Allison Bigelow

Associate Professor of Spanish

My research is driven by a central question: how can we use biased colonial archives to tell new kinds of stories? My first book used historical linguistics, translation case studies, and visual analysis to document Indigenous, African diasporic, and South Asian knowledge systems that shaped mining and metallurgical sciences in the early modern Iberian world – especially in what is now Latin America and the Caribbean. I’m now working on three projects: one about removing a racist statue from the university campus (for the first time in UVA’s history!), one about maize agriculture and gendered technologies in Mesoamerica and the Chesapeake, 1450-1700, and a collaborative digital project with two Maya communities on language revitalization using historical sources. Questions of sovereignty, self-determination, and agency, as well as power, white supremacy, and settler colonialism, lie at the heart of all of those projects, but in different ways. This is why I’m excited to be teaching a new class on theories of sovereignty. We’ll read Indigenous and European theories of governance, decision making, and ways of being in the world across different historical moments – pre-1492, colonial era, and today – to analyze historical and current issues in colonialism, imperialism, sovereignty, and survival.