Space and Religion in Amazonia: Cultural Contact and its Influence on Jesuit Cartography


Irina Saladin (University of Koblenz)




Goethe University Frankfurt (Campus Westend) and Zoom Meeting

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Jesuit missionaries were among the most important players in mapping the Amazon region, which was difficult for Europeans to access. They travelled the mission territories extensively, always accompanied by indigenous people who navigated them through the complex river network. This lecture will address two interrelated questions. First, it asks to what extent indigenous knowledge can be identified in the Jesuits’ maps. Second, it will ask how the Jesuits represented indigenous people in their maps. The goal is to make visible the long-overlooked role of indigenous actors in cartography and to highlight the extent to which ethnographic knowledge about indigenous populations contributed to the construction of religious spaces. The examples presented are maps made by Jesuits from the so-called Maynas mission in the upper Amazon between the late seventeenth and late eighteenth centuries.

This presentation was part of the POLY Lecture Series on “Space and Religion II”, held in the winter term of 2023 and 2024. Click here for more information.

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