco:Utopiaand Empirein Sixteenth-Centu'iy Mexico(Austin:Univ. among others. and to other people about themselves. i989). The Darker Side of the Renaissance:Literacy. Albert G. La conversion de los indiosde Nueva Espafia:con el texto de los "Coloquios de los doce"de Bernardinode Sahaguin (I564). 1995).1492 -1 867 (Cambridge:CambridgeUniv. and Jeanette Peterson. 1994). and they are altogether of a more speculative bent than less flashy ethnohistory. Eileen Corrigan (Cambridge. trans. Christian Duverger.CreolePatriots. one sometimes loses the distinction in this style of scholarship between the new cultural history and a more traditional sort of intellectual history exemplified with great eloquence and panache by David Brading's recent The First America. The representational forms emphasized-written and spoken language. Burkhart. of Texas Press. Walter D.

we find a widespread tendency in discus- sions of culture not only to see it instantiated in specific events or behavioral subsets. they can tell us much about the contested meanings that are central to the experience of colonial domination and negotiation. One developing subfield related to ethnohistory to which I have only alluded. but also to reify and commodity it.153 1-i813. the definitional one. 15. or that at least remains to be proved. La rebelidnde los indiosy la paz de los espaiioles (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social. since high the- ology and other sorts of elite thought are presumed to have occupied a hege- monic status they may not in fact have enjoyed. is the theme of resistance and rebellion." 21-22. i996). See. specifically among colonial indigenous peoples. of Chicago Press. which is understandable. for example. esp. Felipe Castro. it still retains more than a hint of the exotic. Deans-Smith. "Ascentinto Discord. 1992). i989). Relatedly. the folkloric. Alicia M.236 HAHR / May / Van Young indigenous belief systems. Grijalbo. 1995).56 Diffusion and Colonization The "culture as text and text as culture" issue-the methodological problem of recovering-culture in past time from a flotsam of historical record-overlaps with another problem. SusanDeans-Smithcommentsthat Poole's approach "precludes his asking questions that would require deeper exploration of popular religious devotion". Maya Resistanceto SpanishRule: Time and Histoiy on a ColonialFrontier (Albuquerque: Univ. (Mexico City: Ediciones Era. the quaint. 1976). 56. Grant D. Power. or the Church-"using culture" as though it were a 55. vol. of New Mexico Press. and Kevin Gosner. "Culture. Jones. Depending upon how such studies are approached." 265 n. trans. sociorir Resistenciay utopia: memorialde agraviosy crdnicade revueltasy profec/asacaecidasen la provinciade Chiapasdurante los ziltimrosquinientosaniosde su historia. Utopiasindias:movimientos eligiososen Me'xico(Mexico City: Ed. Antonio Garcia de Le6n. I. . and Society. I owe this observation in part to O'Hara. In her gloss on Stafford Poole's impressive study of the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We hear about dominant groups -paternalistic employers. Benjamin Keen (Chicago: Univ. of ArizonaPress. Soldiersof the Virgin: The Moral Economyof a ColonialMaya Rebellion (Tucson: Univ. but which deserves a separate treatment of its own. and even with the recent expansion of its domain and the advent of cultural history. of Arizona Press. the same observation would hold for Jacques Lafaye's Quetzalcdatland Guadalupe: The Formationof Mexican National Consciousness. Given the anthropological origins of the concept of culture. Instituto Nacional Indigenista. for example. Barabas. 1985). Our Lady of'Guadalupe:The Origins and Sourcesof a Mexican National Symbol.55 This often produces a "top-down" approach to cultural history at odds with the new cultural history agenda. i989). which is understandable but ill advised. 153 1-1797 (Tucson:Univ. 2 vols.

58. the old. "Conclusion:The State as Vampire. children.58 We ghettoize culture in this fashion only at the risk of misapprehending or overlooking the most important part of what we study." "Mexican Revolu- tion studies.as a way of looking at things. Ritualsof Rule. it is not the entire house. Such an event or institutionalized expression cannot be made to stand in for an entire culture.that is. making them into somewhat static objects-"things" or "commodities"." and so forth. Lynn Hunt observes in this connection that they strongly warn us against developing a cultural history defined only in terms of topics of inquiry. or clusters of ideas or practices. that each of us dominate some sort of "studies": "representation studies. 57. but is clearly not limited to colonialists. In her discussion of the "grand fete" (viceregal entries and other public celebrations). not everything. Despite my falling in with this scheme in presenting above a catalogish discussion of some of the new cultural history's characteristic themes. a special number dedicated to colonial cultural history. Curcio-Nagy writes in a distinctly instrumentalist vein of the "functions" of large-scale spectacle. ethnic groups. by which we understand that cultural artifacts. in Linda Curcio-Nagy's thoughtful introductory essay. One of these is that schol- ars need to study something. for example. but should rather be seen as an approach. it is not a proxy for it. Martin.rather than processes woven into larger webs of meaning. there is an analytic impera- tive. This viewpoint also seems implicit in a number of the essays in Beezley." "Indian studies. In glossing the ideas of Francois Furet and Robert Darnton. I have discussed this issue of "encapsulation"at some length in Van Young. This seems to me implicit. flow in a stream from the top of society downward. a mass. the most important of which is socially constituted meaning. women. In the process of yielding to this imperative we tend to cut cultural prac- tices or complexes out of their contexts. separable. and residual. or even a major rebellion is after all only a "window" onto a society (to employ a trope that has gained perhaps too much currency).57 This tendency to the reification and commodification of culture has multiple origins." . I believe that cultural history should not be sited in a particular venue or specific set of phenomena to be examined exclusively and in isolation. A parade. "Introduction: Spectacle in Colonial Mexico" to The Amlericas52 (i996). always a relational property. And a third arises from the application of Gram- scian hegemony to the understanding of cultural formations.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 237 discrete substance. Another is that the development of a specialization responds to an ecological imperative in our profession. and French. Just as social history sometimes moved from one group to another (workers.

and therefore sources of an overtly "cultural" nature concomitantly scarce. Hunt. the relatively underdeveloped state of civil society and the episodic reach of a Western lettered tradition in Mexico even in the late colonial period meant that documents that might have been generated by civil corporations. There are other reasons why the colo- nization of economic life by cultural history is likely to be fruitful. For one thing."9. and at economic relations as the sites of generation of cultural mean- ings. and so on. Clifford Geertz.' to put it more crudely-was porous or nonexistent.5. then culture must be in many places where we cannot see it. but I am also thinking of patterns of protoindustrialization and early . This promiscuity. and that the new cultural history is an approach rather than a specific set of topics -has sev- eral interesting implications. or impotence trials. and Text. "Introduction: History. Let me explore three of these in my closing pages. or where it does not occur to us to look. whose working and living patterns were completely miscible. Along with political rebellion.61 59.the idea that culture is to be found everywhere." including religious heterodoxy. 60. rather than as exotic lumps for decoding.59 If people really live suspended in webs of significance they themselves con- struct. letter-writers. are relatively rare. which is not the prevailing approach. as Geertz has written. crime. as I have suggested. and other sorts of "deviance. among rural and urban people alike. economic life has long been acknowledged as such a privileged site because the interests of even a relatively weak colonial state demanded that forms of prop- erty be recorded. newspapers. as I have called it. and taxed. meant that the boundary between work life and private life-between "economy" and "cul- ture.238 HAHR / May / Van Young the young) without developing much sense of cohesion or interaction between topics. cat massacres. as a medium that pervades social orders and part social orders. or where it might appear as background to the central social action. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture. As a practical matter. For another thing. whether carnivals. citizens groups. so too a cultural history defined topically could degener- ate into an endless search for new cultural practices to describe. The first is that we might take another look at economic history as cultural history. the cultural history of colonial Mexico is most readily recoverable at those points where pri- vate lives crossed the public record.60 It is finally more useful to take cul- ture and cultural practice this way. Culture." in The Interpr-etation of Cultures. memoirists. This would be most obvious for peasants. 6i. regulated. the low degree of differentiation between residence and work- place in the colonial era.

New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 239 But there are also theoretical reasons for the colonization of economic history by cultural historians. for example. ShadowsoverAndhuac:An EcologicalIntelpr-etationof Cr-isisand Developmentin CentralMexico. 173 0-i800 (Albuquerque: Univ. I1700-1I81I0 (Madrid: Instituto de Cooperaci6n Iberoamericana. and Text. Planter-s. they are themselves fields of cultural practice and cultural production-which cannot be explained deductively by reference to an extracultural dimension of experience. Ministerio de Economia y Hacienda. of New Mexico Press. but I shall allude to it at least briefly."7. . Culture. Obrajesytejedor-es de NutevaEspalia. and Arij Ouweneel. and meaning to reflexive products of economic forces. and La protoindustriacolonialhispanoamericana(Mexico City: El Colegio de M6xico.and Workers:The Making of the Tobacco Monopolyin Bouvnbon Mexico (Austin: Univ. Press. 1982). and on protoindustrialization in the textile industry. she is quoting Roger Chartier. ideology. nonreflexive nature of culture. "Intellectual History or Sociocultural History? The French Trajectories. I996). i990). Susan Deans-Smith."in ModernEuropeanIntellectualHistory:Reappraisalsand New Perspectives. 1992). Manuel Mifio Grijalva. "Introduction: History. from the economistic ones that often prevail in studies of collective behavior and expression.eds. Quinto Centenario.worth quoting at length: industrial establishments. Instituto de Estudios Fiscales. Dominick LaCapra and Steven L. The way in which this semiotic or hermeneutic approach constitutes a counterpoise to the essentially economistic position that one still sees even in the new cultural history has been expressed eloquently by Marshall Sahlins in the opening pages of his Culture and Practical Reason. Lynn Hunt writes: As Chartier claimed."Economic and social relations are not prior to or determining of cultural ones. Hunt. of Texas Press. In commenting on the reorientation of "fourth-generation" Anna/es school historians toward language and the autonomous. On extensive "homework" in the late colonial Mexico City tobacco manufactory see. in which the distinction between workplace and homeplace was not clear. 1993). Kaplan (Ithaca: Cornell Univ.62 The colonization of economic activity by the new cultural history rests on assumptions quite different. "the relationship thus established is not one of dependence of the mental structures on their material determinations. Bur-eaucrats. The representations of the social world themselves are the constituents of social reality. therefore. Space limitations preclude my entering at length here into the complex but oft-rehearsed debate between materialist and cul- turalist points of view. 62. 30. These latter assumptions support the reverse colonization movement-that of culture by economy- reducing discourse.

while in the economistic formulation (in Sahlins's terminology sometimes "utilitarian"sometimes "materialistic")"interest" would be antecedent to "cultural expression.64 This radically idealist position is so far uncom- (Chicago: Univ. . Sahlins. vii-viii. It takes as the distinctive quality of man not that he must live in a material world. Hence it is culture which constitutes utility. I982). interpretation to social object.240 HAHR / May / Van Young For some. and PracticalReanson 63. anthropologist William Roseberry frames a powerful critique of Geertz and Sahlins from an historical materialist perspective.I2 (emphasis in original). circumstance [sic] he shares with all organisms. Marshall Sahlins. Even more to the point is Marshall Sahlins's gloss on the anthropologist Meyer Fortes's treatment of Tallensi kinship: "Fortes does not deny the ecological constraint or the economic interests. but that he does so according to a meaningful scheme of his own devising. of Chicago Press. 22. It therefore takes as the decisive quality of culture as giving each mode of life the properties that characterize it-not that this culture must conform to material constraints but that it does so according to a definite symbolic scheme which is never the only one possible. of California Press. 1832-1982 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. its logic is the maximization of means-ends relations. the symbolic or meaningful. Wolf's Europeand the PeopleWithoutHistwoy(Berkeley: Univ. the determinant material wisdom substantialized in cultural form is the survival of the human population or the given social order." in the semiotic/hermeneutic formula- tion the reverse is the case-cultural ideas would be antecedent to interest. ultimately provides a better explanation of the links among economic structures.Jones. On the other hand. in which capacity mankind is unique. This is "utilitarianism"proper. however.Again the economic logic is socially constituted". but in my view his claim that a historical political economy. 64.63 To put it somewhat crudely. Press. the remarks of Gareth Stedman Jones on the relationship of ideas and discourse to material interest: "We cannot therefore decode political language to reach a primal and material expression of interest since it is the discursive structure of political language which conceives and defines interest in the first place". for them. See. The precise logic is adaptive advantage. As opposed to all these genera and species of practical reason. for example. Cultun-e I976). he points them out. The objective utility theories are naturalistic or ecological. after the manner of Eric R. Languages of Class:Studiesin English WorkingClassHistoiy. or maintenance of the system within natural limits of viability. Cultur-eand PracticalReason. [1propose] a reason of another kind. I983). But he does insist that the socialeffectsofpractical interest-not to mentionthe nature of that interest-depend on the structur-e in place. it is clear that culture is precipitated from the rational activity of individuals pursuing their own best interests.

66 That is. 66. William Roseberry.eds. or over control of other people's calories. Spiro. while avoid- ing going overboard into the particularistic hermeneutic relativism against which the anthropologist Melford Spiro warns. 1675-1820 (Berkeley: Univ. In other words. I-2 9. Serge Gruzinski and Nathan Wachtel (Paris: Editions de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. people were not just (or primarily) arguing over calo- ries. I stood my earlier analysis on its head and looked at these detailed legal records not pri- marily for data on economic relationships that generated social conflict.65 I have experimented with this sort of project myself in revisiting in cul- tural terms some earlier work of my own on colonial land conflicts in the Guadalajara region in the late colonial period. The original work appeared in Van Young. But it does suggest that social conflict that at first appeared exclusively or primarily eco- nomic in origin might well have had deeper roots of a symbolic and ideational nature. but as expressions of cultural ideas among indigenous villagers. and PoliticalEconiomy (New Brunswick. meaning. but for eighteenth. i996)." in Paisajesr-ebeldes: 11nalauganochede Xebelidninhdigena. market position. and human action is not completely convincing.eds. NJ.Histoiy. the revision is Van Young. and so forth.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 24I mon in the new cultural history of colonial Mexico (except possibly for the above-cited work of Gruzinski and Mignolo). mainly having to do with the community as a primordial locus of identity and loyalty. and may well remain so. i995). "Dreamscape with Figures and Fences: Cultural Contention and Discourse in the Late Colonial Mexican Countryside. "Cultural Relativism and the Future of Anthropology. which appeared in Spanish as "Paisajede ensuefios con figuras y vallados: disputa y discurso cultural en el campo mexicano de fines de la colonia. which primarily pitted indige- nous communities against nonindigenous landowners. of California Press. Recently I encountered an impressive exemplar of this sort of approach not for colonial Mexico."in Le NouveauMonde-mondes nouveaux:IexperienceAmdiricahie. This does not mean that economic struggles did not have real-world causes or implications -for access to resources. Jane-Dale Lloyd and Laura Perez Rosales (Mexico City: Universidad Iberoamericana. I thank Andrew Fisher for bringing this article to my attention and for a discussion of its significance. and moreover. i989). that ways of getting calories themselves generated meanings. 65. Press. esp. livelihoods. But even if cultural historians were to shift somewhat in this direction. Anthropologies anodHistories:Essaysin Cultzure.: Rutgers Univ. but also over meanings."Culltulr-al Althropology I (i986). i98i). HaciendaanodMai-ketinlEighteenlth- CenatuyMexico:The RunralEconomyof tIheGzadalajar--a Region. it might produce interesting results. .and nineteenth-century Europe.

Charles H. Lindley.2 vols. and a "modern" one based upon contractual relationships is considerably overdrawn. by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. trans. Harris III on the Sanchez Navarro family. Richard Lindley on the merchant-landowner elite of late colonial Guadalajara.and Family in Neckerhausen..I1700- 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. 1975). S. diss. and Haciendasand Ranchosin the MexicanBaj/o:Leon.1860 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. even though they have not been written explicitly in the new cultural history mode.John M. to mention just a few of the studies in this genre. Braziller. one finds some precedent for this cul- tural colonization of economic life in the history of traditional elite groups elaborated in the prosopographical or biographical style. A. Univ. "Recent Anglophone Scholarship. i966). I realized that the invidious comparison I drew some years ago between the Latin American and European historiography of the early modern period was in part misguided because we may never discover the sort of documentation produced by the burgeoning German. 1750-I8I0" (Ph. 1983). John Tutino on Valley of Mexico landowners.VPE.and Culture. 1763.I8Io (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. 1820-1980: Kinship. and David Brading on silver mining and landowning families. Brading. Tutino. A MexicanFamily Empire:The Lat~ifindioof the Sdnchez Navarros. of Texas Press. BarbaraBray (New York:G.E.trans. and the long-enduring ethnic divisions in New Spain itself. I987)." 69. See also. including the relative weakness of the Spanish state generally. Press. French. Harris III.Class. for example. Haciendas and EconomicDevelopment:Guadalajara. not only his Montaillou:The PromisedLand of Error.Production. I976). For the history of colonial Mexico.D. Press. David Warren Sabean. Ladd. and Indian Towns. Property.68There are a number of possible reasons for this. Richard B. I1700. 1765-1867 (Austin: Univ. I would point to work by Charles H. or English states. the European historiography is replete with such works. For a later period. In addition to the books I have already mentioned by Schwaller. Cinna Lomnitz (Princeton: Princeton Univ.69 Arij Ouweneel's recent book on the ecological and economic history of central 67. A MexicanElite Family. but also his earlier Lespaysansde Languedoc. . Press.at Independence (Austin: Univ. of Texas. Miners and Merchantsin BourbonMexico. 1971). of Texas Press.67 Sabean argues generally that property and the mode of its production mediated.242 HAHR / May / Van Young in David Sabean's book on rural Germany. Kicza. 1978). 68. but did not solely determine. (Paris. In looking at Sabean's dense sources and data. Van Young. and that the putative contrast between a "traditional" social order based upon kinship and face-to-face contact. see Larissa Adler Lomnitz and Marisol P6rez-Lizaur.. as well as in the beginnings of environmental history. by the way. and Hoberman. Haciendas. I978).N. Austin. "Creole Mexico: Spanish Elites. and D.Mexico. human relationships. i990). the nature of the colonial situation in particular.

However.71 Although her emphasis is clearly on changes in the environment-in its economic carrying capacity. Although these studies are not plentiful as yet. when we ghettoize or exoti- cize culture in the way that I have suggested is common. of Arizona Press. Ouweneel. we in fact facilitate what might be called the "apotheosis of agency" by adding too many degrees of freedom to individual 70. Meyer. one expects to see more of them in future. and an unforgiving environment in a tapestry of encoun- ters over time in which economic formations are clearly shown to be effects of cultural "choices" as much or more than their causes. but by human perception. moreover. seeing it as limited to discrete social sites or events only. "Cultural Dialogues" 204. cautiously "culturalist"reading of greater Southwestern history in terms of environmental factors. Melville. are works that assume an avowedly ecological perspective on regional his- tory and ethnohistory and in which.70 More obvi- ously in the new cultural history camp at the moment. back into history by making actors of them. especially. in which the author weaves together the logics of Spanish colonial penetration. Elinor G. 72. I984). ShadowsoverAnhiutac.72 The second implication for cultural history of utilizing a more inclusive concept of culture has to do with the notion of agency. i550-1850 (Tucson: Univ. 7I. K. see Michael C. We would probably all agree that a good dollop of agency was a salutary ingredient in taming the juggernaut of structuralism and in putting common people. but for him cultural factors play the role more of constraints or idealized mod- els for action than sites of meaning generation and worldview. in turn a central issue in discussions of resistance and the study of subaltern groups. . Danidle Dehouve's study of indigenous groups in colonial Guerrero does much the same thing for a somewhat smaller venue.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 243 Mexico in the eighteenth century is definitely attuned to cultural issues in terms of his treatment of economic paths pursued by indigenous communities. A Plague of Sheep:Enivironental Consequences of the Colquest of Mexico(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. I994). Even more in the cultural history style is Cynthia Radding's Wandering Peoples (already mentioned above). and for an earlier. See the remarks on Dehouve's work in Radding. indigenous resistance. environments are socially con- structed not only by economic action. An outstanding example of this mode of inquiry is Elinor Melville's account of environmental degradation in the Mezquital Valley under the impact of over- grazing by sheep in the early colonial period. Waterin the HispanicSouthwest:A Social and Legal Histoe'. Press. in the last analysis she shows the influence of habitual modes of environmental exploitation that were culturally determined. interestingly enough.

That is. and if the locus of hegemony is seen to be limited to multiple but discrete sites only (say. in some ways an aculturalist or anticulturalist position.244 HAHR / May / Van Young thinking and action.73 It is thus difficult to square the apotheosis of agency. 74. Just as history is said to be nature's way of making sure that everything does not happen all at once. we deny the sheer weight of culture in mapping the world for human beings. posited as the basis for provable hypotheses. standing out unambiguously on the ideational landscape and largely unsupported by other "targets" or more generalized attitudes. more inclusive notion of culture. This more inclusive notion of culture. culture is nature's way of mak- ing sure that all meanings are not possible simultaneously.Press. with a denser. Steve Stern's portrayal of the constraints imposed upon colonial women's freedom by the prevailing patriarchalist ideology has the balance just about right. inverting. and concomitantly countable behaviors." . furthermore. This conception of thinking and behavior clearly derives from rational actor theories and the macroeconomic modeling from which they arose. but very ill with anything most of us see about the way people really behave. Cheryl Martin's recent study of eighteenth-century Chihuahua is a 73. takes cultural history even further away from Steve Haber's social science specification model. Cultural "targets" are always ready at hand. appropriating. In exoticizing or ghettoizing culture in the way we habitually seem to do. since it makes of culture even mor-ea sort of blanket covering everything with signs. This comports very well with rational actor models. if sub- altern agency manifests itself in consciously denying. replicable methods. by the way. less susceptible of the sort of interested rationality. or otherwise rearranging the flow of readily identifiable hege- monic "quanta". see Donald P. I994). Green and Ian in PoliticalScience Shapiro. protonationalist mythification or religious thought). if the cultural matrix within which dominant and subordinate groups are embedded is only a hegemonic relationship. Haber. are just as important as the degrees of freedom vouchsafed by a theory of historical agency. therefore. For a recent sharp critique of rational choice theory. as I have suggested. and. so that culture is not just a sort of hobby in which historical actors engage when they are not off negotiating or resistently adapting or expanding their spaces. Pathologiesof RatioznalChoiceTheoiy:A Critiqueof Applicationis (New Haven:YaleUniv. and superimposing upon it romanticized notions of agency.then all subalterns (as also every member of a dominant elite) are pretty much free to do what they like. "Worst of Both Worlds. To take but one example. rather ironic in view of the way the literature on rational actors and moral economists has developed. and causal statements. subverting.74The constraints represented (often unconsciously) by culture. To take but one example.

Deans-Smith alludes to the colonial state's sneaking in through the back door of cultural history via a shift from culture and the politics of resistance to culture and the politics of hegemony. partly it is the result of the deformation introduced into both political and cultural history by Gramscian hegemony as a widely employed theoretical framework. is not clear to me. i986). by the way. i996). Press. Governanwce and Societyin ColonialMexico:Chihutahuain the EighteentbCent. 76.75 But it does share the tendency of much recent work in social and cultural history to apotheosize historical agency and dis- count culture. and partly it is the consequence of the sources available to historians the detritus of private lives and civil society bumping up against the state. . And why agency should generally be called into play. Power. shows up more obviously in the his- toriography of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries than in that of the colo- nial period. Alan Knight. so that in essence all the subalterns become rational actors.76 In Vaughan's and French's hands. I suggested at the start of this essay that politics had been colonized by the new cultural history. clearly written. only in explaining subaltern resistance. for colo- 75. I:3I5. and suggests that the state-society relationship is one of three growth areasin the colonial historiography of the last decade. and Society. or sly forms of adaptation."257-58. although less markedly so. The last implication of pursuing an expansionist strategy in cultural his- tory Can be discussed very briefly. 559 n. Press. Cheryl English Martin. One compelling reason may be that it is forms of resistance rather than cooperation that often show up in the documentation. "Culture.77 This is true in large measure. rather than in explaining why people allow themselves to be co-opted into a given social configuration or become active practitioners of prevailing cultural usages. 260. 77. The MexicanRevolution. it is raised by the fine essays in this issue of the HAHR by Mary Kay Vaughan and William French. Deans-Smith. Partly this emphasis on the Mexican state and its doings is an effect of the peculiarities of Mexican history itself. but in large measure it has been the other way around: the history of politics (in the more restricted sense) and of the state have captured culture. for reasons suggested above. 386. and deeply researched work coming about as close as anything on the historiographical horizon to a community study in the new cultural history mode. the new cultural history appears little more than a refiguration of political history.2 vols. In my view this finally produces an altogether overly romanticized view of evolv- ing society on New Spain's northern frontier. and may unjustifiably minimize some of its resemblances to central Mexico.'7y (Stanford: Stanford Univ.New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 245 very thoughtful. in fact. Admittedly this "statolatry'"as Alan Knight has dubbed it. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.

respectively. what question one is asking. I have no solution to offer to this dilemma. the "social mystery. . and breadth. Furthermore. however. and in what realm of experience one is likely to find the answer." and by implication the insight. For example. and decrying the mutation of anthropology from a scientific into a hermeneutic discipline. one transposed to cultural history from fic- tion. some of which can actually lend themselves to approaches to cultural history. Chandler. even leaving behind the enormous number of traditional studies describing the colonial regime and its workings. although I have 78.78 Even where the colonial state is not the central object of the account. since the usefulness of the approach depends upon what sources one has at hand. A Polonian moderation (some would call it fence-sitting) and reasonable- ness are easy to recommend. of Arizona Press.246 HAHR / May / Van Young nial history. S. there is some tendency to project cultural phenomena or ideologies into the political realm in order to validate the enterprise of cultural history. SocialAssistanceand BureaucraticPolitics:The Montepios of ColonialMexico. of New Mexico Press. harder to achieve. and the culture of labor. or what they believed about the world around them or about the next world. Thus cultural history becomes a biography of the state by other means. 1767-182I (Albuquerque:Univ. how- ever. centrally concerned with a metanarrative of power. and of the anthropologist Melford Spiro. and toward the hermeneutic systems of symbols and meanings. The test of the explicatory power of an interpretation is still likely to be parsimony. of the novelist Henry James glorifying particularity. a Cassandra warning against a research strategy of excessive granularity. replicability. as in Steve Stern's epilogic discussion of gen- der and politics. empathy. It does seem to be true that in Mexican cultural history we are well into a pendulum swing away from the confident generalizing of structuralist explanations. i988). They are the eloquent views. 1742-I835 (Tucson: Univ. for that matter. Patricia Seed's treatment of the Bourbon state. the other from anthropology. the lurking human secret. But are political questions the only interesting ones to be asked. or political answers the only interesting resolutions? Why not elbow aside these teleologies for a more diffuse cultural history of "being Mexican"? I close these observations with a return to the dilemma posed by the two epigraphs with which I opened. and imagina- tion required to penetrate them. and Linda Arnold. D. i99i). as opposed to questions of how people lived their lives on a daily basis. gen- der. and Susan Deans-Smith's considerable attention to the colonial regime in what is more profitably seen as a study in the history of petty commodity production. This should not be an exclu- sive stance. Bureaucracyand Bureaucr-atsin Mexico City.

New Cultural History Comes to Old Mexico 247 been in my remarks mainly critical of work in the field. in the final analysis these are caveats. The cultural approach is rich in potential and accom- plishment to date. In the end I think its strat- egy should be to subsume rather than supplant other traditional genres of his- torical inquiry on the imperialist assumption that all history is cultural history. and promises more in the future. and may have offered a somewhat more reserved than unalloyedly positive view of the possibilities for working on the cultural history of colonial Mexico. . not objections.