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  • The Formation of Latin American Nations: From Late Antiquity to Early Modernity by Thomas Ward
  • José Ignacio Carvajal
The Formation of Latin American Nations: From Late Antiquity to Early Modernity. By Thomas Ward. University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. p. 384, $55.00.

In The Formation of Latin American Nations, Thomas Ward explores early modern texts to trace the interactions between pre-Conquest systems of organization and the notion of nación, central to Spanish imperialism. The book is the second in a trilogy by Ward, Professor of Spanish and Director of Latin American and Latino Studies at Loyola University, Maryland. Ward utilizes the concept of "nation" and explores its meanings in "late antiquity" – the time leading up to Spanish invasion – and its transformations in the "early modernity" of the sixteenth century. In Ward's point of view, the concept serves as an interdisciplinary interpretive tool to center indigenous forms of organization and explore "Amerindian-friendly and gender-friendly concepts of the nation" (10).

In Chapter 1 Ward outlines seven key characteristics of the concept of nation. Ward's principal claim is that indigenous populations "organized themselves as nations in the sixteenth-century Spaniards' understanding of that term, even when the Spaniards did not accept people unlike themselves as nations" (34). In other words, Ward sets out to trace the coloniality of the concept of nación as it was employed in the sixteenth century along with the ways that Indigenous forms of organization were affected by it.

In Chapters 2 and 3, following scholars who have delved into concepts of transculturation and border thinking (Ortíz, Mignolo, Anzaldúa), Ward introduces his main theoretical formulation: the concepts of horizontal and vertical cultural appropriation. Ward argues that horizontal cultural appropriation takes place when different ethnic groups incorporate languages, religious practices, and cultural features of their contemporaries. An example of horizontal appropriation would be the incorporation of Catholic precepts by indigenous agents in the sixteenth century. Vertical appropriation, on the other hand, is the harkening back of one group's history, trajectory and formation; this type is, in Ward's words, "a reaching back in time" (50). An example would be the common Mesoamerican practice of referring to a cultural origin in Tollan or Tula that legitimizes local rulership and cultural practices.

In chapter 2, through readings of Sahagún, Diego Muñoz Camargo, and Fernando de Alva Ixtlilóchitl, Ward traces the interactions between the altepeme (plural of altepetl) and the concept of nación. He underscores the methodological importance of the New Philology for nahua studies and also points to the amaq' of the K'iche' via James Tedlock's translation of the Popol Wuj. Ward traces the formation of "Nahua sedentary and imperial models of altepetl" and "cultural ideals known as Toltecayotl and the less-studied Chichimecayotl" (51). These units of [End Page 472] organization and the people that conformed them clashed with what he refers to as the triforce of "Hispanization, Christianization, and Capitalization." In chapter 3 Ward takes as point of departure Pedro Cieza de León's Crónica del Peru to discuss the proto-anthropological classifications that the chronicler's gaze attributed to different indigenous populations, from present day Colombia to Peru. He considers the political makeup and use of units such as the panaka and the ayllu, as well as the incorporation of Qheswa as a lingua franca of Tawantinsuyo – along with a discussion of the ongoing debate as to what the "private language" of the Inkakuna may have been. Not unlike the K'iche' and the Mexica, Inka rulers appropriated, vertically, the original arrival of Manqo Qhapaq and horizontally, the language and political organization of the Qheswakuna, eventually incorporated into Tawantinsuyo.

Chapter 4 focuses on gender and ethnicity and "attempts a rereading of a number of early colonial chronicles in light of the natural and social sciences including modern historiography, anthropology, and archaeology, along with DNA testing," focusing on how "how the roles of men and women differed" in the process of mestizaje (192). Ward outlines questions of exogamy and endogamy, marriage, and sexual violence in what he refers to as "colonialist cross-cultural violence against women" (201). He points to...


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