Research Programme



As a result of the European conquest of „new worlds“ in the Americas and Asia, there were manifold and complex forms of cultural change in the regions affected. The project looks into the processes of negotiating cultural orders that unfolded in the course of the constitution of European-Christian colonial rule in the 17th and 18th centuries in the Audiencia de Charcas (Bolivia) and the Tagalog provinces (Philippines), involving Europeans, indigenous peoples, and people of mixed ancestry. The term “negotiation”, however, is not supposed to obscure the power relations that existed at that time, resulting in a massive subjugation of the indigenous populations. “Negotiation” is rather meant to refer to the fact that despite that situation of subjugation, linguistic, visual, and performative spheres of action, as well as media employing these three elements, were used by all actors involved, in order to configure new cultural orders and systems of meaning within the context of colonial rule.

Medial representations of these communicative negotiations are found in texts relating to Christianization and political standardization, as well as in religious and secular practices (rituals, ceremonies, feasts) and in visualizations, or spatializations, of religious and secular order in images (painting, sculpture), architecture, clothing, and articles of daily and ritual use. These forms of representation constitute the basis and point of departure for the research conducted within the subprojects of the project at large, which address aspects of the overall research topic by means of regional case studies in both urban and rural environments. In that process, the various medial levels of the production of meaning are not only analysed as individual phenomena, but also – and in particular – in terms of their interrelations.

Beyond their regional significance, the insights thus gained will be used for socio-cultural theory construction. The comparison of two “contact zones”, which differed considerably from each other due to their respective historico-geographical context, population structure, and importance for the Spanish colonial empire, will allow for general conclusions about the mechanisms of transcultural communication under colonial conditions.