‘Structures of Medical Knowledge’
Conveners: Drs Erica Charters and Elise Smith
Week 2 – 21 October
Rebecca Earle, University of Warwick
Casta Paintings and the Colonial Body: Embodying Race in Spanish America
‘From a Spanish man and a black woman is born a mulato.’ Such captions, accompanying a painted image of a man, his paramour, and their child, are the hallmarks of a Spanish American casta painting. These remarkable eighteenth-century images representing the outcome of ‘racial mixing’ currently command both scholarly and commercial attention. This paper situates the casta painting within the larger socio-cultural context of colonial Spanish America and offers a new interpretation of their meaning and appeal.
Professor Earle’s research has focused on five broad areas of Spanish American history: late colonial and early national Colombia; letters, print and modernity; the links between clothing, consumption and identity; the role of the past in shaping elite nationalisms; and the cultural history of food. Her most recent publications have explored the cultural history of food in Latin America. In 2012 I completed a study of the centrality of food the Spain’s colonial endeavours in the Americas. This was published as The Body of the Conquistador by Cambridge University Press. ‘If You Eat Their Food. . .’, the first instalment of this project, investigates the role of diet in creating the ‘Indian’ and ‘Spanish’ bodies that underpinned Spain’s colonial universe in the early modern era. She has also embarked on new research into the distinctive Spanish American pictorial genre known as casta painting, which will be the focus of her seminar paper.
- The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492-1700, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2012)
- The Return of the Native: Indians and Mythmaking in Spanish America, 1810-1930, Duke University Press (Durham, 2008)
- Spain and the Independence of Colombia, University of Exeter Press (Exeter, 2000)