Beyond the Lettered City

Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes
Joanne Rappaport and Tom Cummins
2012, Duke University Press
370 pages, plates

IN THIS interesting contribution to the study of colonial expression, the authors take a novel approach to analysing culture by combining anthropology with art history. The result is an original perspective on how colonial domination at the level of meaning took place. Rappaport and Cummins explore the imposition of alphabetic and visual literacy on indigenous communities in the northern Andes – peoples who used neither narrative pictorial representations nor had alphabetic or hieroglyphic literacy prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The authors provide striking and dramatic examples of how the natives engaged with and internalised this new visual culture, for example by experiencing visions or dreams that assumed the form of European subjects and ideas. Their efforts to engage with these altered their perception of the world, but was also subverted by them as they combined them with their own traditions. – EC