The Learned Ones
280 pages, 6 x 9
14 photos
Release Date:08 Aug 2016
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The Learned Ones

Nahua Intellectuals in Postconquest Mexico

The University of Arizona Press
They were the healers, teachers, and writers, the “wise ones” of Nahuatl-speaking cultures in Mexico, remembered in painted codices and early colonial manuscripts of Mesoamerica as the guardians of knowledge. Yet they very often seem bound to an unrecoverable past, as stereotypes prevent some from linking the words “indigenous” and “intellectual” together.

Not so, according to author Kelly S. McDonough, at least not for native speakers of Nahuatl, one of the most widely spoken and best-documented indigenous languages of the Americas. This book focuses on how Nahuas have been deeply engaged with the written word ever since the introduction of the Roman alphabet in the early sixteenth century. Dipping into distinct time periods of the past five hundred years, this broad perspective allows McDonough to show the heterogeneity of Nahua knowledge and writing as Nahuas took up the pen as agents of their own discourses and agendas.

McDonough worked collaboratively with contemporary Nahua researchers and students, reconnecting the theorization of a population with the population itself. The Learned Ones describes the experience of reading historic text with native speakers today, some encountering Nahua intellectuals and their writing for the very first time. It intertwines the written word with oral traditions and embodied knowledge, aiming to retie the strand of alphabetic writing to the dynamic trajectory of Nahua intellectual work.
This work is a treasure and inspiration for anyone interested in Indigenous histories or languages.—NAIS

‘McDonough’s work exposes its readers to myriad disciplines and time periods to reveal in a very real way the life and tenacity of Nahuatl and its speakers, and the important role they played and continue to play as intellectuals.’—The Americas

‘This study is important, a must-read, for anyone working in indigenous literatures of Mexico. It serves as a contribution to the overall Mexican narrative of nation, showing indigenous intellectuals as agents on behalf of themselves and their communities. In a broader context, it is a significant work for native/indigenous studies hemispherically and globally.’—Ines Hernandez-Avila, author of Reading Native Women: Critical/Creative Representations
Kelly S. McDonough is an assistant professor of colonial literatures and cultures and indigenous studies in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas at Austin. She has contributed to several journals, and she serves on the inaugural editorial board for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal.
List of Illustrations
Introduction. Ixtlamatinih: Nahua Intellectuals Writing Mexican Modernity
Chapter 1. Describing Nahuatl Language to Others in Early Colonial Mexico: Antonio del Rincón
Tlen naman 1. The IDIEZ Project
Chapter 2. Writing Tlaxcalan Memories that Matter: Don Juan Buenaventura Zapata y Mendoza
Tlen naman 2. Nonahuatlahtolnemilitzin (My Life in Nahuatl) by Refugio Nava Nava
Chapter 3. Defending Indigenous Citizens When “Indians No Longer Existed”: Faustino Galicia Chimalpopoca
Tlen naman 3. Tlapepetlaca (Lightning Strikes Again and Again) by Victoriano de la Cruz Cruz
Chapter 4. Knowing, Speaking, Teaching, and Writing: Doña Luz Jiménez
Tlen naman 4. Cihuatequiuh (Women’s Work) by Sabina Cruz de la Cruz
Chapter 5. Performing the Recovery of Indigeneity: Ildefonso Maya Hernández
Conclusions and Beginnings: Reading and Writing Nahua Space

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