The Human Body and Ideology: Concepts of the Ancient Nahuas

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Author: López Austin, Alfredo Federico (1936- )

Year: 1988

Publisher: University of Utah Press

Place: Salt Lake City


2 volumes: xiv+449 pages with diagrams, tables and plates; vi+315 pages with tables, maps, bibliography, appendixes and glossary. Royal octavo (9 1/4" x 6 1/4") issued in pictorial boards. Translated by Thelma and Bernard Ortiz de Montellano. Originally published as Cuerpo Humano e Ideologia: Las Concepciones de los Antiguos Nahuas (1980. First American edition.

This scholarly work was first published in Spanish by the Instituto de Investigaciones Antropologicas of the Universidad Nacional Automona de Mexico. this excellent English translation clearly makes it accessible to a broader audience. it is a basic work on a complicated but most interesting subject, Aztec cosmological thought. Lopez Austin, a knowledgeable and respected authority on the language and culture of the ancient Nahua, points out that "knowledge of the concepts about the human organism is indispensable to anyone who wishes to penetrate the complicated cosmological theory of the Mesoamericas". In this work, Lopez Austin's primary objective is to explain the ideological systems and determine its genesis. To accomplish this, he draws upon sixteenth-century chronicles and dictionaries and upon contemporary ethnographies. Therefore, the potential appeal of these two volumes is not only to those interested in Nahua ethnohistory but also to those with an interest in contemporary Indian and peasant societies throughout the region, which provide much of the descriptive information used in the interpretation of the ancient data. There is obviously some danger in using contemporary knowledge drawn from many cultures by numerous ethnographers to reconstruct an ideological system in the context of other systems that were current five centuries ago. However, as Lopez Austin indicates, one really has very little choice. The sixteenth-century sources, among the most important of which were Sahagun's Nahuatl works and Molina's Vocabulario, yield only "an excessively static picture". It is partly a synchronistic view because of the problem of distinguishing with any certainty items that reflected indigenous pre-Hispanic thought from those which originated in Old World though (European or African) and/or evolved during the early years of the colonial period. Lopez austin is very sensitive to the problem and handles it well. The deficit in descriptions of the human body and the associated ideology in historical sources is offset by modern ones, because, as Lopez Austin notes, the ideology tends to be a macrosystem of communication that has persisted as a recognizable corupus; hence the validity of using modern ethnographic information to interpret historical documents. (Ethnohistory 1990: page 308)


Spines sunned else very good to fine set issued without jackets.

SOLD 2011

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