HIST-LIT 90EM: Empire and Archive in the Colonial Americas





Alan Niles 
Wednesdays 12:00-2:45 

How do we know the histories of colonialism and empire? In this course, we will study how European expansion in the Americas fueled and was fueled by the production of records and representations of colonial spaces and their peoples. We will study how violence and resistance shaped alternative systems of knowledge making among Indigenous and African communities, including oral histories, wampum, featherwork, graffiti, and vodou. We will work with sources by canonical authors including Columbus, Montaigne, Mary Rowlandson, and Juana Inés de la Cruz alongside the works of anonymous or unfamiliar writers, artists, and craftspeople including Afro-Brazilian healers, Tupinambá featherworkers, and the Massachusett and Nipmuc printers who worked in Harvard Yard. Throughout our course, we will ask: what interplay of power, resistance, and chance produces an artwork, document, or memory of the past—or ensures its survival and visibility in the present? What responsibility does a historian or critic have towards the silences of the archive and what strategies might recover marginalized perspectives from the past? How can attending to these histories of the archive shape the stories we tell today?