This article examines several key gestures and postures documented in the early postconquest Nahua world: the eating of earth, squatting and kneeling, prostration, bowing, and finger pointing. Combining distinct genres of sources, ranging from linguistic evidence to iconographic data, I attempt to reconstruct preconquest practices through postconquest filters as well as to illuminate the ways in which local traditions coalesced with European practices and concepts. The study of body language illustrates broader phenomena related to change and continuity in the postcontact era, revealing the survival of preconquest elements, their transformation under European impact, cultural convergence, and adoption of new forms of bodily expression. An inherent part of this endeavor is the study of the postconquest terminology referring to gestures and postures, adding to our knowledge of the mechanisms of coinage of native terms referring to Christian religion.
Justyna Olko; Body Language in the Preconquest and Colonial Nahua World. Ethnohistory 1 January 2014; 61 (1): 149–179. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-2376114
Download citation file: