Entangled Trajectories: Integrating European and Native American Histories (seminar)

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Marcy Norton
Fall 2013 Semester Seminar
No one would dispute that the trajectories of European and Native American cultures and societies were enmeshed after 1492. Yet it is the premise of this seminar that we have only begun to fully understand the repercussions of these entanglements for Europe. Soldiers, colonists, missionaries, readers, and consumers were profoundly affected by their exposure to radically different ways of organizing life, and these effects permeated European culture. What if we take seriously indigenous men and women as participants—not merely as objects—in the re-making of intellectual history in the Atlantic world? The seminar, supported by The Kislak Family Foundation and organized in collaboration with the Early American Working Group, will make use of The Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress. While participants’ own research interests will determine the final shape of the investigation, topics may include: How did early modern missionary, natural history and lexigraphical genres reflect the participation of Amerindian collaborators? How might early modern sources help us read contemporary ethnographic texts of indigenous communities, and vice versa? How many degrees separated European writers such as Montaigne and Hobbes from Amerindian informants? What kinds of histories emerge when we read their texts alongside Native American cultural and natural artifacts (featherworks, furs, parrots)? How might an investigation of indigenous perspectives inform our readings of such canonical authors?

Entangled Trajectories Selected Bibliography (PDF)

Director: Marcy Norton is Associate Professor of History at The George Washington University. Her publications include Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (2008) and “Going to the Birds: Animals as Things and Beings in Early Modernity” (2010). Her current research concerns human-animal relationships in Europe and Native America after 1492.