Public Performances and Hidden Transcripts in Faculty-Alum Collaborative Research

The latest issue of Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl, one the foremost publications on Nahua communities in Pre-Columbian and Colonial Mexico, includes a study of a 16th-century epiphany play co-authored by Katherine Brown (HISP ’13; PhD candidate, Yale University) and Prof. Jorge Terukina. Published by the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl was founded by Miguel León-Portilla, an authority in Mesoamerican thought, and author of the tour de force Visión de los vencidos (1959) [The Broken Spears. The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico].

Huitzilopochtli (Codex Borbonicus,Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée Nationale, Paris)

Huitzilopochtli (Codex Borbonicus, Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée Nationale, Paris)

“Paradojas performativas: ‘La adoración de los Reyes’ como neixcuitilli o exemplum suggests that, rather than being a mere depiction of epiphany for religious indoctrination, this theatrical piece strives to model both positive and negative patterns of conduct for an indigenous audience. In doing so, however, this study takes into account both a pro-imperial, public transcript of Christian indoctrination, and a covert, hidden transcript of indigenous resistance. The former transcript allows us to interpret the Three Kings as conquistadors who announce themselves to Herod/Motecuhzoma as heralds of Christ/Quetzalcóatl in order to justify Spanish Christian rule in Colonial Mexico. Nevertheless, the idea of a hidden transcript suggests that an indigenous audience could have interpreted the Three Kings as colonial indigenous rulers that question Herod/Motecuhzoma’s conduct and rather decide to protect the newly born Christ as a new incarnation of the tutelar Mexica deity, Huitzilopochtli. The latter interpretation would have allowed the indigenous audience to covertly preserve their Nahua episteme under an explicitly Christian surface.

Adoración de los Reyes Magos (1568) by El Greco

Adoración de los Reyes Magos (1568) by El Greco

Katherine (Katie) recently completed a dissertation on the narrative functions of architecture in three of Miguel de Cervantes’ late works, and has published articles on Cervantes, Borges, and the Libro de buen amor. She began working on Nahua theater in Prof. Terukina’s freshman seminar and returned to the project in graduate school in collaboration with Prof. Terukina. During her years at William & Mary, Katie was a Monroe Scholar who travelled to Cusco to study Quechua and carry out research on the political issues surrounding the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua. She also studied abroad in Seville, and wrote an Honors Thesis on the use of science as a political tool to justify the subordination of the indigenous people in the Andes in the early modern Spanish empire.  She was also awarded the J. Worth Banner Award in Hispanic Studies.

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