Technical Literacies and Data Sovereignty

Documenting and Remediating Indigenous Knowledges in Mesoamerica and the Andes

Technical Literacies and Data Sovereignty

Image | Kerr Database #1226, “Itz'am Yej (Itzam Ye) (Vucub Caquix) [Wuqub Kak'ix] in the tree and Hun Ahaj [Junajpu] shoots at him with his blowgun”

A lecture by Allison Bigelow, University of Virginia

Wednesday, February 21, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Rolfe 1301
Los Angeles, CA 90095
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Scholars working in fragmented colonial archives confront a series of methodological challenges, including how to document the kinds of ideas, values, and practices that imperial agents misunderstood, overlooked, or didn’t know existed. Archival records from the colonial Andean silver industry present us with one such challenge. They relay in painstaking detail census data of communities drafted into the mita, tribute collected from such communities, and silver output in the mines and refineries of Potosí. But they are entirely silent on Indigenous knowledge production. In this talk, I will share the literary and linguistic strategies that I use to show when Quechua- and Aimara-speaking miners contributed key forms of technical knowledge to the development of colonial amalgamation techniques, and how their knowledges were silenced from scientific histories.

In the second half of the talk, I will reflect on the ethical challenges of sharing elements of Indigenous knowledge, artistic expression, and spiritual convictions today. The digital humanities (DH) are shaped by an ethos of free-flowing information, with open source code and platforms that enable the universal sharing of data. But Indigenous communities who have survived a long history of state-sponsored appropriations of their ideas, culture, land, and life-ways have good reasons to protect their data. What are the technical and ethical challenges that DH practitioners face in using tools and technologies designed in the Global North, often to remediate artistic, cultural, and textual traditions from Europe and North America, when we work with Indigenous materials? How might we reconcile the concerns of Indigenous data sovereignty with DH best practices? Using an ongoing project at UVa, a collaborative effort to build a thematic research collection about the Popol Wuj (, I will reflect on these challenges and brainstorm solutions with members of the UCLA working group.

Cost: Free & Open to the Public

For more information please contact

Jennifer Lainez

Download File: IMVCA---Allison-Bigelow-Flyer---21-Feb-2018-az-uwh.pdf

Sponsor(s): Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies, Indigenous Material and Visual Culture in the Americas (IMVCA) Working Group, UCLA Latin American Institute, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies