David Tavárez, "The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico" (Stanford UP, 2011)


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David Tavárez is a historian and linguistic anthropologist; he is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Latin American and Latino/a Studies at Vassar College. He is a specialist in Nahuatl and Zapotec texts, the study of Mesoamerican religions and rituals, Catholic campaigns against idolatry, Indigenous intellectuals, and native Christianities. He is the author or co-author of several books and dozens of articles and chapters.

This is his second time on the podcast; the first one was about his edited volume, Words & Worlds Turned Around (2017), and here is the link for that discussion.

Today’s interview is about Professor Tavárez’s book The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico (Stanford University Press), which was first his doctoral dissertation, then was published in 2011, and came out in paperback in 2013. In this book, Professor Tavárez guides his readers through four centuries of the Mexican Inquisition in the episcopal sees of México and Oaxaca. His work is the result of ten years of research in twenty-nine archives in Mexico, Spain, the United States, France, Belgium, Italy, and Vatican City, following 160 judges and 896 defendants accused of “idolatry, sorcery, and superstition”.

In this discussion Dr. Tavárez explains the origin and ethos of the ecclesial and judicial authorities, their changes over time, and their internal disagreements. He also describes the nature of the societies they were trying to influence, and how these movements changed since the sixteenth century, following them to the present day. The painting of the 1716 Auto de Fe that is on the cover of his book and that Dr. Tavárez talks about with the host during the interview can be seen here.

Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Spanish Empire, specializing in sixteenth-century diplomacy and travel. He has also written about missionary efforts in Early Modern Colonial Mexico.

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