Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Uncommon Sense—the blog

To tell new stories

· June 25th, 2020 · No Comments

We asked OI author Allison Bigelow (Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World) if she wanted to write a post about her new book. Rather than talk about what prompted her interest in the book’s topic, or her writing process, or publication experience, she decided to focus on the multiple scholars who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and POC that she cites in her work.


By Allison Bigelow

I was asked to write a post for my new book, but there are larger and more important causes that I’d rather promote with the space I’ve been given. My research was shaped by Indigenous actors whose stories I heard and saw obscured by imperial discourse, and by diverse scholars in history, art history, linguistics, and colonial literature. Here are some of the books by the scholars who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and POC that I cite in Mining Language and whose ideas are crucial to my work. (The full bibliography of manuscript, digital, and printed sources is available on my academia.edu page).

You can purchase these books at BIPOC-owned bookstores in your neighborhood and online. Here’s a partial list of stores that I made for my department. Please email me with suggestions and I’ll add them as we go. 

I had hoped to use this summer to start my next project, a study of maize agriculture that builds from the methods I developed in Mining Language. But like a lot of parents who are collaborating on grassroots efforts to advance equity and racial justice, and who are struggling to work without childcare, I’ve sidelined my writing for now.  (Here’s my research assistant, helping me send emails and pull Ixtlixochitl’s history of the conquest off the shelf). It’s impossible to find time for deep thought without daycare, archives are closed, and there are urgent movements happening now. 

As I account for the challenges of online instruction, and all of the inequities that it lays bare, I’m trying to be more intentional about the sources I assign. I’m making sure that my students have access to primary sources by Black and Indigenous actors and replacing scholars who abuse their power with those who use innovative methods, amplify marginalized voices, and provide good examples of professional conduct. I reworked my assignment sequence to focus on shorter essays, spaced every 3-4 weeks, rather than a final research project. I do this with the privilege of tenure, which allows me to reflect on my teaching instead of racing to publish. In my survey (SPAN 3420: Introducción a literatura colonial), I’m focusing on primary sources and filling in gaps with brief lectures. My colleague, Rose Buckelew, and I are working with student leaders to develop syllabi language and instructional resources to support undoc+ students at our university. Please email us to share your ideas and best practices. I’m eager to hear what other teachers are doing in and outside of the classroom, and how you’re balancing primary and secondary source material during shortened semesters with online or hybrid instruction. I’m grateful to research networks like the Association of Black Women Historians for helping me to @CiteBlackWomen, and to centers like the Omohundro Institute for curating classroom-ready resources in Vast Early America and the history of racial capitalism, and for interrogating the history of our field and its institutions

The weight of history is heavy, and readers of this blog know how deeply the imprint of colonialism marks our world today. But as teachers and scholars, we also hope that a better world will be possible, and that our efforts to tell new stories about the past will inspire the next generation to continue to do that work. Manos a la obra. 

Contact Allison Bigelow at amb8fk at virginia.edu.

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