Autumn 2016

October 13 (Room 243, Senate House)

Dr Linda Báez-Rubí, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM and Bilderfahrzeuge Project, Warburg Institute, SAS, University of London.

Propagatio fidei per scientias: Forging ‘American Wonders’ through Icon-Vehicles

Ever since the Discovery of the New World by Columbus in 1492 ideas coming from Europe, imbedded within a legacy of Arabic science and Classical heritage, were ‘shipped’ and transported by means of images and texts to America and Asia. Not only prints and engravings were one of the many vehicles used for the transmission of religious and political imaginaries as well as of specific worldviews and conceptions, but also another kind of artifacts or what we could consider to be ‘icon-vehicles’ (Bilderfahrzeuge), such as optical and mechanical instruments. Jesuit culture put special interest in promoting these devices, because they were framed in a particular program of conversion in regions far beyond Europe under the motto propagatio fidei per scientias (to propagate faith through science). Under this frame it is possible to explore how, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Jesuits influenced the process of forging one of the most popular symbol of American identity: the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Jesuit erudition was characterized by its capacity for integrating science—or ‘natural philosophy’ as it was understood in those times—and religion in the resolution of theological problems. Epistemological models, originated on the basis of a geometrical optics, were meant to give a scientific explanation of the way in which the apparition of the Virgin took place. The interest of this culture in optical-catoptrical instruments played an essential role in the establishment of models of vision, which inevitably influenced the establishment of the novohispano religious narrative. Utilizing the Warburg model of ‘icon-vehicles,’ I explore the different possibilities of iconic potentiality as generated by the particular characteristics of these vehicles, and how this iconicity is transformed in its cultural exchange along geographical routes and, finally, how these devices transform attitudes in the interior of a determined cultural sphere.


October 27 (Room 104, Senate House)

Professor Nicola Miller (UCL) and Dr Mark Thurner (ILAS)

Masterclass: How to Rewrite the History of Knowledge with Latin American Materials

The History of Knowledge (HoK) is an emerging interdisciplinary field that differs in key ways from the more established fields of History of Science and Sociology of Knowledge.  Often combining anthropological and historical approaches, this new field reflects the ‘epistemological turn’ in the humanities and sciences, and also the critical desire to historicise the ‘knowledge society.’  The field is now undergoing a global turn, as new research on the extra-European world challenges established ‘Western’ narratives of science and knowledge.  In this masterclass, Professors Miller and Thurner share new research on Latin America that promises to rewrite the global history of knowledge.  The class will focus on several related fields of knowledge and their source materials, including anthropology, historiography, natural history, and political economy.  This masterclass is designed in particular for doctoral and postdoctoral students who are developing or extending research projects.  This event is co-sponsored by LLACTA (London Latin American History Consortium), LAGLOBAL and ILAS.


November 17 (Room 234, Senate House)

Jose Guevara (ILAS)

Hand-written secrets. The study of manuscript publication as a way of challenging the printed book realm.

The study of the history of the book in Latin America has raised important questions about the circulation of knowledge and information throughout the Atlantic, the censorship and regulations of reading practices and ownership, and the production of printed books. These questions are based in a modern understanding of literacy and book culture, where the printed book is considered as the main agent of change. However, it is possible that printing culture represents a smaller part of the practice of circulation of information and knowledge for Hispanic American colonies during the colonial period than thought before. A more diverse and dynamic network of communication was probably based on manuscript production and oral transmission, and involves a wide range of written objects ranging from small leaves to entire manuscript treatises. The study of this material not only challenges the ideas we have about literacy, but also the notion of books as stable, unified and permanent objects enduring over time. In this seminar session Jose Guevara will introduce some of the objects he has gathered in his doctoral research and his work on the history of the book in Colombia, showing the multiple possibilities that writers, readers, students, tutors and audiences had to share the narratives, stories and knowledges of their epoch.