Call for publication: Thinking about the present and the future o Indigenous History


There is a broad historiographical debate, mostly in Brazil and to a lesser extent in other countries in the Americas, on Indigenous History. The main question is how we can formulate research on this sensitive subject and, above all, whether it is an Indigenous Peoples’ History, Indigenous Peoples in History, or a History of the Indigenous Peoples. All these proposals differ both in terms of the assumptions on which they are based and in the composition of the analyses carried out by each participant in the debate. It is undoubtedly a prolific debate that is far from reaching a hegemonic proposition. Furthermore, Native intellectuals participate actively in this debate and make notable critical contributions to the production of sensitive and significant historical- anthropological knowledge about their past-present and about the agents who participate in this process.

These interventions force historians, as well as other non-indigenous scholars, to reconsider their position in the process of constructing exegesis on the Amerindian past. This position can be defined as intermediaries between the Native past that they take up into their own present time through a dialectical relationship and the past that we investigate as part of the process of constructing knowledge about the Colonial and Republican periods, moments in which Amerindian populations played a notable role.

Conceptualizing Indigenous History as a disciplinary field requires in the first instance to consider that for the Indigenous perspective and cosmogony - which should not be limited to Amerindian realities - the logic that connects, explains, and gives meaning to events is dissimilar, if not opposed, to that which is present in the Western Christian countries. That logic is, moreover, the one that organizes memorable moments of life that are remembered at different moments of social life through different performative expressions such as dances, songs, name and status change ceremonies, and oral narrations that occur on particular occasions, among others. They are manifestations of a time that we can consider History. Time/Times, which as dimension/s, allow us to think about the construction of individual and collective memories. The same ones that are mobilized in those performative instances we mentioned and that express sense of communal belonging. These communities, of local dimensions or articulated among themselves and composing larger units such as nations, saw the development of processes such as Native slavery, acculturation, and changes in the perception of the Colonial society in which they were involved. All these problems undoubtedly require a dialogue between Native scholars and non-Indigenous researchers of the Amerindian past; a conversation that allows us to bring together proposals on how Native knowledge is shaped and how we can bring Colonial archives that hold information and narratives about them closer to indigenous communities so that they can make the best possible use of that information; testimony where the Amerindian communal logic is present, although overshadowed by the Colonial imprint that has existed since the existence of the Early Colonial Archives.

Starting from this minimal definition, we can state that Indigenous History is not a particular type of history, but that it is related to a different way of organizing what is considered to be the past, which has implications for the Present of indigenous peoples - as well as for the future of History as a discipline. This future can and needs to be more complexified from that initiatory proposition that considers the historian - in a broad sense of the term - as an intermediary for the rescue of the Amerindian testimonies.

The past of the Natives, from its meanings, is perceptible, in an indirect way of course, from the traces that have been recorded in different Archives and institutions that reflect the different interests of diverse, and sometimes even opposing, mechanisms of power. This question requires us to review, in the first place, what we consider to be an Archiv e. How are the documents it holds made up? What is the intrinsic relationship between these documents, and what are their limitations for the development of historical research, especially if the historian does not assume his or her role as an intermediary in the selection and shaping of thematics that we consider relevant? We invite you to explore these thematics that have been defined through a relationship with an Archive from a reconceptualization of the Archive and of the historian's profession, based on the recognition that Indigenous History needs a different logic that makes it conceivable from propositions that rescue its multi-natural proposal.

In this process of searching for new ways of conceptualizing Indigenous History, we must consider broadening our horizon of questions as well as constructing a working methodology that allows access to the meanings of existence that are preserved in the different documents, to be able to broaden our view of the records of what we consider to be the Native past and its relation to a present that imposes the execution of tasks not only to rescue that past but also to disseminate the production of historical knowledge that for a long time remained silenced by the Colonial system and perspective of Modernity that set aside what is considered to be the other. This logic, at the very least, hinders the circulation and dialogue between Native and non-indigenous knowledge, thus canceling the possibility of building a multi-natural and intercultural History.

The methodology that we propose, and which we hope will encourage debate, is based on the imperative need to return to the Early Colonial documentation stored in the Archive and make a new approach to it, paying attention to the forms and uses of language that compose it, to study to what extent these documents can clarify, from the point of view of the Native, the problem generated by that record and on which the historian places his attention in the present; a historian who tries to dialogue with an Amerindian past which, for Native people, is with us at this moment that we conceive as a present, disregarding on more than one occasion the recurrent character of Time as a normative dimension of the indigenous cosmogony.

It is also extremely important to consider and clarify to what extent it is necessary to consult other sources, even those that were not originally confronted, as well as to broaden historiographical horizons, to advance in the formulation of an Indigenous Peoples' History that reflects on its past-present, starting from categories that make the Amerindian cosmogony intelligible and at the same time defy the Western Christian logic.

Article submission deadline: March 31, 2024.

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