First of all, thank you for pre­senting your work and sharing your research with Iberian Con­nec­tions. It’s really inspiring for me to be able to comment on this paper and I think I can say that we are all looking forward to your book Republics of Dif­ference. For these brief remarks for Iberian Con­nec­tions, I just want to draw out some of the things that res­onated with me as I was reading the work and to con­clude with a few ques­tions that can serve as a spring­board for the later dis­cussion with the audience.

Your paper takes us to the rar­efied envi­ronment of San­tiago del Cercado, an urban reducción attached to the city of Lima. What makes San­tiago del Cercado dis­tinctive is that it was created as a site to host tem­porary mitayos and other urban workers, but later became also a town of home­owners asso­ciated to the city. Whereas often reduc­ciones fol­lowed the pat­terns of old indigenous set­tle­ments, San­tiago del Cercado was an exper­iment in fos­tering a new sense of col­lec­tivity for people from diverse origins under the imagined cat­egory of the “Indian,” under the watchful eye of the Crown and the Jesuit order. In that sense, el Cercado was perhaps a more radical exper­iment with colonial gov­er­nance than the usual reducción, more similar perhaps to Vasco de Quiroga’s pro­posed hos­pi­tales in New Spain or to the Jesuit mis­sions down in the Southern Cone: a bounded space, lit­erally bounded in the case of the Cercado, to transform indigenous sub­jects into workers who would support the Empire and pre­serve the virtues of civility and the Christian faith. One of the most inter­esting aspects of el Cercado, which in many ways makes it dis­tinctive, is that this exper­iment with colonial gov­er­nance took place in an urban setting. It was meant to correct the per­ceived dangers of city living, the dis­or­derly and vagabond-like exis­tence of the urban poor. In that sense, it was a place that was meant to incen­tivize in indigenous peoples the pursuit of a civ­i­lized, settled life. However, its very own char­ac­ter­istics as a space based on imagined ideas of “Indi­anness” made it a con­tra­dictory project, since the per­ceived char­ac­ter­istics of indigenous peoples, their gulli­bility and pro­clivity to be misled, stood in the way of their accep­tance as full subjects.

Despite the adobe wall sur­rounding it, the Cercado was not an iso­lated space. Instead, it irra­diated. People moved between the city and the Cercado, and then back to their home­towns. It is for this reason that this very local study is important to under­stand the con­struction of Indi­anness across the viceroyalty, and beyond. In the end, what really tran­spires from the paper is that it would be inac­curate to imagine that what hap­pened in el Cercado was the mere impo­sition of Spanish ideals into passive sub­jects: rather, we have a space of con­tes­tation, where dif­ferent actors struggle to craft new ideas about what the public good meant, even if those debates take place in a heavily reg­u­lated context. There were over­lapping layers of juris­dic­tions: indigenous people could resolve justice sum­marily, they could directly file a com­plaint with the Viceroy, or use a number of other strategies. Unlike with the Mexican cabildos, we have very few direct records about local justice. Instead, it is as if we can con­tem­plate these issues only once they have left their local com­mu­nities and become that subject of con­tention. I would be curious to hear more about what types of issues you think were most likely to be resolved within the com­munity and what matters tended to be scaled up and how that might shape our own per­cep­tions of local justice.

 In that sense, I was very inter­ested by your attention to that par­tic­u­larly crucial social insti­tution: property. Indigenous rela­tions to property, which, as you say in your paper, “even today are treated as inherent and essential and even mys­tical group char­ac­ter­istics,” are revealed to be “a product of the way indigenous people were legally marked across colonial Latin America.” (10). In the cause pitting the indigenous Yauyos against Domingo Fran­cisco, we see dif­ferent indigenous actors making argu­ments in favor of private own­ership or com­munal property, with the Spanish judges finally siding in favor of the latter. Like other authors such as Allan Greer, José Carlos de la Puente Luna, or Tamar Herzog, your work shows that indigenous peoples could artic­ulate a diverse range of argu­ments regarding property and were not trapped in essen­tialized visions of land. In that sense, I wonder if perhaps our enduring vision of indigenous com­mu­nities as tied to com­munal property and social harmony is a legacy of their own dex­terity and cre­ativity trying to advocate as much inde­pen­dence as pos­sible for them­selves, ben­e­fiting from one of the few pre­rog­a­tives con­ceded by the Spanish Crown: the pro­tection of com­munity lands.

With this in mind, I want to go back to an expression that you used at the end of your paper. You referred to the “Cercado intel­lec­tuals,” and I think it would be good for us to pause on this. In your work, indigenous lit­i­gants emerge as intel­lec­tuals, whether making argu­ments in favor of the common good or con­structing ratio­nales for own­ership on the basis of their improvement of the land or the sur­vival of their com­munity. In that sense, though this might be seen as mainly a work of social history, I think it also chal­lenges us to rethink cul­tural or intel­lectual history, though that might not be the central point of this present paper. In many ways, our his­to­ri­o­graphic tra­dition is still indebted to a Lockean nar­rative that asso­ciates modernity with the improvement of land via labor, a theory that first emerged pre­cisely as an argument for indigenous dis­pos­session. However, this work shows that similar argu­ments about improvement were in fact artic­u­lated by indigenous actors, even as they were bal­anced against com­munal needs. So maybe my first question con­cerns how to restore these voices and these intel­lectual argu­ments to the history of intel­lectual theory, not merely as tokens into indi­vidual expe­ri­ences. I am asking this question with regards to the present paper but also with regards to some of your other work, where you have engaged with the artic­u­lation of political the­ories in peti­tions and court records, for instance in cases of what we could call anti-slavery thought in the archives. I think this is a very welcome move because, among other things, it diver­sifies the range of actors that we see as able to produce new the­ories and con­cepts. I would like you to expand a bit on this move, espe­cially since I think it is a move that is gaining cur­rency in current schol­arship: what does it mean to take seri­ously the notion that the courts and these highly hier­ar­chical and coercive envi­ron­ments could lead to the artic­u­lation of novel the­ories? How can the methods and sources of social history be enlisted for projects and ques­tions that have some­times been the domain intel­lectual or cul­tural history?

And then my final question has to do with one of the topics of the Race before Modernity project, which cosponsors the present event. I would like you to comment on how you see race oper­ating in the Cercado, espe­cially because the case of San­tiago del Cercado reveals clearly how racial thinking could exist without nec­es­sarily having to cling to a strict vision of race: the Cercado was insti­tuted according to very spe­cific visions and prej­u­dices about a par­ticular group of people. What makes it so rich as a case study for race and prej­udice, however, is that the Cercado was sup­posedly meant to transform indigenous inhab­i­tants into pro­ductive Chris­tians, while some long­standing prej­u­dices about indigenous identity made that trans­for­mation impos­sible, or rather always ongoing. How do we under­stand early modern racial­ization from this par­ticular case study? Which ideas or notions about race have you found useful for your research? And also, how do we grapple with the fact that indigenous peoples them­selves were cre­atively deploying those very ideas of insti­tu­tion­alized infe­ri­ority to craft their own social worlds?