WS 1 Problems in editing medical manuscripts in indigenous languages: a workshop

Jesuit colonial medicine in South America: a multidisciplinary and comparative approach.

The Jesuit reductions of Paraguay and adjacent territories in nowadays Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina (1608-1767) are a particular well-documented area of encounter between Jesuit missionaries and indigenous populations mainly Guarani (and other such as Abipones, or in: Bolivia: Chiquitos, Mojos). A rich architectonical heritage from the Jesuit missions is still extant, the remaining ruins have been declared by UNESCO Cultural Patrimony of Humankind in 1993.

Research about Jesuit reductions of Paraguay has been limited for a long time mainly to religious texts or the linguistic works of Antonio Ruiz de Montoya and Pablo Restivo about the Guarani language most of the Indians spoke. In recent years, however, numerous secular texts have been rediscovered and encountered increasing interest, especially since they have been hitherto largely ignored, given the fact that some of these texts haven’t been available to the public or are part of collections with difficult access. Most of recently rediscovered manuscripts are not yet critically edited.

A neglected field of research is to be seen in the documents about medicine and pharmacy. Our workshop tries to approach these valuable documents from a multidisciplinary point of view: philology, history of science and medicine, emotional and pain research, indigenous languages and literacy reflected in these manuscripts.

A first attempt will be made to draw an inventory of the available material. Most medical and pharmaceutical manuscripts originate from the first half of the 18th century. They have traditional adscriptions to Jesuit authors but a close examination will put this partly in question. These manuscripts integrate indigenous medicine and show us an insight in the close relationship between traditional indigenous medicine, Jesuit medicine in the missions and a popular medical tradition amongst the Spaniards living in the region.

We have texts mainly in Spanish but also a pharmaceutical manuscript in Guarani, ascribed to the Lay Brother Marcos Villodas (1695-1741) and dated 1725, not yet edited. When the first important text on the topic by the physician Pedro de Montenegro (1663-1728) was rediscovered in the 19th century it was called "Materia Medica misionera" in its first edition, the designation was later applied to the whole text type. Different manuscript versions, some with illustrations, of this text exist.  We also have a huge range of other types of medical manuscripts from "dispensatorios", practical recipe collections, examples of popular use, up to the recently rediscovered anonymous Spanish Tratado de ... cirurgia, dated 1725 and related to the missions, which represents one major source about history of medicine in the region. This obviously raises questions about the chosen languages (Spanish or Guarani), the importance of medicine for the history of science in the region, and about considering emotional aspects in pain research and case studies reported in these documents. We still know little into which degree local medical knowledge by the autochthonous Guarani population was provided in these texts. A new field of research in indigenous scripturality will have to take account of these documents even if they seem to be written mainly by bilingual authors, Spaniards born in the region or mestizos who also spoke the Indigenous language.

We thus have the unique situation that focusing on the La Plata medicine we may provide for specialists in Asian medical traditions a valuable comparison on how colonial society, Jesuit missions and indigenous populations coming from an alliterate background interacted in the field of medicine and pharmacy. We will see how a local network linked to traditional European knowledge was formed which outlasted the presence of the Jesuits and together with traditional indigenous medicine inspired a lively local tradition of popular medicine in the region up to now. We are looking forward to learn about research results in similar developments in the Asian history of medicine and pharmacy or other sciences with specialists and hope they may for their part profit from our experience concerning the rich  Latin American documentation.

We are intending to publish the contributions digitally in a repository providing free access after the congress.

Congress languages: English, if need be with resuming consecutive translation from Spanish and Portuguese contributions.

 

As there is limited space available we would kindly ask participants to announce their coming until the beginning of the congress to: Franz Obermeier, obermeier@ub.unikiel.de.
 

Impressions of ICTAM IX

  • Impressions of ICTAM IX, 2017, by Matthias Burmeister, ICTAM IX Filmteam