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Writing Violence on the Northern Frontier: The Historiography of Sixteenth-Century New Mexico and Florida and the Legacy of Conquest
by José Rabasa
Duke University Press, 2000
Paper: 978-0-8223-2567-3 | eISBN: 978-0-8223-8074-0 | Cloth: 978-0-8223-2535-2
Library of Congress Classification F799.R23 2000
Dewey Decimal Classification 979.0072

In Writing Violence on the Northern Frontier José Rabasa examines the conjunction between writing and violence that defined the sixteenth-century Spanish conquest of the Americas (particularly North America) and in doing so, he reveals why this conjunction remains relevent and influential today. Rabasa elaborates a critique of Spanish legislation that prescribed forms of converting Indians to Christianity and subjecting them to Spanish rule, which was referred to by some as “peaceful conquest.” He argues that the oxymoronic nature of this term demands an oppositional mode of inquiry based on an understanding of violence that expands beyond acts of war to include symbolism, interpretation, legislation, and other speech acts that he refers to as the “force of law.”
To advance his argument Rabasa analyzes visual and verbal representations, colonialist programs, and the theories of colonization that informed the historiography of sixteenth-century New Mexico and Florida, which includes the territory from the Pacific coast to Kansas, and from present-day Florida to Tennessee and Arkansas. Using little-known materials from the northern borderlands of Spanish imperial expansion, Rabasa works to complicate notions of violence and their relationship to writing. Understood in juxtaposition with modern texts on postcolonial theory, his description of the dual function of these colonial texts—to represent material acts of violence and to act as violence itself—also emphasizes the lingering effects of this phenomenon in contemporary intellectual work and everyday life. In this way Writing Violence on the Northern Frontier serves not only as an explanation of what colonialist texts do but also instigates new ways of thinking about colonial discourse.
This book will interest scholars of colonial studies and early North American history, as well as a broader audience interested in interdisciplinary perspectives on the topic of racial, ethnic, and literary violences.

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