Associate Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
“Cacao and the Quetzal: Reflections on Microhistory, Indigenous Technologies and Ontologies, and Early Modern Natural History”
Abstract: For a long time it was taken for granted that the emergence of early modern science was an “internalist” European history, meaning that paradigm shifts, epistemological ruptures, and incremental changes were related to European processes and/or European actors. The global turn has challenged internalist accounts and has led to histories that focus on the role of non-European people, places, and things in the creation of modern science, particularly in natural history and medicine. These “externalist” accounts of European science have catalyzed the development of a new set of analytic tools but also point to a need for more reflexivity about method. In this paper, by focusing on case studies from my earlier work on plants and current research on animals, I will discuss how microhistory is uniquely suited to writing history that reveals the role of Native American technologies and ontologies in the formation of early modern science.