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Mackenzie Cooley, “Canine Mestizaje: The Dogs of New Spain”
November 13, 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
The idea and practice of mestizaje (mixing) stand at the heart of Latin American history and of Mexico’s identity. A term for hybridity used originally in zoological discourse, mestizaje took on this crucial role amidst the collision of European and American nature-cultures that accompanied the transformation of the Mexica Empire into New Spain. In the face of rapid and radical social, cultural, demographic, and environmental change, early moderns had to reckon with how breeding could shape populations, human and non-human animal alike. While many pre-contact American and European mammals differed so greatly that they could not effectively interbreed, dogs and humans could and did immediately. This was especially significant as European ideas of race came from animal breeding and Europeans used animal categories to describe new human populations in the wake of contact. By the fifteenth-century, both Mesoamericans and Europeans had developed a mosaic of distinct domesticated dog breeds, including the hairless Mexican xoloitzcuintli and the European mastiff. Old World dogs brought over by the Spanish interbred with New World dogs. By the sixteenth-century, the xoloitzcuintli had become a mestizo dog, just as its human companions of the New World developed increasingly mixed heritage. Supplementing historical analysis with archaeological and genetic data, this talk traces ideas of inheritance that emerged as colonial societies both produced new so-called “races” and increasingly aimed to fix them in stable categories.
Mackenzie Cooley is Assistant Professor of History at Hamilton College and a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. She earned her doctorate from Stanford University where she founded the Natural Things|Ad Fontes Naturae research group in global natural history. Cooley’s dissertation, Animal Empires: The Perfection of Nature Between Europe and the Americas, 1492-1630, won the 2019 Cappadocia Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript from the Society of Italian Historical Studies. Her first monograph, The Perfection of Nature: Animals, Humans, and the Renaissance Invention of Race is under advance contract with Chicago University Press.
Co-sponsored with the Department of History