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ERC

CULTURECONTACT Report Summary

Project ID: 312795
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Poland

Final Report Summary - CULTURECONTACT (Europe and America in contact: a multidisciplinary study of cross-cultural transfer in the New World across time)

The project Europe and America in Contact: a Multidisciplinary Study of Cross-cultural Transfer in the New World Across Time (CUTLURECONTACT 312795) was carried out by the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” along with two partner institutions: the Universidad de Sevilla (Spain) and the Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas (Mexico). The research embraced the systematic and multidisciplinary study of different interconnected dimensions of cross-cultural transfer between the Nahua and European worlds, with a special focus on a language-in-culture approach. The chronological scope of the project covered the period from first contact to the present day, examining the indigenous (the Nahuatl-speaking zone of central Mexico and comparative data from the Andean region, embracing the Quechua language) and the parallel Spanish perspectives, including their mutual interactions. Taking into account many aspects of the past and present realities, we have been able to move back and forth between synchrony and diachrony, the macro- and the micro-scale, innovation and change, cultural replication and continuity, enriching and substantiating a longue durée perspective with the precision and detail of microhistory. We enriched this systematic analysis of language contact phenomena with the complementary study of other elements of native and European cultures, such as worldview, religious beliefs, ritual, mythology, forms of socio-political and economic organization, social relationships and kinship systems.
Owing to the composition of the team and the experimental approach with regard to crossing disciplinary boundaries and combining different sets of tools, we have been able to achieve a long-term, multidisciplinary and comparative perspective absent in prior research. This has been achieved through intensive archival query and multi-level contextual analyses of historical documents in Nahuatl, Quechua and Spanish, as well as extensive fieldwork in modern Nahua communities carried out by and with the indigenous members of the project. This approach has also made it possible to explore, question, reassess and at time even de(re)construct, at the level of scholarly interpretation and understanding, the processes of translation and interpretation of concepts and terms associated with European/colonial and modern Mexican cultures (e.g. notions of soul, sin, confession, religious beliefs, idolatry, kinship relationships, contagious diseases and healing).
The project has been able to bridge a huge disciplinary, thematic and ideological gap in the study of contact-induced changes in language and culture by linking colonial and modern phenomena. Another innovation has been the creation of a novel research methodology, integrating the input of several disciplines in the humanities in a holistic and problem-oriented approach. An essential part of the methodological innovation of the project has been the creation of novel forms of collaboration between Western and indigenous scholars and the development of indigenous research methodology. Our work has successfully transcended the notion of “informants,” seeking new, non-patronizing forms of collaboration with native speakers of Nahuatl and ways of promoting their empowerment. This component has significantly modified and enriched the perspectives of mainstream, academic research represented by European members of the project. The social impact of the project has been oriented toward reinforcing agency and a sense of historical identity in collaborating native communities as well as contributing to the decolonization of ethnohistorical, anthropological and linguistic research.

Reported by

UNIWERSYTET WARSZAWSKI
Poland
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