Human Taxonomies: Knowing, Counting and Ordering the Spanish Americas (1790-1804)

Carlos E. Flores Terán, Human Taxonomies: Knowing, Counting and Ordering the Spanish Americas (1790-1804) | Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hubertus Büschel and Dr. Xavier Guillaume

Recent scholarship suggests that the production of population knowledge throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century can be read as a vehicle of (re)producing colonial/metropolitan orders. In such corpus, modalities of difference, such as race, are posited as technologies of governing and heuristic instrument in the colonies as well as in the metropolis This research aims at contributing to this scholarship by exploring the population categories used in the first population surveys in the Spanish Americas throughout the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth centuries. By way of researching an often overlooked space, this project is set to make two distinct contributions: 1) Presenting the emergence of a complex conflation between physical markers of difference and socio-political position, gender, and desired religious lineages before the emergence of race 2) Illustrating the distinct epistemological strategies, practices, and discourse employed by colonial administrators and cleric scientists in the effort of scientifically calculating and distinguishing between individuals in the the Spanish Americas.

This research will examine population categories used in the population surveys of the two largest  viceroyalties in the Spanish America: the New Spain and Peru. Such surveys begun 1790 in the New Spain, and in 1795 in Peru, and concluded in 1803 and 1803 respectively. In order to investigate the practices of counting, classifying, and distinguishing human bodies, this research draws from late-eighteenth century human taxonomies, categories in vital records, and visual representations of the “natural” body. From these sources, my intention is to highlight how the form in which European and American scientists, as well as colonial administrators, drew from an array of localized categorizations, known as castas, lineages and social structures in order to articulate and fix rational-scientific markers of difference. If once the grammars of difference was grounded in the demarcation between colonizers and colonized subjects, these surveys posited an unprecedented form of reading and organizing difference based in the marks of what is both observable–skin color socio-political position–and concealed–lineages and gender.