Robert Chauca

Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies
2018 Rothman Faculty Summer Fellow

Dr. Chauca received a Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship to finish conducting research for my current book project titled “Missionary Polemics and the Making of Early Modern Amazonian Knowledge”, which is under contract with Routledge’s Studies in Global Latin America Series. Thanks to the Rothman fellowship, Dr. Chauca was able to travel to Rome, Italy to work at the central archives of the Franciscan and Jesuit Orders.

The book project examines the production and transmission of cartographic, geographic, hydrographic, and ethnographic knowledge of Western Amazonia in early modern times. The project discusses the pioneering role that Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries, who evangelized Western Amazonia from the 1640s to the 1820s, played in the configuration of spatial knowledge of this tropical South American region. The goal is to underline how missionaries’ debates on the delimitation of their spatial jurisdictions throughout the Amazon River basin resulted in the formulation of new categories of inquiry and conceptual innovations on the disciplines of cartography, geography, hydrography, and ethnography that transcended the frontiers of their Amazonian object of study. In this sense, it seeks to bring to the forefront the process by which Franciscan and Jesuit friars, by means of their legal battles and scholarly works, disputed their authority over the region and, in the process, provided key concepts and categories that renovated specific fields of knowledge. As a result, these missionary polemics made tropical South America a laboratory to produce, innovate, and challenge hydrographic, geographic, cartographic, and ethnographic conventions.