This essay focuses on how viscerality refracts as an issue for archival studies of early modern sexuality (and beyond). Through a microhistorical examination of textual representations of necrophilia, fellatio, masturbation, and erotic religious visions from colonial Mexican historical archives, this essay traces what I term the visceral archives of the body to show how particular acts and desires come into archival being (and thus into historicity) by eliciting visceral responses — “gut feelings” — on the part of suspects, witnesses, colonial authorities, scribes, archivists, and historians. I further argue that a metaphorics of consumption undergirds historical archives and archival documents, as they are produced, ordered, read, and interpreted. By working through such complex affective archival engagements, we gain a more nuanced understanding of the erotic chains that structure and confuse the taxonomizing impulses of the archive itself.
1 October 2014