Director of Graduate Studies
Department of History
Office: Bowden 322
Yanna Yannakakis, Associate Professor (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, B.A. Dartmouth College). Social and cultural history of colonial Latin America, history of Mexico, ethnohistory, history of legal systems, and the interaction of indigenous peoples and institutions in Mexico.
My first book The Art of Being In-Between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity, and Local Rule in Colonial Oaxaca (Duke University Press, 2008) examines how native cultural brokers negotiated with Spanish courts and the Catholic Church to open and maintain a space for the political and cultural autonomy of indigenous elites and their communities during Mexico’s colonial period. The book won the 2009 Howard Francis Cline Memorial Award given by the Conference on Latin American History for the best book on the history of Latin America’s indigenous peoples.
My current research includes my book project “Mexico’s Babel: Legal Culture in Oaxaca from Colony to Republic,” which analyzes how translation in local courts and the circulation of legal knowledge in remote rural jurisdictions allowed Spain’s colonial legal system to take root in multilingual, overwhelmingly indigenous settings through the crucibles of colonialism, independence, and early nationhood (1650-1852). I place special emphasis on how native engagement with the law shaped institutional practices and networks of power and influence that transcended major political watersheds. Set in Oaxaca -- Mexico’s most multiethnic and polyglot region -- Mexico’s Babel engages themes that resonate across regional and disciplinary specializations: translation, language and writing, law and empire, and popular participation in the making of Liberalism in the Atlantic World. “Mexico’s Babel” has won the support of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS 2011 Faculty Fellowship) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH 2011 Summer Research Stipend). I have also co-edited a book with Gabriela Ramos of Cambridge University, Indigenous Intellectuals: Knowledge, Power, and Colonial Culture in New Spain and the Andes (forthcoming, Duke University Press 2014), which considers native writers and functionaries and their varied forms of knowledge in a comparative framework. My recently published article “Allies or Servants? The Journey of Indian Conquistadors in the Lienzo of Analco” Ethnohistory 58:04 Fall 2011 intersects with the theme of indigenous intellectual production through its interpretation of an indigenous pictorial document chronicling the history of a group of ‘Indian conquistadors’ who allied with Spaniards to conquer a remote region of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. By analyzing the document’s narrative, spatial, and stylistic elements alongside archival documentation, I show how native people used histories of the conquest to refashion collective identities in early colonial Mexico. The article won the 2012 Rocky Mountain Council on Latin American Studies Ligia Parra Jahn Award and the 2012 Latin American Studies Association Mexico Section Best Essay in the Humanities Prize. Finally, I am currently collaborating with Martina Schrader-Kniffki (University of Mainz/Germersheim) on a project that integrates the fields of History and Socio-Linguistics to analyze translation practices in bilingual pastoral (Church) literature in Spanish and Zapotec (one of Oaxaca’s many indigenous languages), and Zapotec-language criminal documents and their Spanish court translations. Our co-authored chapter, “Sins and Crimes: Zapotec-Spanish Translation in Catholic Evangelization and Colonial Law (Oaxaca, New Spain)” is forthcoming in Klaus Zimmerman, Martina Schrader-Kniffki, and Otto Zwartjes, editors, Missionary Linguistics V/Lingüística Misionera V: Translation Theories and Practices (John Benjamins Publishing Company, forthcoming 2014).My Curriculum Vitae