Mapping Ethnography and Science in the Early Americas

Session leaders: Surekha Davies and Domingo Ledezma

How did the ethnographic and scientific content of European maps of the early Americas work? By what methods can we analyze maps in order to understand the reasons and ramifications behind mapmakers’ choices of what to include and the ways in which their audiences would have interpreted these maps? In this seminar we shall approach these questions through the set readings. First, we shall discuss ways of thinking about the visual rhetoric and epistemologies of maps containing ethnographic information. Then, we shall explore the ways in which the particular training and purposes of the Jesuits informed their cartography of South America.


Dias, Camila Loureiro ( 2012), Jesuit Maps and Political Discourse: The Amazon River of Father Samuel Fritz. The Americas, 69: 95-116.

Schmidt, B. (2012), On the Impulse of Mapping, or How a Flat Earth Theory of Dutch Maps Distorts the Thickness and Pictorial Proclivities of Early Modern Dutch Cartography (and Misses Its Picturing Impulse). Art History, 35: 1036–1049.