Indigenous Science and Technology

Nahuas and the World Around Them

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This is a book about how Nahuas—native⁠ speakers of Nahuatl, the common language of the Aztec Empire and of more than 2.5 million Indigenous people today—have explored, understood, and explained the world around them in pre-invasion, colonial, and contemporary time periods. It is a deep dive into Nahua theoretical and practical inquiry related to the environment, as well as the dynamic networks in which Nahuas create, build upon, and share knowledges, practices, tools, and objects to meet social, political, and economic needs.

In this work, author Kelly S. McDonough addresses Nahua understanding of plants and animals, medicine and ways of healing, water and water control, alphabetic writing, and cartography. Interludes between the chapters offer short biographical sketches and interviews with contemporary Nahua scientists, artists, historians, and writers, accompanied by their photos. The book also includes more than twenty full-color images from sources including the Florentine Codex, a sixteenth-century collaboration between Indigenous and Spanish scholars considered the most comprehensive extant source on the pre-Hispanic and early colonial Aztec (Mexica) world.

In Mexico today, the terms “Indigenous” and “science and technology” are rarely paired together. When they are, the latter tend to be framed as unrecoverable or irreparably damaged pre-Hispanic traditions⁠, relics confined to a static past. In Indigenous Science and Technology, McDonough works against such erroneous and racialized discourses with a focus on Nahua environmental engagements and relationalities, systems of communication, and cultural preservation and revitalization. Attention to these overlooked or obscured knowledges provides a better understanding of Nahua culture, past and present, as well as the entangled local and global histories in which they were—and are—vital actors.


Introduction: Indigenous Science(s) and Technologies

Chapter 1: Science in Book XI of the Florentine Codex: Embodied Relationality and Guidance for Right Living
Norma Martínez, tlapahquetl (painter)
Abraham de la Cruz Martínez, tlayehycolquetl (physicist)

Chapter 2: Nahua Health, Illness, and Healing in the 1577 relaciones geográficas Sabina de la Cruz, tlamachtiquetl-ixtlamatiquetl (teacher-scholar)

Chapter 3: Nahua Water Technologies: Environment, Power, and the Sacred
Baruc Martínez Díaz, ixtlamtiquetl-tlacuilo (historian) and chinampanecatl (chinampa farmer)

Chapter 4: Adopting and Adapting Communicative Technologies: Noble Nahua Letters and Petitions to the Spanish Crown
Gustavo Zapoteco Sideño, cuicajpike/tlacuilo (poet/writer)

Chapter 5: The Power of Story: Nahua Primordial Titles and Narrative Mapping in New Spain
Grupo Contraviento Atoltecayotl (cultural group and weaving collective)

Works Cited

Indigenous Science and Technology
328 Pages 6 x 9 x 0
Published: May 2024Paperback ISBN: 9780816550388
Published: May 2024Hardcover ISBN: 9780816550395
Published: May 2024Ebook ISBN: 9780816550401

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