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Reading Inca History

Catherine Julien

Publication Year: 2009

At the heart of this book is the controversy over whether Inca history can and should be read as history. Did the Incas narrate a true reflection of their past, and did the Spaniards capture these narratives in a way that can be meaningfully reconstructed? In Reading Inca History,Catherine Julien finds that the Incas did indeed create detectable life histories.

The two historical genres that contributed most to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish narratives about the Incas were an official account of Inca dynastic genealogy and a series of life histories of Inca rulers. Rather than take for granted that there was an Inca historical consciousness, Julien begins by establishing an Inca purpose for keeping this dynastic genealogy. She then compares Spanish narratives of the Inca past to identify the structure of underlying Inca genres and establish the dependency on oral sources. Once the genealogical genre can be identified, the life histories can also be detected.

By carefully studying the composition of Spanish narratives and their underlying sources, Julien provides an informed and convincing reading of these complex texts. By disentangling the sources of their meaning, she reaches across time, language, and cultural barriers to achieve a rewarding understanding of the dynamics of Inca and colonial political history.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This project has been a long time in coming. It began with my first exposure to interpretations of the Inca past. Almost the first thing I read was María Rostworowski’s monograph on Pachacuti, and ever since I have been looking for different points of view within the dynastic descent group itself. There never was agreement on “what happened” in the Inca past, not even...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 3-22

Pedro de Cieza de Le

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2. Capac

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pp. 23-48

All versions of the Inca past stress descent through the male line from an apical pair: Manco Capac and a sister-wife. The Spanish historical narratives of the Inca past list approximately twelve generations spanning the time from origins to the Spanish arrival. All the accounts are structured by genealogy, even when an author attempts to correlate the Andean past with...

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3. Genealogy

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pp. 49-90

Of the written sources that deal in some way with the Inca past, those that seem most like history are the accounts structured around the genealogy of the descent group of Manco Capac and his sister-wife, the apical pair through whom capac status passed. Genealogy, by its very nature, incorporates a historical sequence. The Spaniards learned about Manco Capac, the...

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4. Life History

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pp. 91-165

Although the genealogical genre may have included information about the conquests of particular rulers, some of the longer narratives (for example, Betanzos, Sarmiento, Morúa [M2], Cabello Valboa) incorporate voluminous accounts of particular lifetimes, especially in the case of later rulers. Are there other Inca genres underlying these “long accounts”? In this chapter...

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5. Composition

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pp. 166-232

Our ability to see a life history in Betanzos’s narrative on Pachacuti is supported by the structural similarities between his account and Sarmiento’s. Like Betanzos, Sarmiento goes into particular detail about the life of Pachacuti. A comparison of the two texts yields a rough image of the underlying source. The similarities between these two texts and the contrast between...

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6. Emergence

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pp. 233-253

Heretofore we have spoken of historical narratives in Spanish and what we have called Inca genres. The texts we have are the former. In them are the hazy reflections of the latter. So far we have treated the underlying Inca sources like texts, but can we? The Inca genres we have identified were very different from the written narratives which drew from them. Some were...

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7. Transformation

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pp. 254-268

Another major theme is the transformation of Cuzco. It was an important topic in the life history of Pachacuti told by both Sarmiento and Betanzos. The Spaniards who arrived with Francisco Pizarro in December 1533 were impressed with the Inca city. What they saw reflected a deliberate effort to transform an earlier settlement into a monumental capital, like that...

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8. Origins

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pp. 269-292

In the case of the Incas, different versions of an origin myth that accounts for the emergence of the Inca dynasty and its relation to an important supernatural have been preserved. One of them—the story about the emergence of the Ayar siblings from the cave at Pacaritambo—was seamlessly attached to an account of the past structured around a particular genealogy...

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9. Conclusions

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pp. 293-302

It has been my express purpose to identify Inca sources that transmit a memory of the past. Memory is selective, and it should not be lost on the reader that a study of memory is intimately bound to a story of what was forgotten. Perhaps it is remarkable that the sources which tell us about the Inca past tell us so much about what the Inca dynastic line was trying to hide: Inca...


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pp. 303-312


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pp. 313-323


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pp. 325-338

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294112
E-ISBN-10: 1587294117
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877457978
Print-ISBN-10: 0877457972

Page Count: 350
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1