Fellow: Awarded 2017
Field of Study: Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Competition: US & Canada
David Tavárez, a historian and linguistic anthropologist, is Professor of Anthropology at Vassar College. His research addresses the history of indigenous communities in Mexico with a focus on religion, evangelization and campaigns against idolatry, native authors and intellectuals, Mesoamerican calendars, and Nahua and Zapotec societies. Born and raised in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, he attended Grinnell College, received his BA from Harvard College (1992), completed a combined PhD in history and anthropology at the University of Chicago (2000), and taught at CIESAS (Mexico) and Bard College.
He is the author of The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico (Stanford, 2011; Spanish-language version, 2012), editor of Words and Worlds Turned Around: Indigenous Christianities in Colonial Latin America (Colorado, 2017), and co-author of Painted Words: Nahua Catholicism, Politics, and Memory in the Atzaqualco Pictorial Catechism, with Elizabeth Boone and Louise Burkhart (Dumbarton Oaks, 2017), and of Chimalpahin's Conquest: A Nahua Historian's Rewriting of Francisco López de Gómara's La conquista de México, with Susan Schroeder, Anne Cruz, and Cristián Roa (Stanford, 2010; Spanish-language edition, 2012). He has also published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in subjects ranging from colonial race categories to ritual language. His work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, and the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies. Currently a doctoral advisor at the National University of Mexico's Program in Mesoamerican Studies, he has also served as Councilor of the American Society for Ethnohistory, Chair of the Committee on Mexican Studies (CLAH), and editorial board member for Ethnohistory and Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History.
Tavárez's Guggenheim project rethinks the dynamics of religious and political dissent in colonial societies. It addresses an extraordinary corpus of more than 100 daykeeping manuals, and several ritual songs, all clandestinely produced in Zapotec by ritual specialists in seventeenth-century Mexico. His examination of this unique surrender, precipitated by the largest campaign against native idolatry in the colonial Americas, reassesses religious knowledge as mobilized political and historical consciousness. He is also at work on forthcoming projects on indigenous humanism, and on the writings of Nahua historian Chimalpahin.