Northwestern Events Calendar


Hugh Cagle - "Before the Fact: Science and Social Order at the Edge of the Amazon ca. 1600"

When: Monday, May 2, 2022
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: Kresge Hall, Trienens Forum - 1-515, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: FREE

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   (847) 491-3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Co-Sponsor: Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings



Hugh Cagle, University of Utah


"Before the Fact: Science and Social Order at the Edge of the Amazon ca. 1600."


For Old World observers, the manatees common to the South American littoral were loaded with contradictory meanings. They were delicious fare. Raw materials for indispensible medicines could be sourced from their crania. And although they were unlike any sea-dwelling creature most Portuguese chroniclers had ever known, they were also charmingly familiar: most writers compared them to the common cow. Yet manatees were also associated with sea-monsters, mermaids, sexual transgression, and an assortment of villainous habits.  They were, in short, the very embodiment of colonial disorder. And nowhere is the relationship between colonial cultural preoccupations and the colonial science of animal classification made more apparent than in the taxonomic categories used to make sense of this ubiquitous creature. The history of the manatee and its many taxonomies challenges longstanding claims about the culture of inquiry in colonial Brazil, the intellectual life of colonial sugar planters, the dislocations of merchant capitalism, and about the ways in which indigenous (in this case, Tupí) knowledge became part of metropolitan natural history.

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