Lamar Center Scholars
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Santiago Muņoz Arbelaez

My dissertation examines how the Spanish imperial state sought to extend its rule upon the fractured terrains of the New Kingdom of Granada (present-day Colombia) and convert the diverse Indian groups into catholic, tribute-paying vassals from the Spanish invasion in 1530s to 1650. At the time of the conquest, this area was composed of a patchwork of very different groups and landscapes with no cultural or political unity. My research explores the making of the New Kingdom of Granada as a region; it asks how these diverse ethnic groups came to be assembled into a common, polymorphous regional configuration under Spanish rule. To do so, the colonial administration relied on a flexible set of institutions and technologies of rule that allowed it to incorporate different peoples and geographies into a single political framework.

My research addresses the dialectic between geographies of rule and refuge, between state and non-state spaces in the context of early Spanish colonialism. I seek to analyze both the production of colonial spaces and its frontiers ––the "disordered," "uncivilized" landscapes inhabited by unconquered Indian groups. My study aims to explain the making of the New Kingdom as a colonial regional configuration in the intersections between Indian societies and the Spanish imperial state; it shows how the imperial state molded it institutions to fit local ethnic groups and how colonial institutions provided the conditions for the emergence of new ethnic groups both from within and from without imperial rule.

More broadly, my work focuses on Indians and empires in the early modern Atlantic world and is informed by scholarship on comparative frontiers, borderlands, spatial history, and agrarian history.