In The Art of Being In-between Yanna Yannakakis rethinks processes of cultural change and indigenous resistance and accommodation to colonial rule through a focus on the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, a rugged, mountainous, ethnically diverse, and overwhelmingly indigenous region of colonial Mexico. Her rich social and cultural history tells the story of the making of colonialism at the edge of empire through the eyes of native intermediary figures: indigenous governors clothed in Spanish silks, priests’ assistants, interpreters, economic middlemen, legal agents, landed nobility, and “Indian conquistadors.” Through political negotiation, cultural brokerage, and the exercise of violence, these fascinating intercultural figures redefined native leadership, sparked indigenous rebellions, and helped forge an ambivalent political culture that distinguished the hinterlands from the centers of Spanish empire.
Through interpretation of a wide array of historical sources—including descriptions of public rituals, accounts of indigenous rebellions, idolatry trials, legal petitions, court cases, land disputes, and indigenous pictorial histories—Yannakakis weaves together an elegant narrative that illuminates political and cultural struggles over the terms of local rule. As cultural brokers, native intermediaries at times reconciled conflicting interests, and at other times positioned themselves in opposing camps over the outcome of municipal elections, the provision of goods and labor, landholding, community ritual, the meaning of indigenous “custom” in relation to Spanish law, and representations of the past. In the process, they shaped an emergent “Indian” identity in tension with other forms of indigenous identity and a political order characterized by a persistent conflict between local autonomy and colonial control. This innovative study provides fresh insight into colonialism’s disparate cultures and the making of race, ethnicity, and the colonial state and legal system in Spanish America.
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"The Art of Being In-Between is a very important contribution to understandings of the role of indigenous intermediaries in political and everyday life and of their agency in responding to, even shaping, the colonial legal system as it evolved over a long period of time. Scholars specializing in colonial Mesoamerica, as well as other parts of the Americas, will find Yanna P. Yannakakis's arguments highly pertinent to current discussions about law, politics, and state building."-- Susan Kellogg, author of Law and the Transformation of Aztec Society, 1500-1700From the Back Cover:
"Meticulously researched and engagingly written, "The Art of Being In-between" opens new dimensions for social and cultural history in the complex ethnic tapestries of the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca. Yanna Yannakakis's narrative elevates the historical role of native intermediaries--"indios ladinos"--in the persistence of communal identities through ethnic rivalries only dimly perceived by colonial authorities. This book illustrates the power of human agency in the negotiations among diverse indigenous peoples, Church, and Crown within the contradictions of colonial rule."--Cynthia Radding, author of "Landscapes of Power and Identity: Comparative Histories in the Sonoran Desert and the Forests of Amazonia from Colony to Republic"
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